A Gathering of Gamelans, 2005

9 Gamelans, 5 Countries, 2 Weeks, 1 Festival

In 2005, ShadowLight Productions, with Gamelan Sekar Jaya, presented, "A Gathering of Gamelans" at The Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The festival highlighted the traditional performing arts from five countries including Bali, West Java, Cambodia, Thailand, and Southern Philippines. The festival also premiered A (Balinese) Tempest, Larry Reed's adaptation of "The Tempest" by Shakespeare.

Festival introduction by ShadowLight Artistic Director, Larry Reed

Festival introduction by ShadowLight Artistic Director, Larry Reed

"In the past 30 years, Bay Area gamelan has come into its own. Once 'obscure' and 'exotic,' gamelan today is recognized for influencing local composers, and has become a favorite of Bay Area audiences.

Last year, I felt moved to honor the artistic traditions of Southeast Asia - all of them endangered by global cultural homogenization - which have inspired my traditional and contemporary work. I decided to organize a festival the Bay Area hasn't seen in decades, one gathering many local gamelans to offer audiences a way to experience first-hand the clear (and subtle) relationships among various traditions. Dalangs in Java and Bali both draw from the Mahabharata - why not show how three artists from three different regions tell the same story? Cambodian dance shares some ancestry with Sundanese - it's interesting and inspiring to see them together. 

Gamelan means 'orchestra,' and in the same way that a Western ensemble could denote a symphony, rock band or jazz quartet, gamelan comes in many flavors. Though it is technically an Indonesian term, the music and dance of Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines share a great affinity to that of Indonesia. We are honored to have these three additional cultures represented in A Gathering of Gamelans.

The festival culminates with a new interpretation of a Shakespeare classic inspired by both Elizabethan and Balinese traditions: A (Balinese) Tempest, fusing ShadowLight's cinematic, wide-screen theater with the Balinese music of Gamelan Sekar Jaya."

Festival Program

Take a moment and read through the program to learn more about the traditions, stories, artistry, music, dance, and artists involved in this festival.

ShadowLight Productions Receives California Arts Council “Artists in Schools” Grant

The California Arts Council, a state agency, announced that it plans to award $10,200 to ShadowLight Productions as part of its Artists in Schools program.

The Artists in Schools program supports projects that integrate community arts resources — artists and professional art organizations — into comprehensive, standards-based arts learning projects for California's students. This year, the California Arts Council’s Artist in Schools program will allow 144 arts organizations to hire 580 teaching artists that will serve a total of more than 43,000 students in 323 schools across California.

This award will support our Shadow Theatre Arts Education residency program at four San Francisco Bay Area Schools during the 2016/2017 school year. Our professional teaching artists will instructmulti-week shadow theatre residencies at our partner school sites (in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley), all of which will culminate in original shadow theatre projects created and performed by participating students. Students will engage in our unique shadow theatre form, which blends theatre, literary and visual arts, dance, film, animation and music. These immersive residencies are part of the partnering schools' arts integration efforts and are tailor-designed in collaboration with each school site coordinator.

“When we reflect upon our mission and the ancient shadow theatre traditions upon which we stand, we realize that the essence of our legacy lies in sharing: inspiring the next generation to take part in the long lineage of Shadow Theatre traditions. Disseminated by master artists, Shadow Theatre is traditionally a community-building art form. With this as our inspiration, we will continue to train young shadow theatre artists and performers in workshops and in our major productions, and by immersing public school students in the art form through our residency program and DVD series.”  - Larry Reed

The news of ShadowLight’s grant was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council, which can be viewed online at http://arts.ca.gov/news/pressreleases.php.
“California Arts Council grants provide vital support for projects in diverse communities across our state,” said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. “This was an historic year of state arts support. We are proud to invest more than $8.5 million in funding 712 grant projects that will stimulate local growth and prosperity, and meet the needs of our communities through deep engagement with culture and creative expression.”
The California Arts Council will continue to grow the reach of its programs in the coming year, as the result of a significant one-time state arts funding increase for 2016-17 announced last week.

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Founded in 1972 (incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1994) by filmmaker, theatre artist Larry Reed, ShadowLight Productions’ mission is to expose the general public to shadow theater and other art forms. As one of the very few professional shadow theatre companies in the world, we strive to demonstrate a wide spectrum of Shadow Theatre to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, and our arts-in-education program lies at the heart of our mission. For more information, visit: www.ShadowLight.org

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.

Gamelan ensemble and their ancient instruments

A Balinese shadow play is used to complete a religious ceremony and also for entertainment. It is accompanied by two or four instruments called gender wayang, which have ten bronze keys suspended over bamboo resonators. Each instrument plays an individual but complementary part so that the full melody is realized only if the two parts are played together. If four instruments are used, the second pair is tuned one octave higher than the first and the parts are simply doubled.

