Puppeteer to perform at Hop

by Ritika Nandkeolyar | 3/1/01 6:00am

Around sunset on the Indonesian island of Java, a busy street corner is turned into a open-air theatre as thousands of people crowd around performers who will use music and shadow puppets to tell the stories of gods and heroes from Hindu myths.

These wayang kulit or shadow puppet theater performances last all night, with a dhalang or puppet master directing the intricate dance of shadow across a large back-lit screen. The action is accompanied by the gamelan or an orchestra of Javanese instruments.

Audience members circulate throughout the show, eating and sleeping while the story plays out.

For the performers, however there is no rest. In fact, there is not even a backstage area -- on Java, most people prefer to sit behind the screen to watch the techniques of the puppeteers.

Tonight, student musicians from the Music of Southeast Asia course and guest performers from Indonesia will recreate this experience in Hanover with a shadow puppet play called "Wayang Ramayana" or "The Ramayana: the Fall of Alengka."

The plot is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, which tells the story of King Rama's efforts to rescue his wife Sindha (known as Sita in India) from the evil demon king Ravana.

Joko Susilo, an eight-generation dhalang from Indonesia, will manipulate the intricately carved and painted buffalo-hide puppets. He will also provide the narration and character voices and conduct the student gamelan performers.

Susilo has been in residence at Dartmouth for the winter term and has assisted Music and Asian Studies Professor Jody Diamond with the performing arts course.

Also joining the group tonight will be guest instrumentalist I.M. Harjito on the big drum. As drummer, Harjito has the responsibility of setting the tempo of the music.

"Joko was really concerned about making the performance accessible to audience members," Diamond said. He will be performing all the parts in English and has edited the myth to 90 minutes of concentrated action.