Swarthmore College

Department of Music and Dance


Office of the President


Shadow Play and Festival of Indonesia

Sunday April 9th 2006

in and around Lang Music Building, Swarthmore College

Dalang (Shadow Puppet Master): I Nyoman Suadin

with Gamelan Semara Santi

and guest musicians from Gamelan Mitra Kusuma of Washington, DC

Free and open to the public. Families with children are especially welcome!

1-4 PM Food and Handicrafts:

Indonesian snacks will be handed out free of charge to 100 students, staff, and faculty of the College.  Vouchers will be available in Underhill Performing Arts Library starting Monday April 3rd.  Indonesian food will also be available for sale to the general public, as will handicrafts from Indonesia.

1-2 PM Batik Demonstration:

Outside Lang Music Building: Batik demonstration by acclaimed Batik Painter Laura F. Cohn (rain location: Lang Music Building Lobby).

An exhibition of Batik Art by Laura F. Cohn will be on display in Lang Music Building for the entire weekend. More information about her work is available at http://www.frombalitobala.com/balitobala/index.html.

2-2:30 PM Gamelan Demonstration:

Lang Concert Hall stage: Hands-on demonstration of Gamelan music by Swarthmore Professor Tom Whitman and members of Gamelan Semara Santi.

2:30-3 PM Story:

Lang Concert Hall: Erin Mee of Swarthmore's Department of Theater will introduce the story of the Shadow Play.

3 PM Shadow Play:

Lang Concert Hall: "Arjuna Tapa", a Balinese Shadow Play (Wayang Kulit). For this, Dalang (Shadow Puppet Master) I Nyoman Suadin was accompanied by 25 musicians playing an orchestra of gongs, bronze-keyed xylophones, drums, and bamboo flutes. Swarthmore's Gamelan Semara Santi was joined by musicians from gamelan Mitra Kusuma of Washington DC.  The program also included “Panyembrama,” a traditional greeting dance from Bali.


About the Balinese Shadow Play

The Indonesian Shadow Play, or Wayang Kulit, is one of the world’s great cultural treasures.  A vital theatrical genre with ancient roots in Java and Bali, it remains profoundly significant to millions of people throughout Southeast Asia and, increasingly, in other parts of the world.  Drawing on stories and characters from the great Hindu epic Mahabarata, the Shadow Play is justly famous for its ability to entertain modern audiences.  With its extraordinary combination of music, shadow, light, movement, comedy, and a wealth of memorable characters, it creates a heightened sense of intimacy between audience and performers.

The Dalang (Shadow Artist) manipulates hand-made leather puppets in front of a white screen. A kerosene lamp hanging in front of his forehead creates shadows of the puppets on the screen. The audience may watch the action from either side of the screen. The Dalang must master a wealth of skills, serving as simultaneously as a scholar, linguist, priest, comedian, social worker, and musician as well as puppeteer.  The overriding concern is for balance: good characters enter from the Dalang’s right and interact with evil characters, from the Dalang’s left.  Eventually, a great battle ensues. At the end, neither side is fully victorious; the characters return to their respective sides and thereby return the universe to its proper balance. The Dalang for our performance is our co-director, I Nyoman Suadin. Click here for biographical information..

Each Wayang Kulit performance is unique.  At the core is an episode from the ancient Hindu Epic, Mahabharata. The gods and royal characters are taken directly from the Mahabharata. They speak an ancient language, Kawi, which is closely related to Sanskrit, the classical language of South Asia.  Few people in Bali, however, understand Kawi. (Imagine, if you will, a Broadway play in which the central protagonists converse entirely in Latin.)  Therefore, there is another class of characters, servants/clowns, who act as translators and commentators.  Two of these (Twalen and his son, Merdah) serve the forces of good; the other two (Delem and his younger brother, Sangut) usually serve the forces of evil.  In Bali, these characters speak Bahasa Bali, the common language of the Balinese. In today’s performance, these characters will translate and offer commentary in English.

It is the servant characters who most fully engage the audience.  Their dialogue is improvised, and typically alludes to events or living people of interest to the community.  Often this takes the form of comedy --- ridiculing a well-known pompous figure, for example --- but sometimes it is used for more serious purposes.  After the 2002 bombings in Bali, for example, several Dalangs performed special Wayang Kulit performances in villages that had lost loved ones as part of the healing process.

            In Bali, the Shadow Play is often performed as part of a large temple festival.  Such festivals are great community celebrations that bring together hundreds of people to enjoy music, dance, theater, food, gossip, gambling, and much else.  This may continue for hours at a time in different parts of a temple complex, with many events happening simultaneously. In keeping with that spirit, we are hosting a Festival of Indonesian Art in conjunction with the Shadow Play, including an exhibition of batik art by Laura Cohn, a batik demonstration, and sales of Indonesian foods and handicrafts.



Presented by the Department of Music and Dance and the Office of the President of Swarthmore College.