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[Herald Interview] Indonesian theater director finds inspiration, hopes for future collaboration

May 17, 2023 - 21:59 By Hwang Dong-hee
Bambang Prihadi poses for photos before an interview with The Korea Herald, at The Korea Herald office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, on May 12. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Visiting Korea for the first time, Bambang Prihadi, chairman of the Theater Committee at the Jakarta Arts Council, said he is leaving Korea with good memories and new inspiration.

Prihadi participated in the “K-Fellowship,” an annual program organized by the Korean Culture and Information Service, which invites prominent cultural figures from overseas to experience Korean culture and network with Korean counterparts.

As the artistic director and actor of his own theater company, Laboratory in Ciputat, Prihadi had two curiosities that sparked his interest in the program.

“The first question was why Indonesian people only know K-pop and K-drama. Why do they not care for Korea’s contemporary arts or traditional culture despite its deep, unique and original heritage,” said Prihadi during an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday.

“The second curiosity was to understand the ecosystem of the performing arts scene in Korea.”

During the week-long program, Prihadi met with several directors and chairmen of major Korean performing arts organizations. He said he was impressed by their dedication to the contemporary arts.

He also observed that the concept and perspective of contemporary arts in Indonesia and Korea are quite similar, as they both emphasize multimedia and digital arts that reflect modern society.

The main difference lies in that Korean culture stems from one ethnicity and one language, while Indonesia has numerous ethnic groups and languages -- there are some 1,340 recognized ethnic groups in the country and over 300 languages.

“I have received a lot of inspiration from the talks and discussions,” said Prihadi adding that some expressed interest in maintaining this contact to explore opportunities for international collaboration in the future.

Bambang Prihadi speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald, at The Korea Herald office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, on May 12. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Overseeing two major theater festivals in Jakarta -- the Jakarta Theater Festival and the Jakarta International Theater Platform -- Prihadi said a Korean troupe, Seoul Factory, has been invited to the international festival in October. He also met with the troupe during his Seoul visit.

Since 2019, Prihadi has been collaborating with Shelf Company from Japan on an international project. Despite the pandemic, the two troupes continued their collaboration by holding biweekly Zoom meetings for a year. The project involved incorporating two scripts, one from Indonesia and one from Japan, and they have completed phase three of the project.

“In June, the Japanese troupe is coming to Jakarta to complete the project. We will rehearse and premiere our work in October. The play taken from each country will revolve around two old women. One is a mysterious woman who buries babies in the village; the other is a legendary beauty who is so beautiful that all men commit suicide when rejected by her.”

According to Prihadi, his main interest and source of inspiration is the environmental crisis and climate change. After living by a riverside for three years, he has started taking nature more seriously.

His previous work “Spring and Tears” revolves around a spring that no longer emits water due to pollution caused by the build up of infrastructure and capitalism. The play, which premiered in 2016, is scheduled to be staged in Japan later this year.