September 15, 2012

Tamara and the Shadow Theatre of Java

This week, the Northport Arts Coalition presented a very unique theatrical experience at the public library called "Tamara and the Shadow Theatre of Java." Classical Javanese shadow theatre is called "Wayang Kulit" (pronounced y-young-coo-kut) and presents the history, culture, and mythology of Java through storytelling, puppetry, and music. Stories are relayed by using the shadows of puppets cast on to an illuminated cloth which represents the universe.

The performer for the evening, Tamara Fielding, came on to the stage a little bit after 7:00 and spoke to the audience for quite a while about the art of Wayang Kulit, the making of puppets, and life on the island of Java. She was very jovial and entertaining. I enjoyed hearing the story of how she became interested in shadow theatre. When she was a little girl living in Indonesia, her father hired a dalang (shadow master) to perform for her birthday. The entire community showed up for the event. The show lasted from dusk until dawn (10 hours) and featured over two hundred characters, each with a different voice. All of this was done by the dalang alone, showing some very impressive stamina. It is easy to see why the art form is so fascinating. Tamara Fielding is currently the only female dalang living outside of Indonesia.

After her introductions, she performed a shortened version of the Hindu text "Ramayana." The puppets look very elegant against the sepia glow that filters through the cloth. I've been to many performances at the library, but this one was definitely one of the most beautiful and unique. Very much enjoyed. Cheers!

"Therefore if you have any encouragement
from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love,
if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love,
being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others."

~Philippians 2:1-4