Sun, 27 Feb 2000

Indonesian and expat students stage a benefit

By Nicole Johnson

JAKARTA (JP): Expatriate and local school children are collaborating on an original theater piece titled Bridging the Gap, which will be performed from March 2 to March 4 as a benefit for a housing project dedicated to Indonesian children.

Some 70 school children from Jakarta International School (JIS) Middle School are working with 25 Indonesian children to explore communication issues and the performing arts under the guidance of two JIS drama and music teachers, Diana Kerry and Kim Wiley.

After living in Jakarta for 13 years and being responsible for JIS' annual theater productions, Kerry was inspired to incorporate one of the school's community service affiliates with this year's drama production.

The 25 Indonesian children live in One More Chance (OMC) houses, which are funded and staffed by Tolong Anak Anak (TAA), or literally, Helping the Children, a JIS community service project.

The Bridging the Gap project is the most dramatic realization to date of the ideal that there be a direct link between JIS students and the children supported by TAA. The theater piece is based on the shared ideas and experiences of the children -- an exploration of the communication gaps in our lives.

"We worked with the Indonesian children first to explore what the communication gap might mean for them, but found that they didn't experience a gap along the lines we were expecting. They simply didn't come into sufficiently direct or frequent contact with foreigners," explained Kerry.

"But they did have fears resulting from communication problems with the police and authority figures; real fears of vulnerability and alienation," Wiley added.

Both directors developed the production from creative exercises, improvisations and discussions with the 95 children in the show.

The Indonesians were very timid in rehearsals initially, Kerry and Wiley said, but eventually they realized that rehearsals were not structured time, but fun time. Their contribution is such that the production now focuses on them and their points of view.

One skit, The Zoo, has a group of seven and eight-year-old Indonesians visiting monkeys swinging in cages, birds parroting back selamat sore (good afternoon) and the expatriate species elaborately equipped with playstations, televisions and telephones.

Another skit, Pasar, is constructed on a musical theme with which we are all quite familiar with: the Wall's ice cream kaki lima (street vendor) ditty.

The production closes with an Acehnese traditional dance performed by all the students with a distinct message to "mind the gap".

Proceeds from the production of Bridging the Gap will be used to help realize the plan to open a third OMC house this year.

The first OMC house was founded in 1998. Located in Ciganjur, a few hundred meters from President Abdurrahman Wahid's home, it houses 15 to 20 boys aged seven to 17.

A second house, located in Lebak Bulus, was founded in September 1999 to house 10 girls aged seven to 12.

OMC also maintains a shelter for the street children who were chosen for OMC's original program. These children are not required to attend daily lessons although six do, and two are taking a professional driving course.

TAA was founded over 20 years ago and contributes regularly to numerous charities in Jakarta. Since 1998, TAA has also sponsored its own charitable organization, the OMC Foundation, and benefits most directly the OMC houses.

The OMC houses function as a buffer from the harshness of street life. Through the OMC program, the children attend a local school in the mornings, and with their involvement in the Bridging the Gap project, they attend rehearsals at JIS several afternoons a week.

The opening night on Thursday is a special benefit for the OMC houses and for the continuing education of the children living there. On Friday, two performances are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and there will be both matinee and evening performances at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. Performances will be held in the JIS Little Theater on the Cilandak campus, Jl. Tarogong Raya No. 33, South Jakarta. JIS can be reached at 769-2555. Jokl Carri, the coordinator of the OMC Foundation, can be e-mailed at