For the first time in its 40-year journey, legendary theater troupe Teater Koma is going to stage a 'quiet' play, without elaborate music and choreography. 'Warisan' (Legacy), will be performed at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, Central Jakarta on Aug. 10-20. (Photo courtesy of Image Dynamics)

Social Commentary on Stage, Teater Koma Sets 'Warisan' in Retirement Home


JULY 28, 2017

Jakarta. Acclaimed theater troupe Teater Koma will stage "Warisan," its 149th play, at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta.

For the first time in its 40-year journey, the theater is going to stage a "quiet" play, without elaborate music and choreography. Previous Teater Koma productions — "Opera Ikan Asin" ("The Threepenny Opera") and "Opera Kecoa" ("Cockroach Opera") among others — featured big musical scores.

"I made a quiet one this time, without music and choreography. People call it realism, but I don't really care about labels. This is the first time in 40 years I make something of this kind," the group's co-founder and director, Nano Riantiarno, said at a press conference on Wednesday (26/07).

"Warisan" ("Legacy") is a social commentary. The play is set in a retirement home that used to be a pride of the city. People would voluntarily donate money to help the old and neglected. But things have changed, the home has turned into a business; those who pay more get better facilities. There is a wall between the rich and the poor.

On the rich side of the wall dwell people with various, often borderline absurd behaviors: a masochist writer who electrocutes himself to get inspiration from pain; people who talk politics, worrying about the mounting debt and rampant corruption in their country, Hindanasasa (a wordplay in Indonesian).

"The old people there talk about corruption done by their children. There is a character whose expenses are paid from graft money obtained by his eldest child," Nano said.

On the other side, the neglected poor can only hope. Some move to other homes, while some just try to survive where they are, raising questions whether there is a place for the penniless to get proper care.

The play, which Nano wrote four months ago, was preceded by visits to real retirement homes in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung (West Java) and Semarang (Central Java).

Nano was astonished by the growth of the business. Some retirement homes are still free, government-funded, run by regional social care agencies. Others are privately owned and can cost millions of rupiah a month.

Nano's criticism in the play also refers to current affairs.

"An actor will talk about a president pestered by people who are not in power. There's also a part on racism," he said.

'Warisan' director Nano Riantiarno and his wife and manager Ratna Riantiarno speak during a press conference at Galeri Indonesia Kaya, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday (26/07). (Photo courtesy of Image Dynamics)


Nano and his wife-cum-production manager Ratna Riantiarno said the performance is almost ready. Very time-consuming was the design and preparation of decoration — Nano is known for big, detailed sets.

Another challenge came from the makeup department. Acclaimed makeup artist Subarkah Hadisarjana had to turn actors as young as 30 to characters twice their age.

"The challenge is not only to make them look old, but also to make sure their personalities are represented. I had to make those fake wrinkles represent them properly," Subarkah said.

Access to Theater

Teater Koma will perform 11 days straight, and given their fame and extensive experience there is no doubt that they will attract many theatergoers.

This year, in collaboration with Bakti Budaya Djarum, the group set aside 200 free tickets for those who might have never seen Teater Koma, but wish to learn about the theater.

"We hope to invite 200 school and university students, teachers and members of theater communities in Jakarta. Those outside Jakarta can also get free tickets as long as they cover their own transportation fees to come here. The purpose is to get more people watch Teater Koma," Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation program officer Adi Pardianto said.

According to Ratna, the program is important to increase appreciation of stage works.

"Sometimes it is not that people don't like theater, but they can't appreciate it, because they have never seen it. It can be a problem of accessibility, since it takes hours in Jakarta to move to watch a show in only one location, but it can also be because tickets are expensive," Ratna said.

"Warisan" will be staged on Aug. 10-20. The show starts at 7.30 p.m., except for Sundays and public holidays when it will begin at 1.30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from Rp 80,000 ($6) to 400,000 and can be purchased on Teater Koma's official website.