June 10, 2011
Wayang Kulit (Extraordinary Art of Java)
Wayang stories are both entertainment and protection against the spirits; while you’re in the audience the spirits can’t get at you. Wayang drama from reflect all aspects of Javanese culture. Character are judged not by their actions but by their predetermined roles in the drama. Gestures are appreciated more than commonsense, style more than content. Courage, loyalty and refinement always win out in the end and fate is accepted without question. As a foreigner you won’t be able to follow all the stories, but you could never miss the atmosphere. The audience is the best show of all. Made up of just 20 people or as many as thousands, Javanese sit up all night long in a theatre reeking with clove cigarette smoke and packed to the over flowing. Babies fall asleep on mothers laps people tip off chairs in hysterics, while kids althernatley come awake and giggle in front of or behind the screen until dawn. Though they already know all the stories and roles backwards and forwards and are constantly moving around eating, sleeping and talking, the audience never loses the thread of the story. A show is like eavesdropping on neighbors, or on friends and relatives. The suspense is excruciating and they lose all sense of time. This 3000 year old mythology applies to today, it’s living and dynamic. The gods themselves not their shadows are on the screen. Wayang characters provide types to be emulated, giving the young an idea of what qualities and virtues to strive for.