The Gamelan musicians playing the gender wayang respond to the direction of the Dalang, Shadow Master.

ShadowLight Gamelan; Carla Fabrizio, Lisa Gold, Paul Miller, and Sarah Willner

ShadowLight Gamelan; Carla Fabrizio, Lisa Gold, Paul Miller, and Sarah Willner

Performing this Saturday (June 25th) at St. Cyprian's Church in SF
Don't miss Larry Reed with live Wayang Gender musical accompaniment by Gamelan ensemble members
Carla Fabrizio, Paul Miller, Pete Steele and Sarah Willner. 
#Shadowtheatre #MusicofBali #genderwayang

Wayang Bali photos of Larry performing with Gamelan ensemble in the early 70's. 

How the story begins

The Tree of Life, kayon, marks the beginning and the end of a Balinese shadow play.  

When the dalang (shadow master) is ready to start the shadow play performance, he signals to the gamelan musicians to begin the pamungkah (overture) by knocking softly three times on the wooden puppet box. Then he opens the wooden box and takes the puppets out one by one. One of the first puppets to appear is the tree of life, the Kekayonan (kayon). The dalang holds this figure to his forehead, mutters an invocation, which names the points of the compass, and places the kayon and himself in the center. Then the kayon begins a dance, which reflects the stages of life, from birth to death. It starts low on the screen, fluttering like an insect from side to side, pausing occasionally in time with the music. Little by little, in fits and starts it grows until it fills one side of the screen, then the other. Reaching its apogee it starts to spin slowly. Always moving from side to side, it gradually settles in the center. 

The kayon, tree of life, is one of the most versatile and important figures. It’s meaning is often traced to the Sanskirt words for “tree” and “thought.” The puppet is used like a stage curtain to indicate the beginning and end of the performance, scene changes, shifts of location, and passage of time. Depending on how it is used, it can become a tree, a mountain, wind, rain, water, clouds, holy radiance, or a weapon. Once the kayon is placed in the center of the screen, the dalang begins to sort and place the puppets on either side of the kayon. 

(Excerpt from the Asian Theatre Journal Article Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 1986, Bima Suraga: A Balinese Shadow Play as Performed by Ida Bagus Ngurah translated and with an introduction by Larry Reed) 

Join us on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 8:00pm
for An Evening of Balinese Shadow Play 
Performed by Larry Reed
at St. Cyprian's Church (2097 Turk Street, SF)

Unexpected monsters seek charge of the world...

Wayang Bali, the Balinese shadow play, is one of the most exciting undiscovered events of world theater. Until recently, language barriers have kept its drama and humor hidden from the world at large. Plots for Wayang Bali are drawn from the Mahabharata myth cycle, in which five brothers are pitted against one hundred jealous cousins in a struggle for power involving gods, demons, magical weapons, and the inevitable beautiful princess. 

Join us on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 8:00pm for an Evening of Balinese Shadow Play performed by Larry Reed at  St. Cyprian's Church (2097 Turk Street, SF)
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
$18 students, children & seniors
Box Office: 415-454-5238
Ticket Sales: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2553039
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1316892795004906/

More about Balinese Shadow Play - Wayang Bali
According to Balinese philosophy, a wayang performance is a symbol of the cosmos.  The dalang (Shadow Master) represents God; the screen represents the world, including the atmosphere; the damar (oil lamp – in tonight’s case, electric lamp) is the sun and the banana log underneath the screen is the earth on which the creatures work; the wayang (puppet characters) are the creatures.  The accompanying gender music represents irama djaman, which means in phase with the periods of history.
A Balinese shadow play is used to complete a religious ceremony and also for entertainment. It is accompanied by two or four instruments called gender wayang, which have ten bronze keys suspended over bamboo resonators.  Each instrument plays an individual but complementary part so that the full melody is realized only if the two parts are played together.  If four instruments are used, the second pair is tuned one octave higher than the first and the parts are simply doubled.
The dalang (shadow master/puppeteer) must know many stories from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and traditional Balinese literature. In addition, he must know music, dance, singing, and drama, and sometimes he also knows painting and carving. During a performance, he holds a small gavel called chepala between his right toes with which he pounds on the wooden wayang box to accompany the actions of the puppets and to signal to the musicians. He must be able to create the voices and dialects of many characters. The characters speak Kawi, old Javanese – an ancient language close to Sanskrit, except for the servant characters who translate the proceedings into Balinese for the benefit of the audience, most of whom do not understand Kawi.  The puppets are divided according to their character.  The “good” characters are place on the right side of the dalang; the “evil” ones on his left. Of course this division is not black and white as there are some good in every bad character and any good character might have certain weakness. In the course of a performance, close battles may occur between the forces of good and evil, the right side will always triumph.