Balinese Shadow Play: A Different Kind Of Entertainment

The+linen+cloth+that+serves+as+the+canvas+for+the+shadow+puppets%2C+which+are+cast+by+placing+a+light+bulb+behind+it.
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Balinese Shadow Play: A Different Kind Of Entertainment

The linen cloth that serves as the canvas for the shadow puppets, which are cast by placing a light bulb behind it.

The linen cloth that serves as the canvas for the shadow puppets, which are cast by placing a light bulb behind it.

Noah Garcia / El Paisano

The linen cloth that serves as the canvas for the shadow puppets, which are cast by placing a light bulb behind it.

Noah Garcia / El Paisano

Noah Garcia / El Paisano

The linen cloth that serves as the canvas for the shadow puppets, which are cast by placing a light bulb behind it.

Noah Garcia, Staff Writer

Rio Hondo College welcomed the performing arts company, Bali & Beyond on March 16. It is an international performance group that shows the Indonesian traditional art of Balinese shadow play.

Within the dim theater, all that was seen on stage was a large rectangular linen cloth with a bright light placed behind the screen. At the beginning of the performance, there was a parade, which showed dozens of different shadow puppets. The leader then introduced herself as Maria Bodmann, who is the first female American Dalang, a.k.a Indonesian shadow artist.

She explained how they construct a linen screen and place a light bulb behind it to cast a shadow. She then showed off her puppets, which were intricately decorated with paint, with the structure of the puppets being made of leather. The characters varied from animals, forestry, common people all the way to god’s.

Maria Bodmann, Mike Pievac and Geoff Dent after the show.

 

The other two members of the troupe are Mike Pievac and Geoff Dent. They are musicians who play the gamelan, a traditional Indonesian instrumental ensemble. Together, they work either as the shadow master, dalang, musician, or gender wayang in Bahasa Indonesian.

The story they performed was “Mahabharata,” which is a tale that details the Kurukshetra War. The tale is an ancient Indian epic that describes the conflict that arose during a dynastic succession between the cousins, Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapur in an Indian kingdom called Kuru.

The main event was a short, excluding the Mahabharata, where one of the princes of the Pandavas was having a coronation ceremony and his cousins, Kauravas, came to enjoy the festivities and traverse the garden of Illusions.

In the expert, the characters discover and discuss the convoluted, but beautiful area that is the Garden of Illusions, where we see the different tricks and traps in the garden.

After the excerpt was over, Bodmann answered questions and invited the audience onto the stage, so that they could see the instruments and materials that the performers used in the play.

Balinese shadow play is an ancient art which combines ceremonial practices with entertainment. The shows usually contain about 35 to 50 puppets, with an average run-time of one to three and a half hours.

Many who practice these plays run the different plays at different times and speeds, all depending on the type of themes they want the shadow play to convey.

Bodmann is an international performer, whose group is based in Los Angeles.

She said that while participating in Cal Arts in Valencia, she discovered that shadow play was the medium with which she wanted to express herself. Because the art is multitudinous, she felt that she would never get bored of it.

Bodmann lived in Bali for two years. She took the Balinese style and westernized it for international audiences. She even incorporates rock’n’roll music in some of her shadow plays, such as “Alice in Wonderland.”

To find out more about Brodmann’s work, her scheduled performances and shadow artistry are available on balibeyond.com. Her personal website mariabodmann.com, features photos and videos.

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