I was invited to participate in this mutli-dalang event (15 puppeteers!) at the invitation of Ki Ledjar Subroto and his grandson Nanang. Nanang has been rising in the Pepadi hierarchy, and plays a central role in the educational outreach activities.
The lakon performed was Babad Alas Wanamarta, based loosely on a script written in 2006 for another occasion by the drummer/director of the show. Three different playing areas were used - screens on left and right and a central area (pictured above) for wayang golek puppets and some of the wayang kancil figures (animated by Ledjar himself). 1, 2 or sometimes 3 puppeteers performed in each scene. Some of the scenes kept close to script - though with frequent breakouts for improvisation - while others, including the whole of pathet manyura (performed by Catur) and my own scene were entirely improvised.
My scene called for me to play Bima (Jayasena) meeting protesting forest animals before he deforested Wanamarta. This allowed for environmental messages to be conveyed - and also was an opportunity to flatter the walikota, who is well liked here for his penghijauan (greening) programme, involving planting trees, plants etc. My partner in this scene was Ki Ledjar himself - along with one of Ki Ledjar's students. I found it so hard to get in a word edgewise that in rehearsals I hauled out Petruk to speak on Bima's behalf. While some of the puppeteers and audience found my Cirebon Javanese accent and vocabulary hilarious, I received a nice message from Ria (an UGM-educated puppeteer who runs a modern puppet company called Papermoon) and also kind remarks from Catur and others after the show.
The highlight for many was the Limbukan, in which the walikota Herry Zudianto played Limbuk and another local politico, the Kepala Dinas Kimpraswil Kota Yogya Eko Suryo played Cangik. This allowed the mayor to reiterate a message he gave in his opening speech - that wayang needs to be protected and fostered in this age of modernization and globalization, AND that wayang needs to adapt to the time, primarily through working together with educational bodies.
The show ended around 2.30 am - Catur, who took on the role of pathet manyura joked (through one of the punakawan) that as he got manyura he could take as long as he wanted in finishing the lakon. There was little audience in the end - the location of the rumah dinas in Timoho, far from the city centre, meant that few incidental spectators (such as tukang becak) were attending.
One of the most interesting features of the event was the combination of professionals, dedicated amateurs and wayang novice such as the mayor (who could bearly hold Limbuk to the screen and had little clue about her voice). This is an increasing feature of arts here in Yogya -inclusive projects that reach out to the public - and worth following.
A small article titled 'Pelantikan Pepadi Komda Kota Yogya: Dalang dari London Ikut Mainkan Wayang' about the event appeared in the local paper Kedaulatan Rakyat today (20 February) with a pictur of one of the wayang golek scenes. It is nice to get recognition - even if I still feel like a bit of a trained monkey when I perform in central Java (in contrast to Cirebon, where my performances are generally appreicated for what they are).