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Shadow Puppets of Java, Gathutkaca’s Coronation

Buffalo NY’s first ever wayang kulit shadow puppet performance was a sight to behold. “Gathutkaca’s Coronation”

Dhalang Puppet master Darsono Hadiraharjo performed this classic story from the ancient Indian epic Mahabarata using over 100 characters over the course of 4 hours.

Wayang Kulit performances are traditional and wildly popular multi-genre performances still practiced today on Java. They combine virtuosic shadow puppetry, enrapturing gamelan music, comedy, philosophy, and civic engagement. Performances in Java are normally 8 hours. We are produced a 4 hour show for Buffalo at Kleinhans, also performed at ArtPark at a later date. Leave your traditional idea of what a theater or musical performance experience is and get lost in the magic of wayang kulit. With accompaniment from Heri Purwanto (wayang drums), Heni Sativri (vocalist), Buffalo’s own gamelan performance troupe Sari Raras Irama, and aerialist dancers from The Birds Nest.

Story Synopsis

Gathutkaca Winisudha: Gathutkaca’s Coronation   “Gathutkaca, son of the mighty Pandhawa Lord Bima, is the vanquisher of the giant king Kala Pracona and his minister, Kala Sekipu. He has been meditating intensely on Mt. Kailas, with his friends, attempting to collect on the promise of Bethara Guru (Vishnu), to become king of Kayangan, a territory in the heavens.   The aggressive King Duryudana, becomes paranoid that Gathutkaca, will start a rebellion against him in the Hastina kingdom and decides to take his brothers, the greedy Kurawas and attack. Prince Karna, and the Kurawa’s uncle, prime minister Sangkuni lead the army to the mountain.”

Guest Artists:

Darsono Hadiraharjo – dhalang puppet master – comes from a prominent family of music and theater traditions in Central Java, Indonesia.He grew up in a small village outside of the court city of Surakarta, long known as one of the major hubs for performing arts in Indonesia. Darsono studied karawitan, a genre of music played with a gamelan from Central Java. He also learned the revered art of shadow puppetry from his father and other relatives. He continued his study at Institute Seni Indonesia, a national conservatory of the arts in Indonesia. Today, he is one of the most prominent musicians inside and outside of the city of Surakarta. At the royal court of Mangkunegaran, Surakarta, he serves as the main drummer for dances performed at the court. In the surrounding villages, he is regularly featured as an accompanying musician at shadow puppet theatre performances. At his alma mater, he teaches and inspires many young generations of musicians who are mesmerized by his improvisational practices on several instruments of the gamelan. Darsono’s first opportunity to perform abroad was when he joined the original troop for Robert Wilson’s I La Galigo, a musical theatre production based on a myth from Sulawesi, Indonesia, which premiered in Singapore in 2004. Ever since, he has traveled widely as a teacher and performer of music as well as a puppet master (dhalang) in Europe, the US, and Asia. In the U.S., Darsono has been appointed as an artist-in-residence at several institutions, including Wesleyan University, Smith College, Tufts University, Bates College, and Cornell University. Darsono believes that within the domain of the performing arts, there is a “mysterious property” that allows people from various backgrounds to naturally come together, transcend differences, and reach a deeper mutual understanding.  

Hèni Savitri – sindhen vocalist – is a leading young Javanese singer and a graduate of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Central Java. She began to study sindhènan (Javanese singing with gamelan) in 2002. in 2003 she won the competition for best singer in her native district of Wonogiri, Central Java. She entered the performing arts conservatory in Surakarta in 2004, and began representing the institution in competitions and performing in shadow plays the following year. In 2008 she was chosen to represent the Institute in the international sindhèn festival in Jakarta. She now performs as a member of Gamelan Sari Raras, U.C. Berkeley.  

Heri Purwanto – kendhang wayang drum – is a freelance musician in great demand as a performer and teacher in Java and the United States. He comes from a family of musicians and instrument makers in Wonogiri. He graduated top of his class at the prestigious Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (Indonesian Advanced School for the Arts) in Surakarta, he has taught at UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, Earlham University, Chcago, and in Buffalo. He plays all the instruments of the gamelan but is known for his drumming and his gendèr playing. This will be his second time performing with Sari Raras Irama

The Birds Nest Aerialist Performers – Laris Acker and Jolene

Additional Guest Artists:

Phil Acimovic – Gender

Alex Yoffe – Rebab

Chris Miller – Gambang