Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 29, no. 2 (2012)

ATJ 29.2 Color Insert_Plate 8
Kudiyattam performance by
Arya Madhavan.
(Photo: Subhash Kumarapuram)

From the Editor, iii


Innovation for Survival? Dama Orchestra’s Butterfly Lovers—The Musical on a Contemporary Multiracial Malaysian Stage
Loo Fung Ying and Loo Fung Chiat, 339

Dama Orchestra in Malaysia has transformed through the implant of theatrical elements as exemplified by Butterfly Lovers—The Musical staged in 2006. This concert orchestra of the Chinese diaspora has grown into a musical theatre production company with regular full-house audiences for a series of productions of between ten and twenty shows a year. As composers and music arrangers working with the production team, the authors are participant observers of the work. This paper elucidates how the group responds to local demands, popular culture, and the tide of globalization to develop a modern Malaysian Chinese musical for Kuala Lumpur’s contemporary multiracial stage.

Loo Fung Ying, senior lecturer at the Cultural Centre, University of Malaya, is also a local composer and music arranger in Malaysia. Her research interest includes ethnomusicology and the application of tai chi to the physicality of music performance.

Loo Fung Chiat, senior lecturer at the Department of Music, Universiti Putra Malaysia, is also a local composer and music arranger in Malaysia. Her publications focus on audience study, music analysis, and performance practice.

Kee Thuan Chye’s Political Plays: An Analysis
Susan Philip, 357
In Malaysia, most forms of public expression are subject to control in the form of licensing laws and censorship. Despite this, the theatre in English has managed to develop a quite openly critical political voice. One of Malaysia’s most openly and stridently political playwrights is Kee Thuan Chye. This paper traces the trajectory of development in Kee’s political thinking, as evidenced in his four major plays, to show a deeper, more inclusive engagement with the state of the nation.

Susan Philip is an associate professor with the English Department, Faculty of Arts, University of Malaya. Her area of interest is the English-language theatres of Malaysia and Singapore, and she has published several articles and book chapters on this subject.

Revisiting Pencak Silat: The Malay Martial Arts in Theatre Practice and Actor Training
Zainal Abdul Latiff, 379
The Malay martial art of pencak silat is an important source of traditional acting technique. During the colonial period and postcolonial modernization, Western models of theatre replaced traditional performance, and the physical technique of theatre was largely modeled on Western acting: the importance of the text ascended and the realistic representation of life predominated. This resulted in adopting psychological acting styles and neglecting the martial tradition as a significant resource for actor training. Experiments in revitalization undertaken by the author since the 1970s will be detailed. The rationale for the revival of pencak silat as actor training is based on its vital position in the productions of bangsawan (Malay Opera), purbawara (history play), and the experimental plays of Malaysia’s National Laureate Noordin Hassan (the only playwright awarded this prestigous literary award for his contribution to Malay Literature), Syed Alwi, and Ismail Kassan.

Zainal Abdul Latiff is an emeritus associate professor of drama and theatre at the School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Penang, where he taught from 1979 to 2005. He practices the martial style of Silat Kuntau Harimau Jawa and has also studied Silat Lok 9, Silat Gayong Fatani, Silat Sendeng, and Tari Silat Pahang. He has conducted bangsawan workshops with renowned masters Pak Alias and Mak Minah; directed realistic plays of Mustapha Kamil Yassin, Hatta Azad Khan, and Usman Awang using pencak silat; and used it in directing in two randai plays (Putri Nilam Sari [Princess Nilam Sari] and Sabai nan Aluih [The Refined Sabai]) for the Malaysian Minister of Culture’s project to revive randai in Negeri Sembilan. He is a research fellow at the Cultural Centre University of Malaya.

Malaysian Theatre Resources
Nancy Nanney, 402
This bibliography presents a selection of materials in English about Malaysian theatre, with an emphasis on modern drama. Included are articles, chapters in books, encyclopedia entries, DVDs, books, Malay plays translated into English, English-language plays, and additional resources. This material was initially prepared for the Association for Asian Performance roundtable titled “Current Resources for Teaching Asian Theatre—An Evaluation” at the 2004 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference in Toronto. The listing was updated in 2011.

Nancy Nanney is a professor in the Education and Humanities Division at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. She earned a BA in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD in drama and theatre from the University of Hawai‘i. Her doctoral research was published in book form as An Analysis of Modern Malay Drama (1992). She taught in Korea for three years (Chongju University) and in Malaysia for nearly twelve years (MARA Institute of Technology and International Islamic University Malaysia). She supervised and directed student plays at all three institutions. She then served for ten years as humanities chair at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, where, in addition to teaching a variety of literature, drama, and writing courses, she is currently an active member of the college’s internationalization committee. She has continued to research Malaysian literature and drama as well as other international literature and drama subjects.


Staging Raja Tangkai Hati at Istana Budaya: Modernizing Malaysian Mak Yong
Kathy Foley and Sabzali Musa Kahn, 419
Kathy Foley is editor of Asian Theatre Journal and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Cultural Centre, University of Malaya, and the Arts Research Institute of UCSC supported work for this report.

Dr. Sabzali Musa Kahn is scenic artist whose work on modern and traditional theatre has been seen at the National Theatre of Malaysia and other venues. He is the deputy director of undergraduate studies at Cultural Centre of the University of Malaya, where he teaches on visual art and scenic design.

Reviewing Makyung Dewa Indera, Indera Dewa
Elezaa Zainuddin, 437

This performance report of Makyung Dewa Indera, Indera Dewa by Lambang Sari, directed and scripted by Fatimah Abdullah at Istana Budaya (National Theatre), Kuala Lumpur, on 18 June 2011 revealed numerous changes in design, personnel, and intent from traditional mak yong work.

