Sat, 11 Nov 2000

Local theater undergoes regeneration

By Kartika Bagus C.

SURAKARTA, Central Java (JP): A young woman, Silvi, has fallen into prostitution and is ready to let any man enjoy her for a price. Every night this beautiful girl enjoys worldly pleasures -- liquor, transient love and the like.

However, behind all the glitter and apparent happiness there is a deep mystery behind Silvi's descent into the sinful abyss. This mystery is exposed only at the end of this 30-minute play.

That is the story of Kupunya Siapa (which can mean Whose Butterfly? or Whose Prostitute? or To Whom do I Belong?), a play performed by the Tulip theater group of Surakarta's Widya Wacana public secondary school.

The performance by Tulip marked the opening of the Eight All- Surakarta Theatrical Festival, an event which took place from Nov. 1 to Nov. 5 at the theater at Surakarta Cultural Park. The performance was packed, with some people even being turned away from the door.

Organized by the Gidag Gidig, a theater group composed of students from Surakarta high schools, 13 theater groups took part in the event. They were Tulip of SMU Widya Wacana; Timbul of SMUN 5; Plong of SMU Ursulin; Kwaci of SMU Kristen I; Tuluh of SMKN 6; Tulang of SMUN 6; Rel of SMKN 8; Lintang of SMUN 8; Citra Mandiri of SMUN 2; Biroe of SMU St Yosep; Kosong of SMUN 1; Salib of SMU Kanisius Petang; Studi Teater of SMU 3; Dong of SMUN 7; Hampa of SMU Warga Surakarta; and Golek of SMUN 4 Surakarta.

According to Y.E. Marstyanto, the coordinator of the organizing committee, this festival can be used as a yardstick for the development of the theater in Surakarta.

"Theatrical groups in secondary schools are the embryos for wider theatrical development. Many important theatrical figures in Indonesia became familiar with the world of theater when they were in secondary school," he said.

The first festival was held in 1989, giving birth over the years to numerous actors and new theater groups in schools. Drama was included in the school curriculum in 1975. However, owing to the limited number of drama teachers and a lack of supporting materials, only a few students took part in this extracurricular activity.

Marstyanto said usually it was the students themselves who established theater groups, adding that no theater groups had been specially set up by school authorities.

"It is also expected that this festival will encourage the establishment of new theater groups in secondary schools as a means of expression," said Marstyanto, who is active in the Gidag Gidig theater group.

On the opening day of the festival, three groups performed their plays. Timbul, with some 30 people, presented Rashomon, a play by Ryonosuke Akutagawa. Set up on Dec. 5, 1986, this group performed excellently. The players, still very young on the average, won the admiration of the audience, which filled the theater.

Rashomon is the name of a gate in Japan, somewhere in the suburbs of Tokyo. It used to be visited by virtuous people, however there are now rumors circulating that the gate has become the dumping ground for the bodies of murder victims. A carpenter and a priest who stop at the gate to get out of the rain bear witness to this.

While taking shelter there, the carpenter and the priest see the murder of a married adventurer by a robber. A conflict arises when each party presents their version of the murder on the basis of the people involved.

Greed and dishonesty pepper the conflict, which peaks with the murder of the adventurer. Sin is blurred in definition, as a person can easily take another person's life and justify this murder. Finally the carpenter and the priest get fed up and leave Rashomon gate, with all the mysteries that it keeps.

Closing the opening day was Seno Gumira Ajidarma's Edelweiss, which was performed by Plong theater group of SMU Ursulin. The play is about a mother waiting for the return of her son, who has gone to war.

The mother, Maria, eagerly awaits the return of Antonio, the apple of her eye. Every day, the mother faithfully waits for the son by the door. She always has a cup of hot tea and clean clothes waiting for Antonio, who, she hopes, will appear any time.

In her restlessness, a young man the same age as Antonio comes to her. This well-built young man claims to Antonio, however, his attitude is quite different from that of the Antonio she knows. Maria has her doubts as to whether the young man is really her Antonio. Her doubts grow as other Antonios appear. She feels convinced, therefore, that all are not the Antonio that she used to have as her son.

The festival, which ended on Nov. 5, is a breath of fresh air for Indonesian arts. The festival will provide the impetus for regeneration. New actors will emerge, an assurance that Indonesia will continue to have artists who will maintain the good reputation of the nation.