Professor of Theater William Condee uses performance objects to tell a story using the Balinese form of shadow puppetry, Wayang Kulit
Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Libraries
Oct 30, 2012
By Krithika Rajaraman
The Ohio University Libraries Diversity Committee will host the newest event in its Culture Showcase series on Nov. 7. It is titled "Confessions of a Left-Handed Dalang: Adventures in Balinese Puppetry."
William Condee, professor of theater, will be the main presenter for the afternoon. The Diversity Committee has hosted over 30 speakers since this series launched in 2008.
"We want to highlight some of the things that our faculty and our students are doing that have a cultural significance that is broader than the traditional one," said Eileen Theodore-Shusta, chair of the Libraries' Diversity Committee.
Condee starts off the afternoon with an informational presentation about puppetry as a performance tradition and an art form. The presentation also includes a Balinese puppet show, one that strays from the norms of western theater.
"As opposed to puppetry in America, which tends to be a lousy form of children's birthday party entertainment, this is an art form that is central to the culture," Condee said. "Balinese puppetry is performed as part of vital rituals to propitiate the gods and demons, and as part of festivals to find accommodation among the worlds of humans, gods and demons."
Balinese puppetry is contextually religious, mythological and moral. Its purpose can be purely religious or to educate and entertain. The characters often re-enact ancient epics expressing the thought that good and evil must coexist in equilibrium.
The person who is the puppeteer and the storyteller plays a vital role in awakening the spiritual puppets. He is a master of his craft and is knowledgeable about the stories, songs, rituals and stage presence necessary to stage the performance.
Wayang Kulit, which directly translates to "Shadow Skin," is the Balinese name for this form of shadow puppetry. Holding flat cutout puppets from behind a white sheet of fabric, the puppeteer uses a light source to cast shadows on the fabric, bringing the spirits in the characters to life.
"The humans who are there come and go, eat and drink, smoke and gamble, and even sleep," Condee said. "What they do doesn't matter, since they are inessential. The spirits are essential."
The event will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Friends of the Libraries Room in Alden Library on the third floor of Alden Library. Refreshments will be available. For more information, stop at the Culture Showcase's display on the third floor of Alden Library or visit the Culture Showcase webpage.