Javanese Performances on an Indonesian Stage: Contesting Culture, Embracing Change

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During the period of turmoil that gripped late twentieth-century Indonesia, theater troupes in Central Java staged stories of the past that feature a familiar cast of rulers, nobles, clown servants, and ordinary people. However, these performances did more than simply pass on age-old cultural “traditions.” By stretching the framework of Javanese theater convention, they aired opposition cultural and political perspectives, and expressed a dynamic response to social change. As political pressures intensified in 1997-1998, actors staged witty, critical performances to enthusiastic, oppositionist crowds, but the dismantling of repressive state control after the fall of Suharto diminished interest in indirect, political critiques from the stage, and economic weakness caused patronage and sponsorship to dry up. By 2003-2004 a revival of sorts was underway as performers engaged with the politics of regional autonomy and democratization, and actors responded to the devastating 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake by staging rudimentary shows in the worst-affected areas to help sustain community spirit. Barbara Hatley’s account of these tumultuous years shows how performers and audiences adapted, resisted, incorporated, and survived in the face of political upheaval and regime change, capitalist transformation, globalization, and economic crisis.

 

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Description

During the period of turmoil that gripped late twentieth-century Indonesia, theater troupes in Central Java staged stories of the past that feature a familiar cast of rulers, nobles, clown servants, and ordinary people. However, these performances did more than simply pass on age-old cultural “traditions.” By stretching the framework of Javanese theater convention, they aired opposition cultural and political perspectives, and expressed a dynamic response to social change. As political pressures intensified in 1997-1998, actors staged witty, critical performances to enthusiastic, oppositionist crowds, but the dismantling of repressive state control after the fall of Suharto diminished interest in indirect, political critiques from the stage, and economic weakness caused patronage and sponsorship to dry up. By 2003-2004 a revival of sorts was underway as performers engaged with the politics of regional autonomy and democratization, and actors responded to the devastating 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake by staging rudimentary shows in the worst-affected areas to help sustain community spirit. Barbara Hatley’s account of these tumultuous years shows how performers and audiences adapted, resisted, incorporated, and survived in the face of political upheaval and regime change, capitalist transformation, globalization, and economic crisis.

 

Publisher: Asian Studies Association of Australia

Paperback

2008

ISBN: 9780824832957