Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 18, no. 1 (2001): On Puppetry

SPECIAL ISSUE ON PUPPETRY, Guest Editor, Kathy Foley

Editor’s Note, p. iii


The Origin of Kala: A Sundanese Wayang Golek Purwa Play by Abah Sunarya and Gamelan Giri Harja I
Translated and introduced by Kathy Foley, p. 1

These scenes from a performance done on December 24, 1978, at Cibintinu near Bandung in West Java were presented in the style of wayang golek purwa–a wooden rod-puppet theatre telling Ramayana and Mahabharata stories that is popular among the Sundanese-speakers who live in this region of Indonesia. The dalang (puppetmaster), Abah Sunarya, was at that time one of the foremost popular performers in West Java. In this genre intricately carved doll puppets dance to the music of the gamelan orchestra on a temporary stage set up in front of the house of the person who has hired the troupe. The dalang does the narration, singing, and dialogue with occasional comments or questions added by the musicians, especially the lurah sekar (head musician). The puppeteer and troupe perform on a raised stage; in front of it is a banana log placed horizontally to form the playboard where the puppets present the play. The play is at once an entertainment and an exorcism. As the performance progresses, the puppets on stage all have their counterparts in the ritual. But rather than a play within a play, this is a play within a ceremony where the script and ritual action intersect at key points. While the mantras are efficacious regardless of the entertainment or educational value, there is no doubt that being able to point out parallels between the mythic monsters and members of the Suharto family won this performer the rapt attention of his audience. Perhaps it was his renown as a dalang who did exorcisms that prevented the censors from stopping his performances.

Kathy Foley is professor of theatre at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Southeast Asian editor for Asian Theatre Journal. She has performed wayang golek purwa regularly since 1979 and has been invited over the last two decades to perform at the Indonesian Wayang Festival (Pekan Wayang Indonesia), a national and international gathering of dalang.


Visible Puppets and Hidden Puppeteers: Indian Gombeyata Puppetry
Michael Schuster, p. 59

Gombeyata is a string and rod puppet tradition of India. Here the relationship between performance practice and religious worship is explored by Michael Schuster, who undertook his initial research on a Fulbright Fellowship.

Michael Schuster is a founder of the Train Theatre in Jerusalem and is a professional puppeteer and videographer. He finished a graduate certificate program at University of California at Santa Cruz. and received his doctorate from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Currently he is a folklorist at the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Burmese Marionettes: Yokthe Thay in Transition
Kathy Foley, p. 69

Burmese marionette theatre was a valued entertainment of the courts that came to popular audiences as well until the l950s. A revival of the art is being led by the Mandalay Marionettes, and a division of puppetry has been instituted at the Yangon (Rangoon) University of Culture. Nationalism and tourism are joint influences in spurring the return to this important art of Myanmar.

Kathy Foley is a professor of theatre arts at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she is provost of Porter College.

Hun: Thai Doll Puppetry
Surapone Virulrak with Kathy Foley, p. 81

The rod-puppet theatre of Thailand has been revitalized in the last thirty years by the work of artist and puppet maker Chakrabhand Posayakrit. His research into hun has contributed to a resurgence of knowledge and performance of this court-influenced art.

Surapone Virulrak is an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok where he has served as vice president and heads the Ph.D. program in Thai theatre. He directs at the National Theatre and represents Thai arts in ASEAN forums. Professor Virulrak has written extensively on Thai classical and popular theatre. Kathy Foley collaborated with him while doing research on Thai puppetry in 1998 and 1999 with support of the Asian Cultural Council and the UCSC Academic Senate. She curated an exhibit of South and Southeast Asian puppets for the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta and at the East-West Center in Hawai‘i in 2000.

Contest-ing Culture: Sundanese Wayang Golek Purwa Competitions in New Order Indonesia
Andrew N. Weintraub, p. 87

Government efforts to monitor, regulate, and control the art of wayang performance dramatically increased during Soeharto’s New Order regime (1966-1998). State-sponsored wayang competitions, as well as the aesthetic categories for evaluating performers became important sites for merging wayang performance with the goals of the state. Government-sanctioned performance standards were at odds with popular practice, however, which tended to emphasize entertainment, innovation, and communication with audiences.

Andrew Weintraub is an assistant professor in music at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches courses in ethnomusicology and directs the university gamelan program. His articles have appeared in edited books as well as journals, including Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, Perfect Beat, and Balungan. His English translation and Sundanese text transcription of a complete Sundanese puppet theatre performance was published by Lontar Publications in 1998. He is completing a book on the relationship among Sundanese performing arts, culture, and politics in Indonesia during the New Order.

Lakon Karangan: The Legacy of Dhalang Nartosabdho in Banyumas, Central Java
Robert Petersen, p. 105

The changes in wayang kulit purwa, shadow puppetry of Central Java, have been significant since independence was declared in 1945. Ki Nartosabdho was one of the most important performers in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This article explores Nartosabdho’s impact and, by examining Sugino, a dalang who has followed Nartosabdho’s lead, the author gives a sense of the debate of tradition versus modernity that rages in the world of wayang.

Robert Petersen did a graduate work at the University of California–Santa Cruz, Brown University, and the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa where he is a Ph.D. candidate, and has done research in Indonesia under a Fulbright scholarship. He teaches art and theatre at Eastern Illinois University and has written for The Drama Review, Theatre Insight, and Theatre Survey.


Eugenio Barba, Land of Ashes and Diamonds: My Apprenticship in Poland
reviewed by Michael Hüttler, p. 113

David George, Buddhism as/in Performance: Analysis of Meditation and Theatrical Practice
reviewed by Barbara Sellers-Young, p. 116

David Williams, Misreading the Chinese Character: Images of the Chinese in Euroamerican Drama to 1925
reviewed by John Steven Paul, p. 117

Joan Suyenaga, ed., Gatutkaca on Trial; Released from Kala’s Grip; Demon Abduction; The Traitor Jobin; The Birth of Gatotkaca
reviewed by Kathy Foley, p. 120