Phenomenology of a Puppet Theatre: Contemplations on the Art of Javanese Wayang Kulit

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KITLV, 2005 - Drama - 567 pages
No previous work on wayang has treated in depth what is the focus of this book: the power of the theatrical medium, the actuality of the performance as a physical, emotional, and social experience and event, and the sensations and feelings involved in performing and watching an all-night wayang performance. A single puppeteer moves puppets, delicately carved and painted according to a complex iconography, in dance-like patterns integrated with continuous music, which he also directs; he speaks the voices of all characters; and he represents beings and a mythological world that reflect (on) the human world, including the specific occasion and the people present. Paying attention to the wholeness of the 'multimedia' performance as an event, as well as to the sensations, subtle movements, and particular intonations of the performance, the author of this book bases his 'thick description' on years of learning to perform wayang, attending and participating in performances, interviews and discussions with people involved with wayang, supplemented by study of texts, from old manuscripts and performance manuals to newspaper articles and reports on performances. He shows the need not to be limited to any single discipline: in wayang, the relationships and interaction, for example, between visual movements and music, or between actions on the screen and actions among the audience-participants, are no less significant than, for example, the relationships within music. The book includes the most extensive discussion of recent changes in wayang theatre, its interaction with various traditional and modern entertainments, and the ways it is affected by politics and economy. A postscript focuses on the post-Soeharto era. The book is a contribution to the study of Indonesian performing arts and culture, but it is also intended for anyone interested in theatre and performing arts generally. Book jacket.

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About the author (2005)

Jan Mrazek is assistant professor in the Southeast Asian Studies of Singapore.

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