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For Budi Suryadi, love for theater is endless

Ellen Rosawita

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, February 8, 2018  /  08:43 am
For Budi Suryadi, love for theater is endless

Budi Suryadi, senior member of Teater Koma (Innez Soekamto/File)

Loyal fans of Teater Koma might be familiar with Budi Suryadi, a tall and well-built man who played the part of King Kolekok from the Kolekok kingdom, which challenges the Tang Dynasty in the play Sie Jin Kwie ( 2017 ). 

The senior member of Teater Koma has been smitten by the theatrical world since he was very young. Budi, the youngest of five children, inherited his love for the arts from his father, who was a sculptor and painter. For Budi, going to the theater and watching a performance is a powerful experience.

In the 1960s, when he was in elementary school, Budi frequented the Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) arts and culture center in Central Jakarta, which is located near his childhood home. He remembers going to TIM to watch Teater Populer performances in the early 1970s. 

“All of the shows were unforgettable,” he said.

Founded by film and stage director Teguh Karya, the famous Teater Populer had its heyday in the late 1960s and the 1970s. As fate would have it, the young Budi crossed paths with this legendary troupe during a memorable event that marked the beginning of his long-time relationship with the acting world.

In 1977, Teguh rented Budi’s old colonial-style house, located on Jl. Banyuwangi in Menteng, to shoot his movie Badai Pasti Berlalu (The Storm Will Surely Pass). The house’s large doors and windows and high ceilings were perfect for what the director had in mind. 

During the week of filming, Budi refused to go to school, opting instead to stay at home to watch the entire filming process. He was mesmerized as he closely watched his favorite actors, such as Slamet Rahardjo, Christine Hakim, Roy Marten, George Kamarullah, Rachmat Hidayat and Mieke Wijaja, perform. His eyes followed their every move, gesture and facial expression.

After the filming process finished, Budi was invited to watch both rehearsals and the main show for Teater Populer’s Dag Dig Dug. In 1978, he joined their next production, Pakaian dan Kepalsuan (Clothes and Falsehood), a play that was filmed at local TV network TVRI in Senayan. Budi, who was still in high school, got a small part with no dialogue. 

“But I did appear on screen for a few precious seconds,” he said proudly.

During the production process of the play, Budi graduated from Canisius College high school and began his studies in psychology at the University of Indonesia (UI).

After completing his studies, he joined Teater Koma in 1986, a decision he made after watching the troupe’s many rehearsals and shows. Not long afterward, Budi was invited to be part of their production titled Opera Julini ( 1986 ), which was performed at TIM. Since then, Budi has become an inseparable part of Teater Koma, first as an actor and later as a translator.

Budi’s favorite plays are Pernikahan Darah (Bloody Marriage), which was written by Federico Garcia Lorca, directed by Teguh Karya and performed by Teater Populer at Teater Arena, TIM, in 1987, and Semar Gugat (Semar Accuses), written by N. Riantiarno and performed by Teater Koma at TIM in 1995.

In Semar Gugat, Budi played Betari Durga, the wife of the God Shiva and ruler of the underworld, in a role he said was very challenging. However, when asked about his most difficult role, he mentioned Rumah Sakit Jiwa, a play written and directed by N. Riantiarno and staged at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta in 1991.

“In this play, I had to play the part of a mental patient in a mental hospital,” he said. 

Long before rehearsals, each actor was asked to visit several mental clinics and hospitals, then give a presentation on their observations. N. Riantiarno wrote the script for the play based on the observations.

“The rehearsals lasted longer than the normal three months. During that period, we were allowed to improvise according to impulse or feeling,” he said. 

It was worth the effort and the play was a great success. The script of Rumah Sakit Jiwa has been translated into English by John McGlynn under the title “Insane Asylum.”

Budi said he hoped more shows would be staged and that there would be a wider variety of shows of a higher standard. He expressed optimism over the future of Indonesian theater, saying the country was blessed with many talented stage actors. 

Besides working as an actor, Budi is also a qualified English teacher, a certified translator and an official tour guide at the National Museum in Central Jakarta. 

You can find him at the museum, or just wait for Teater Koma’s next performance later this year.