The experimental performance group Black Umbrella Theater (Teater Payung Hitam) from Bandung, West Java is in town. Four members of the company are in Seattle as part of a 10-day residency as visiting lecturers at the Southeast Asia Center (SEAC). During their residency they will collaborate and perform with SEAC, Memory War Theater and the Undergraduate Theater Society at UW.
To kick off the residency, the Black Umbrella Theater Group will have a discussion on Islam, politics, and performing arts in Indonesia on Thursday, Dec. 3. They will offer a free workshop on Tuesday, Dec. 8. Finally, on Friday, Dec. 11, the residency will culminate in a public performance and symposium.
The Black Umbrella Theater Group, though cutting edge, is not new. The company “was founded by Rachman Sabur in 1982, in Bandung,” writes Silvester Petara Hurit of Kelola. The group “has produced more than 80 performances and established itself as one of the foremost modern theatre groups in Indonesia. Payung Hitam has performed across Indonesia and also at a number of prestigious festivals” in Germany, Holland, Taiwan, Australia and Japan.
The theater piece that the Black Umbrella Theater Group will perform on Dec. 11 is titled Merah Bolong. It is loosely translated as “Red Emptiness.” Tikka Sears, who was instrumental in bringing the group to UW, explains that the word bolong is hard to translate because it can also mean a hole, void or perforation. But fixating on this is missing the point. For Rachman, “the body is the living text which is born on the stage and which speaks so much more than simply the verbality of words.” The performance will be a non-verbal “exploration of different mediums and a fascination with metal and stone… allud[ing] to Payung Hitam’s desire to rebel with a massive force, like that of metal and stone, full of mystery inside the intricacy and complexity of bodies of terror.”