Jakarta. Teater Keliling put the spirit of nationalism back in focus through the group's new play, “Jas Merah Sang Timur” of “Red Jacket of the East,” staged at Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Central Jakarta, on Sunday.
Amped up with vibrant music, singing and dances, the performance revolves around three young friends who decide to have a reunion by going on a vacation to three provinces in eastern Indonesia — Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara and Papua.
The pristine and traditional settings provide a stark contrast to the characters’ demeanor: Komer is an ardent consumerist, Koor becomes rich from corruption, while Patty constantly says demeaning things about her own country.
In a magical realist turn, the smug trio encounters three colonial-era national heroes from the eastern region — including Maluku's heroine Martha Christina Tiahahu — who suddenly appear in their imagination and question the meaning of their sacrifices for Indonesia’s independence.
According to Rudolf Puspa, Teater Keliling’s co-founder and director, “Jas Merah Sang Timur” is intended to inspire the young generation of Indonesians to further contribute to the country by way of direct interaction with the audience.
“The language that we use [in the play] has been adjusted to the lingo of youngsters now, so our audience can relate to it and encourage other Indonesians to love their own nation,” he said, as quoted by the state-run Antara news agency.
Teater Keliling was established in 1974 and has staged more than 1,500 performances in Indonesia and 11 other countries throughout its 40-plus-year existence. The theater company also regularly teaches workshops for secondary and high school students in order to promote this art form among young people.
“As artists, we have to actively approach them,” Rudolph pointed out. “We teach them, we give them examples in a way that is easy to understand. Art is not supposed to be hard.”