Teater mandiri, indonesia’s foremost theatre collective, aims to establish a dialogue between author and audience. Initiated by I Gusti Ngurah Putu Wijaya in 1971, it debuted in 1973 with the staging of Aduh at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts centre.

Now, supported by the Djarum Foundation, Teater Mandiri is celebrating its 45th anniversary with monologues, a poem recital competition, the publication of 100 Monologues, and the staging of Putu’s newest drama JGERR. Other published works by Putu Wijaya range from novels, dramas, short stories and essays right up to screenplays. Here, the maestro talks to Indonesia Tatler.

What does 45 years of Teater Mandiri mean to you?

While it’s really just another anniversary, 45 is, of course, considered sacred and special to Indonesia because we gained our independence in 1945. So I focus on issues related to patriotism, which is assumed by many to be waning among the younger generation.

Do you share the same perception?

No. I believe the spirit is still there. But the way youngsters carry on being Indonesian is changing because the challenges are diferrent. In 1945, they joined the freedom fighters, as well as the Red Cross, and volunteered at field kitchens, for example. Now, they work hard and show dedication in fields that suit their callings. I’ve witnessed it myself at Teater Mandiri, where the younger members show dedication: they’re disciplined and punctual.

How do you manifest patriotism in the anniversary’s agenda?

The 44th anniversary was all about the national identity, and now in JGERR we talk about unity. I picked the theme because I keep on hearing that our unity is in decline due to issues associated with ethnicity, religion, race and other inter-group relations. But I strongly believe that the feeling that we are one is still there. Aren’t we one when Malaysia claims our national heritage, batik? Aren’t we united when Abu Sayyaf kidnaps our fishermen?

Tell us about the poem recital contest and its objectives.

We’re going to do it differently: we set up a pre-competition forum so that contestants can get the grip of their poem and delve into its intrinsic values. We want the younger generation to master their mother tongue properly and develop their own style of expression.

What is the objective of publishing 100 Monologues?

I want the younger generation to be able to converse convincingly, just like the dalang who can charm the audience all night long with his monologues.

(Text by Olly G. Santosa, photo by Irwan Kurnia )

Tags: Culture, Art, Putu Wijaya