Friday, December 18, 2009

The Great Wayang Debate

As Tom has mentioned in his blog we, Adam, Tom, Lisa, and myself, have been having an ongoing debate as to which is the correct way to view a wayang performance.

Tom and I both agree that wayang should be enjoyed from the side opposite the Dalang and gamelan. This is best as the shadows are what is supposed to be watched, not the wayang themselves. However, at every wayang performance I have been to in Java the people are sitting on the same side as the Dalang and the gamelan. The light is very bright and the shadows are obviously not seen from that side. Adam seems to think that because Tom and I are not Javanese/ Indonesian we are not allowed to comment on the appropriate way to watch a wayang performance. I strongly disagree with this. If I were eating burritos and fajitas for Thanksgiving dinner, an Indonesian would certainly be in the right if he were to say that was not what the Pilgrims had intended and that I was salah.

The best part of this story is that I was given a small, but satisfying bit of support tonight. Adam, Lisa and I rented The Year of Living Dangerously and took it to Moviebox to watch. After the hellish ordeal at Moviebox (which is a regular occurrence and I will have to write about another time) we were finally directed to the viewing room. The night before Adam and I had stopped briefly at one such wayang performance, and again the audience was on the wrong side. So the debate was somewhat refreshed then.

To my complete surprise and delight the opening seen of the film was a wayang performance being viewed from the shadow side! I immediately began to laugh and Adam as well, which he quickly followed with a "shut up!" It did not stop there though. Later on in the film one of the central character of the film and the narrator devoted an entire scene to the importance of wayang and the importance of watching the shadows rather than the puppets. It was brilliant timing and I'm sure it was very difficult for Adam to sit through. We had a nice laugh about it.

Unrelated as this is I feel I should mention it. In another scene in the movie Mel Gibson goes to a party in what I assume if Bogor where he just happens to bump into Sigourney Weaver. Sigourney is looking very sultry in a thinly strapped orange and red checkered dress. The music is lively and just before they begin I commented that Sigourney would start with a sexy "shoulder dance." Just then she did! It was fantastic and just confirmed the ongoing rumor that I am omniscient! ;-)

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