Sat, 27 Sep 2003

Stage and film art director Roedjito passes away at 71

Blontank Poer, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Noted stage and film art director Roedjito passed away at a little over midnight on Friday at Abdi Waluyo Hospital in Menteng, Central Jakarta, due to liver and kidney failure. He was 71 years old.

He was buried Friday at 2 p.m. at noted playwright Rendra's Bengkel theater complex in Cipayung, East Jakarta.

The unmarried man drew his last breath surrounded by his students, as well as by friends choreographer Boy G. Sakti and lighting director Sonny Sumarsono.

To both Boy and Sonny, and many others in the performing arts and movie business, Roedjito was a friend, teacher and mentor whose expert hands helped set the stage for many theater and film productions in the country.

Playwright Rendra, the late Arifin C. Noer, Nano Riantiarno and Butet Kertaredjasa; choreographers Sardono W. Kusumo and Retno Maruti; as well as movie directors Slamet Rahardjo Djarot and Garin Nugroho are only some of the famous names he worked with.

Filmmaker Marselli Sumarno described him as a "diligent scavenger of beauty".

Roedjito's extensive knowledge in scenography -- not only in stage artistry and lighting but more importantly his grasp of the audience's reaction to the effects of his artistry -- made him a rare expert in the field.

But he was never stingy with his knowledge. Roedjito also made his expertise available to fledgling dramatists, who were only too grateful to work with such a seasoned art director.

Born in Purworejo, Central Java, on June 21, 1932, Roedjito studied law and social sciences at the University of Indonesia between 1954 and 1957, and at the East West Center in Hawaii in 1970. But his artistic side proved to be too strong for the modest man, and he took up drawing before finally turning to art directing.

Together with the late Oesman Effendi and the late Nashar, he founded the fine arts department of the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ) where he also taught scenography.

Even with his worsening liver and kidney condition, which began two years ago, Roedjito never let up his activities in teaching, consulting for various productions, as well as running workshops for actors in cultural hubs such as Bali, Yogyakarta, Surakarta in Central Java and Bandung.

According to him, a performance is always directed for an audience, despite it being a vessel of expression of the actor himself.

"Which is why every actor must hold on to the principle that whatever he is experiencing, the audience must also experience it," Roedjito said in an earlier interview.

He first introduced the concept of building up the atmosphere on stage in an early 1970 production of Arifin C. Noer, Kucak Kacik, at Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center.

Long before the audience set eyes on the stage, their imagination was aroused by artistically arranged trees and leaves and by a leafy scent.

"The point of all that is a transformation of identity, both for the audience as well as for the artist. The audience must be able to shed all outside attributes to enable him to blend with the performance and feeling what the actor is feeling," he said.

Roedjito was also a patron of the traditional arts, and paid special attention to the mask dancers of Losari, Central Java, and Cirebon, West Java.

After not drawing for more than 30 years, he took it up again after a haj pilgrimage in 2000. In June, his 3,000 black and white drawings created between 2000 and 2003 were displayed in an exhibition organized by close friends.

"Mas Roedjito kneels to God and becomes like a drawn line. A line that dances and turns in space. The space is bright and colorful. He kneels and he becomes free in space and time," Rendra wrote in the book of prints of Roedjito's drawings.

Now he truly is.