The Jakarta Post
Dozens of ninth-grade students from SMPN 4 Surakarta junior high school gathered on Thursday, Feb. 14, at the Wayang Orang Sriwedari building in Sriwedari Park of Surakarta, Central Java. There, they performed two kinds of traditional Javanese theater: wayang orang (human puppet) and ketoprak (musical theater).
The performances, which were open to the public, were staged as their exams in Art and Culture, Javanese Culture and Javanese Language.
“Staging wayang orang and ketoprak performances as a junior high school exam are new [in Surakarta]. For the moment, our school is the only one doing this. We would like to promote traditional art forms to students by encouraging them to take part in a performance,” said Sudarmono, the student affairs head at SMPN 4.
He said the students were enthusiastic about the traditional arts, but were not given proper direction.
Each of the nine ninth-grade classes presented different pieces during the morning's show. The classes that presented wayang orang performances depicted excerpts from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana like "Abimanyu Gugur", "Srikandi Senopati", "Sinto Obong" and "Gatotkaca Gandrung".
Meanwhile, the classes that performed ketoprak presented the folktales "Ande-ande Lumut" (crown prince in disguise) and "Joko Tarub".
The students had been rehearsing up to four times a month outside school hours since the beginning of the school year, under the guidance of their teachers.
The pre-performance rush began backstage early that morning, with students donning their costumes. During the performance, some students waited for their cue in the wings, while others went through their dance movements and lines.
The performance also offered students the chance to experience in managing a show. Non-performing students helped their peers in costume and makeup or worked as artistic directors, while others played in the gamelan orchestra to provide the musical accompaniment.
Surya Titah, who played the lead in "Ande-ande Lumut", shared his experience during the performance.
“At first I was nervous, but once the show started, it was fun, and I’m happy that everything went smoothly,” he told The Jakarta Post. “The performance is an opportunity for us to express ourselves, and is also a good exercise to improve our confidence.”
SMPN 4 Surakarta's wayang orang and ketoprak performance received rousing applause from the audience made up of parents, teachers, classmates and members of the general public. The shows went beyond a mere school exam to become genuine entertainment. (mut)
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