Elezaa Zainuddin studied industrial design and has worked at Cultural Centre of University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as a cultural officer and then lecturer with expertise in arts management and marketing and costume, makeup, and visual arts. Malay traditional textiles, clothing, and handicrafts and their cultural context are her additional research areas.

Report: The Mak Yong Spiritual Dance Heritage Conference, Performances, and Workshops
Zulkifli Mohamad, 445
This report notes the papers and performances on Malaysian, Thai, and Indonesian mak yong presented in the 2011 conference. It argues that historically Kelantan, Malaysia, and Pattani, Thailand, understandings of the form are shared. National borders inset in the colonial period and cultural politics of contemporary Southeast Asia have altered and divided the form.

Zulkifli Mohamad is a performer, choreographer, director, arts writer, and educator. He was trained in traditional performance. His gained his doctorate in cultural management and did postdoctoral work in cultural studies. His creative work and research has been supported by British Council, Australia High Commission, Goethe Institute. He has won an Asia Fellow Award (2002), Rockefeller Southeast Asian Islamic Scholar’s Award (2003), and a Fulbright Grant (2010).


The Secret Life of Nora. Produced by Enfiniti Vision Media Productions
reviewed by Zulkifli Mohamad, 461


Revitalizing Arja in Globalized Bali
I Wayan Dibia, 466
The author has produced three new arja: Meeting in Tampaksiring (Katemu Ring Tampaksiring, 2004), King Adhipusengara (Prabu Adhipusengara, 2006), and Rape of Sukreni (Sukreni Gadis Bali, 2008). While keeping the essential elements of arja intact, each production shows significant aesthetic changes and theatrical innovations, intended to prevent arja from disappearing in globalized Bali.

I Wayan Dibia is a professor at the Indonesia Institute of the Arts (Institute Seni Indonesia [ISI]) in Denpasar, Bali. He has created numerous new dances, and published articles and books on Balinese performing arts.

Ali Nassirian and a Modern Iranian “National” Theatre
Behzad Ghaderi Sohi and Masoud Ghorbaninejad, 495
Ali Nassirian (b. 1935), now a celebrity in Iranian cinema, was preoccupied, during the 1950s to the 1970s, with the idea of creating a theatre, and supplying it with a repertoire, which would be rooted in Iranian folklore and indigenous theatrical forms. His oeuvre includes thirteen plays, most of which draw, partly or extensively, on Iranian popular improvisatory forms. This article discusses the context, possibilities, and limitations of Nassirian’s one-man crusade to launch a “national” theatre based on indigenous roots, especially at a historical moment when Iran—at the brink of entering a new socioeconomic phase which we may call the “South” social formation—was forced to adopt a hurried, hence “lopsided,” version of North Atlantic modernity in the form of statist modernization programs.

Behzad Ghaderi Sohi is an associate professor of dramatic literature at Erciyes State University, Kayseri, Turkey (since February 2012) and was formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Tehran, Iran. He has taught and published on Ibsen, British (Romantic and postmodern), and American as well as Iranian drama and theatre. He is also a noted translator of plays into Persian.

Masoud Ghorbaninejad is currently pursuing a PhD in English at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.

Memorializing Colonialism: Images of the Japanese Occupation of Indonesia in Japanese Popular Theatre
Peter Steele, 528
This article explores representations of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in two examples of Japanese popular theatre. The first example is from a Takarazuka production that pre-dates the occupation by less than a year and thus aims to quell public anxieties about Japan’s impending colonial aggression. The second occurs sixty years later in a play that tells the story of a doomed romance between a Japanese soldier and an Indonesian dancer. The following essay explores ways in which each production uses Indonesian cultural imagery within a larger framework that presents pan-Asian identity as an aspect of Japanese nationalist ideology.

Peter Steele is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. He is an avid performer of Indonesian gamelan music. He has performed with groups throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, and Indonesia. His dissertation focuses on intercultural performance and Balinese music.

Eyescape: Aesthetics of “Seeing” in Kudiyattam
Arya Madhavan, 550
This essay enquires the link between the actor’s eyes, imagination, and the temporal experience of perception in performance. This enquiry is strongly grounded within the aesthetics and praxis of kudiyattam, which is the oldest of the Indian (Sanskrit) theatre forms. Here, the actor’s eyes are treated as a significant category in performance that mediates the generation and perception of images, within both the actor and the spectator.

Arya Madhavan is a lecturer in drama at the Lincoln School of Performing Arts, University of Lincoln, UK. A trained performer of kudiyattam, Madhavan’s work is focused on analysing the contemporary relevance of kudiyattam and reassessing its performance techniques from the perspective of performance studies. She is the author of the book titled Kudiyattam Theatre and the Actor’s Consciousness (2010).


Leonard Pronko and Jack Coogan, Kabuki For the West. DVD.
reviewed by Holly A. Blumner, 571


Andrew Killick, In Search of Korean Traditional Opera: Discourses Of Ch’anggŭk
reviewed by Areum Jeong, 574

Gèrard Toffin, La Fête-spectacle: Théâtre et rite au Nepal (The Festival Performance: Theatre and Ritual of Nepal)
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 576

Daniel Mroz, The Dancing Word: An Embodied Approach to the Preparation of Performers and the Composition of Performances
reviewed by Zainal Abdul Latiff, 577

Graham Ley and Sarah Dadswell, eds., British South Asian Theatres: A Documented History
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 580

Michael Walling and Roe Lane, The Orientations Trilogy: Theatre and Gender: Asia and Europe
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 582


Books Received, 585

Color Insert follows page 462