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Papermoon Puppet Theatre Dramatizes Political Upheaval

(Posted September 10, 2012)

Papermoon Puppet Theatre stages Mwathrika" at Juniata College in which puppets perform a tale centered on the political persecution of a single family, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, in Rosenberger Auditorium.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Taking the Indonesian tradition of puppetry and mixing it with the Asian nation's volatile political history produces "Mwathrika," a riveting theatrical experience at Juniata College in which puppets perform a tale centered on the political persecution of a single family, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, in Rosenberger Auditorium.

For tickets and information about the Juniata College Presents series, please call (814) 641-JTIX (5849). General admission tickets for single performances are $20, except where otherwise noted. Single-show tickets for seniors over age 65 and children age 18 and under are $12. Juniata College students are admitted free with a student ID.
The presentation of Papermoon Puppet Theatre is part of Center Stage, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Papermoon Puppet Theatre is currently touring the United States performing "Mwathrika," which tells the story of two Indonesian families during "The Year of Living Dangerously," when Indonesia's president Sukarno attempted to prevent an overthrow of his government by a group of military conspirators. A subsequent struggle for power between Sukarno and his eventual successor, Suharto, resulted in a military-sanctioned genocide.

Papermoon Puppet Theatre bases its production on family stories from the troupe's creators, Maria Tri Sulistyani, and her husband, Iwan Effendi. Inspired by Japanese animation, Asian masked theatre and puppet theatre from Indonesian and other cultures, the two created a non-verbal narrative about two families separated by politics, suspicion and loss.

Although many western theatregoers are familiar with Indonesian shadow puppetry (wayang kulit), Papermoon brings the puppets out onto the stage where they are animated by black-clad puppeteers. The three-dimensional drama and modern staging gives the performance drama, emotion and artistic vision.

"We love to share everything with people," said Sulistyani in a press release. "Especially how puppetry can bring a story, even a very difficult, complicated story, to so many people."
Maria Tri Sulistyani, Papermoon Puppet Theatre


Although the plot of "Mwathrika" is based on Indonesia's history, the two creators see the performance piece as an illustration that genocide and politically motivated repression are not unique to one nation or people. Indeed, the title, "Mwathrika," is Swahili for "victim."

The production was created and written by Sulistyani and Effendi through interviews and personal histories. The duo hopes the story has universal appeal. "We love to share everything with people," said Sulistyani in a press release. "Especially how puppetry can bring a story, even a very difficult, complicated story, to so many people."

Papermoon Puppet Theatre is based in Yogyakarta, perhaps Indonesia's most vibrant "college town." Sulistyani and Effendi started their enterprise by staging small shows with puppets created by children taking art lessons. Then, inspired by a seeing a puppet production of Shakespeare, they created a controversial, adult, sexually honest play called "Noda Lelaki di Dada Mona (A Stain on Mona's Chest)."
"Mwathraki" is the troupe's second production.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.