Online theater performance give artists a voice amid pandemic


Theater troupe Artery Performa staged an online performance of Jemuran Orang (People’s Laundry) on Tuesday on the YouTube channel of Budaya Saya.

The performance began with a narration about plagues in the past. The narrator, accompanied by the sound of water in a pool, told the story of “Plague in an Ancient City”, a 17th century painting by Michiel Sweerts that is believed to portray a deadly plague that hit Athens in 430 BC. He continued to the ancient Greek poem The Illiad, which also contains parts about a plague.

Afterward, the screen split into four parts with the main one showing footage of the COVID-19 disease. The first part showed a person washing empon-empon (mixed spices), another showed a black-and-white photo with a silhouette of a person dancing and the last displayed a woman sleeping on her bed. The three parts constantly moved, showing different activities performed by actors who wore masks throughout the performance.

Played by seven actors, Jemuran Orang demonstrated how to maximize existing technology to hold a performance amid the pandemic. Actors used Skype to interact with each other, though there were times when slow signals disrupted the act.

The play showed how people persist in going on with their daily lives amid the disease, along with the constant presence of fear and anxiety, by using simple equipment found in their surroundings. One actor put on a birthday hat and played with his cat alone in his room, perhaps to convey self-isolation. The repetitive background music and videos seemed to amplify the continuous exposure of COVID-19 news on the media.

The performance, clocking in at almost one hour, was viewed by 217 people. Most of them were senior high school students who were assigned to watch the performance.

“I thought the show would be performed on a stage,” wrote YouTube user Dayat Rachman in the comment section, who later praised the performance by saying, “Mantap [Amazing].”

User Aryani wrote, “Hopefully they keep performing despite the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some commented that they needed more time to understand the performance as they had to divide their attention around the different parts of the screen.

“The format is a bit confusing,” wrote user DF. “Which screen should we watch?”

Read also: Artists to perform, share knowledge online for stay-at-home audience

The 'Jemuran Orang' performance split into four screens with a main one showing footage of the COVID-19 pandemic.The ‘Jemuran Orang’ performance split into four screens with a main one showing footage of the COVID-19 pandemic. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

Artery Performa, which was established in 2013, is among the performers who have appeared on the Budaya Saya channel. Since late March, the channel has broadcast various art shows, including masterclasses, workshops, music performances, storytelling and theater performances by various artists, including renowned choreographer Eko Supriyanto, animator Wahyu Aditya and folk duo Endah N Rhesa.

The shows are part of the #bahagiadirumah (happy at home) campaign initiated by the Culture Directorate General of the Education and Culture Ministry. All shows are available to be re-watched.

Hilmar Farid, Education and Culture Ministry director general, said in a press conference on Tuesday that the channel was a platform for Indonesian artists to stay productive, especially as numerous arts events had been canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The platform is also focused on creative collaborations, as Hilmar said that such activities, which required the involvement of many people, would mean job opportunities.

Hilmar said all artists were welcome to join their online programs without having to include detailed proposals. “As long as they’re real and reasonable in terms of production cost,” he said. “The more, the merrier. We want more people to get involved [in the projects] even if they just use smartphones with minimum production cost.”

He added that artists in other provinces could join the online programs through the Culture Directorate General’s technical management units (UPT), as they also have their own YouTube channels. “Most of the impacted artists are traditional ones who perhaps have limited access to information,” he said. 

For the forthcoming shows, the Budaya Saya YouTube channel will air numerous events, among them are a masterclass with artist Sheila Roswitha on Thursday at 1 p.m. and contemporary dance performance by Gigi Art of Dance on Saturday at 4 p.m. (wng)

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