When I originally thought about coming to Yogya for my sabbatical, I recalled the Yogya of the 1990s, a time and place when there were many venues for touristic performance. I performed wayang kulit occasionally in Yogya during 1990-1991 - there was not much money, and tourist audiences were small and not always appreciative, but I enjoyed the experience a lot.
The multiple crises starting in 1997 brought about the near end of this vein of performance, and today there is only one venue where tourists come to see wayang kulit performed nightly - the Sonobudyo Museum in the alun-alun lor.
I approached Sonobudoyo (at the recommendation of the local branch of the Culture and Tourism ministry) shortly after arriving in Yogya and was given the opportunity to perform a single 'selingan' show - one of two slots that Sonobudoyo has annually that are outside of the normal schedule. This show was not for tourists, as I initially expected, but for school children, mostly 10-12 year old kids, that is the same age as my daughter Hannah. It was a way to increase the 'apresiasi' of wayang kulit. All local schools in walking distance from the museum were invited. I also invited some 'friends' from facebook and others via hp.
I was instructed to do a Ramayana lakon - this is the regular fair at Sonobudoyo and all the puppets are set up to do this - and chose to the classic 'Sinta Colong' (Abduction of Sinta) episode, an abbreviated version of a lakon I did at the British Library in May 2009.
The performance coincided with the opening of a topeng exhibit, which meant that the kids (and me) sadly had to sit around waiting for an upacara to run its course.
Once the show got off the ground though it went smoothly with three or four blunders on my part (a mix up between two puppets, tangled up puppets in the fight scene, a mistaken voice, a suluk in the wrong pathet). Again, at the request of the Museum, I performed in a combination of Indonesian and Javanese, with some English thrown in.
The highlight for the kids was definitely the Limbukan, which featured a contest with door prizes. The kids eagerly rushed forward to identify puppets, musical instruments and musical pieces. My daughter Hannah also appeared in the Limbukan as a guest star, doing a little wayang kancil story (Kancil dan Buaya) she has been working on with Nanang for the last couple of months. The kids cheered enthusiastically at a little trick I taught Hannah with a monkey puppet.
A photographer, Denny Wijaya, took pictures and generously sent me them after the show-- for which much thanks! -- and a reporter from the Jakarta Globe will be covering the event for this English language paper.
There is a chance I will perform again at the Museum - either next month or possibly next year. Thus: to be continued....