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Transforming Wayang For Contemporary Audiences: Dramatic Expression in Purbo Asmoro’s Style, 1989-2015

Kathryn Emerson defended her thesis on 28 June 2016

Kathryn Emerson
28 June 2016
Leiden Repository

This dissertation explores a recent development in the wayang kulit purwa (shadow puppetry) tradition of Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, known as pakeliran garap semalam or all-night contemporary-interpretive style. This new style was created and debuted in Surakarta by the dhalang (puppeteer) Purbo Asmoro (born 1961 in Pacitan, East Java) in 1989. He spent the next decade developing his new system, and post-2000 it has became the most popular approach to performance practice among puppeteers Purbo Asmoro's generation and younger.
This research examines the history of Purbo Asmoro's style, its essential elements and identifying characteristics, his creative processes in developing and working within this style, and the effect his new approach to story-telling has had on other dhalang and on audiences. It also explores Purbo Asmoro’s musings, decisions, motives, and strategies. Most importantly, this work analyzes how all-night contemporary-interpretive style, in Purbo Asmoro's hands, has evolved into an entirely new system of performance practice rather than simply being stylistically innovative in a few characteristic ways.
A project involving six live performances over a one year period, 2007–2008, is used as the source material for much of the analysis. In this experiment, Purbo Asmoro performed two different stories three times each: in all-night classical style, all-night contemporary-interpretive style, and condensed style. The resulting body of work is used as a set of case studies to define and analyze the all-night contemporary-interpretive style, its origins in the padat (condensed) style of the 1970s, and its predecessor in classical style wayang.

Promotor: prof. Ben Arps

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