Balinese masked dancers, a twenty five piece
Balinese gamelan orchestra, a giant sacred dragon, and a Balinese shadow
puppet master will bring Shakespeare's "Tempest" to life in
"Caliban Remembers: A Balinese Tempest" as part of the La MaMa
Puppet Series Festival September 23-26. The piece will be performed with
shadow puppets, masks, and music performed by the gamelan orchestra of
the Indonesian Consulate of New York. The work is directed by I Nyoman
Catra, a master of traditional Balinese Masked Dance and Shadow Puppetry,
and American director Ron Jenkins.
The production sets Shakespeare's mystical story through the memory of
Caliban, using traditional Balinese shadow puppets and human actors moving
and dancing in Balinese choreography (which is rooted in the movement
of puppets). The role of Caliban is played by I Nyoman Catra, who made
his New York debut performing with Julie Taymor and Bill Irwin at La Mama
in the early 1980's.
The role of Ariel will be sung and danced by Desak Suartilaksmi, who
has set Shakespeare's lyrics to original Balinese music based on sacred
chants. The twenty five members of the Balinese gamelan orchestra Dharmaswara,
under the direction of I Nyoman Saptanayana, will play traditional gongs,
metal xylophones, and drums in addition to performing the spectacular
interlocking choral chanting dance known as Kecak. The play will also
include the Balinese dragon-god Barong and the witch-goddess Rangda, masked
figures that represent the ongoing struggle between the good and evil
elements of human nature.
Director I Nyoman Catra and his collaborator Ron Jenkins chose to stage
"The Tempest" because of its theme of non-violent response to
aggression. In a recent conference on art and politics in Denpasar, Bali,
Catra and Jenkins discussed the parallels between the lessons Prospero
learns on the island about forgoing vengeance and the response of the
Balinese to the terrorist bombings of October 12, 2002. Their remarks
included the following statement:
"Unlike the American response to terrorism, which answered violence
with war, the Balinese answered violence with art. The predominantly Hindu
population staged religious ceremonies in every village that included
music, dance, and ritual offerings that encouraged the island's inhabitants
to look inside themselves for the causes of violence.
(On the same day that this spiritual cleansing ceremony took place in
every Balinese village, a parallel ceremony was enacted at the site of
the World Trade Center bombing in New York. The rituals in New York were
led by I Nyoman Catra, director of "Caliban Remembers: A Balinese
Tempest," with music provided by the Dharmaswara Gamelan orchestra.)
"To some outsiders, responding to terrorism with sacred art and
ritual might seem naive, but the Balinese are proud to report that the
perpetrators of the Balinese bombings have been captured, tried, and imprisoned,
and the island is safe again. If Muslim terrorists had attacked a Hindu
population center anywhere else in the world, there would probably have
been ethnic riots. The fact that the Balinese, who live in the world's
most populous Muslim nation, were able to resolve their conflicts peacefully
through art and prayer, is a story that has not received the international
attention it deserves. While our production of 'The Tempest' does not
refer directly to current events, Shakespeare's story reminds us all of
our responsibility to look inside ourselves for the causes of violence
before we attack others, particularly in Prospero's response to the half-human
creature Caliban who tried to kill him, 'This thing of darkness I acknowledge
In addition to performers from Indonesia, the cast of "A Balinese
Tempest" includes actors from Turkey, Italy, and an Iraqi-American
actress. The production was made possible with support from the Asian
Cultural Council of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Indonesian Consulate
in New York.
I Nyoman Catra (director, featured performer) is a master of traditional
Balinese masked dance and puppetry who specializes in the roles of the
clowns. He is currently a fellow of the Asian Cultural Council at Wesleyan
Desak Suartilaksmi (composer, featured performer) is a composer of new
and traditional Balinese Music. She is currently the Luce Visiting Professor
of Music at Holy Cross College.
I Nyoman Saptanyan (orchestra director) is the co-director of the gamelan
Dharmaswara at the Indonesian consulate of New York.
Ron Jenkins (co-director) is a former Guggenheim Fellow whose research
in Bali has been supported by fellowships from the Asian Cultural Council
and the Watson Foundation. He recently translated and directed the works
of Dario Fo at the American Repertory Theater and the Provincetown Playhouse.
With the La MaMa Puppet Series Festival, Ellen Stewart's multi-arts organization
once again takes its place as a leading US entry point for artists from
around the world, and where the international influence on New York artists
is most on display. This festival features multicultural works from India,
Poland, Bali, Japan and the Czech Republic in addition to two that, while
crafted in New York, are brimming with international art forms. The series
culminates October 7 to 10 with a revival of "Motel" by Jean-Claude
van Itallie, the puppet segment of his famous "America Hurrah"
trilogy, the watershed Off-Broadway play of the Sixties. The festival
is supported by The Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and
utilizes all three of La MaMa's performance theaters.