Fri, 12 May 2000

Ratna Sarumpaet back on stage with 'Alia'

JAKARTA (JP): Ratna Sarumpaet, whose plays were often banned by the Soeharto government for alluding to chaos wrought by his authoritarian administration, is back on stage today.

Her Teater Satu Merah Panggung will perform her latest play Alia, Luka Serambi Mekah (Alia, Wound of Serambi Mekah) at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta, from May 12 to May 17. It will be the theater's first show after the New Order regime crumbled in 1998.

The drama highlights the endless tragedy in Serambi Mekah, another name for Aceh. It will also be performed in Solo on May 26-27; Tasikmalaya, West Java, on June 1-2 and Banda Aceh on June 16-17.

Alia, the protagonist, is granddaughter of a Moslem cleric (ulema) in Aceh. Once raped by a security officer, Alia grows as a tough but distressed and vulnerable woman. She mobilizes fellow villagers to exhume the remains of Acehnese people murdered by security forces and rebury them properly according to the local tradition. Her efforts to attain justice for her fellow Acehnese meet serious challenges.

"This (play) is our sincere prayer for those falling victim to violence in Maluku, Mataram, Kalimantan, Irian Jaya and Aceh," Ratna said in a press statement.

Ratna's plays are well-known for their political content. Her first work, Marsinah: Nyanyian dari Bawah Tanah (Marsinah: Song from the Underground), 1994, was dedicated to Marsinah, murdered labor heroine.

Then she performed Terpasung (Chained) in 1995, Pesta Terakhir (The Last Party) in 1996 and Marsinah Menggugat (Marsinah Revolts) in 1997.

Ratna recalls that the New Order government's tight grip on freedom of expression made sponsors stay away from her.

Now that democracy is budding, going on stage is a big challenge, she said. Through Alia, Teater Satu Merah Panggung means to tell the public to keep an eye on the tragedy taking place in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia.