ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 2, 2007) -- Baseball is to the United States as wayang is to Indonesia. Wayang is an Indonesian form of puppetry and a guest professor from the University of California at Santa Cruz will be visiting Ohio University to present on the role of clowns in the art form. The speech takes place at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, in Putnam Hall room 227.
Kathy Foley is a professor of theatre arts and editor of the Asian Theatre Journal. Her speech, titled, "Clowns and Gurus: Narrative Clowns, Functional Clowns, and Cosmic Clowns in West Java" relates to one of Ohio University Professor Bill Condee's classes. He teaches interdisciplinary arts and currently the course is offered only at the graduate level.
Wayang in Java and Bali, islands of Indonesia, takes on several specific forms, including wayang kulit and wayang golek -- shadow and rod puppetry respectively. The traditional plot of the performances are Sanskirt epics called Mahabhrata and Ramayama. Each are of Indian and Hindu influence. Performances in Indonesia usually last all night, sometimes beginning around 9 p.m. and ending at dawn. One puppeteer performs the entire time.
"The role of the clown in wayang is traditionally of a servant that represents the indigenous people of Indonesia, but that character can also be a god," said Condee.
The clown can also serve as the voice of the puppeteer and usually makes jokes and comments on political and social issues. Condee traveled and studied wayang in Asia last summer and plans to return this year. At some performances, it was mentioned that there was an American professor in the audience.
During his travels, he encountered performers everywhere who asked if he knew Kathy Foley. "She's one of the most important artists and scholars of Southeast Asian studies in America and was one of the first to legitimize wayang as a performance art and an academic topic," Condee said.
In Indonesia, she is recognized as an important scholar and ambassador. As an art form practiced almost exclusively by men, Foley is a groundbreaking performer as a woman and is largely accepted in the discipline.
Condee encourages anyone who has an interest in learning about Indonesian culture or the world, or anyone who would like to understand the role of ancient Sanskrit epics in contemporary culture.
"And, clowns and puppets are fun," he said with a smile.