Papermoon Puppet Theatre was founded by illustrator, writer and former theatre performer Maria Tri Sulistyani and visual artist Iwan Effendi. Based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in a country with world-renowned puppetry traditions, the expert artists of Papermoon extend this form with their mixed-media productions, creating works that imaginatively explore identity and society.
The creative process
An important part of the collaborative process is authentic exchange between artists and companies who have different approaches and forms. This is at the core of the success of the Polyglot/Papermoon relationship. Polyglot’s experience with children, play and the nature of participation complements the intricacy and emotion of the puppetry created by Papermoon. We deeply appreciate what each company brings to the process of creation; both contributing equally to an artistic outcome through genuine exchange and exploration.
Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) 2015-2017
The development of Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) took the creative collaboration between Polyglot and Papermoon to new heights. Image, song, sound and puppetry were used to create an exciting new immersive experience where real-life stories were reinvented with Polyglot’s emphasis on imaginative play, along with Papermoon Puppet Theatre’s exquisite imagery.
In May 2015 we travelled with Papermoon to Lasem, a fishing village on the north coast of Java. With about 40 local children we explored boats and the sea, and met with extraordinary people who told us about rich and dramatic local stories and history. Back in Melbourne we explored boats and journeys with children from Dinjerra Primary School, listening to true tales by children who have experienced danger and detention first-hand.
Polyglot artists travelled back to Indonesia in March 2016 to develop the theatrical concepts and key messages of the work. Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) then entered a final stage of development at ArtPlay in Melbourne, with the Papermoon creative team travelling to Australia for a two-week residency. This included workshops with Dinjerra Primary School and the general public.
The final work pulled all aspects of these stories together; myth told to us in Lasem as a true happening, and true happenings told by children here as if they were fairy tales. Papermoon’s puppetry and Polyglot’s play worked together to make a new story with children at the centre of action and drama.
Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) premiered in 2017 at AsiaTOPA Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne. In 2018, the show toured to Jogjakarta, Indonesia, where seven free, sold-out performances were presented by ARTJOG at Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja. Bringing the completed production back to the place where it began its development in 2015 was highly meaningful for both Polyglot and Papermoon. This marked an important milestone in our 10-year creative relationship. Cerita Anak (Child’s Story) has gone on to tour to China, Singapore and around Australia.
Makassar Writer’s Festival 2018
In 2018, Polyglot and Papermoon co-presented a new workshop performance at Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF). MIWF is a unique event, where a mix of literature and cultural exchange attracts over 20,000 people every year. Pulau Cerita (Story Islands) invited children and families to make their own tiny boats, and sail across imaginary seas to little islands where stories were told, music was played, and wonderful things were created. This playful performance was created in collaboration with local Deaf artists specifically for the festival.
From 2012-2014, our collaboration with Papermoon took shape through Polyglot’s Drawbridge model, which acted as a framework to foster cultural collaboration between artists and children from both communities in Australia and Indonesia. The title Drawbridge came from the desire to create a link by bridging gaps between two cultures. Our Drawbridge projects placed Polyglot’s child-centred process within a different culture, challenging us to prove its relevance in new contexts.
The first of our Drawbridge series in Yogyakarta began with two days of workshops where both organisations established a structure for working together: the first with a school and the second with a group of artists and teachers. During this first stage, foundations were built for communication, relationship in artistic process and how each company’s art form could work best in collaboration.
The second stage was a live-in residence in a village under the volcano Merapi. Here in Sumber, children and adults gathered daily at the Padepokan (an informal teaching and creative space). Both groups worked, played, drew, made music (punk Gamelan), ate incredible food and built puppets, while developing friendships and connections.
A theatrical work emerged through this creative process with the childrens’ drawings and play standing at the heart of the creation of the story. Misteri Siung Buto (the Mystery of the Ogre’s tooth) was the tale – a funny, dramatic piece based on the Ogre mythology of the region.
A final performance was presented in the village with 45 children on stage (aged 4-15) and a band of 15 combining Gamalan and digital music. Another 20 adults worked behind the scenes – painting the Buto boys, helping with the big puppets, leading the wild Tengu and herding roosters. An audience of 500 people from the local and neighbouring villages, Yogyakarta and as far as Jakarta celebrated a story made with true childlike energy. The performance was part of a festival of traditional dances and food.
The third stage saw Papermoon key artists visit Melbourne for a month-long creative development alongside Victorian College for the Deaf. Together, they created a large-scale participatory walk-through exhibition of a comic book, presented by Fed Square. For this version the Indonesian tale was re-told by the children at VCD.
The final stage saw Misteri Siung Buto back in Yogyakarta, in the village of Kepek for Papermoon’s biennial festival Pesta Boneka. The whole village was involved in setting up the comic book story, once more in Bahasa Indonesia, and children played all the parts as the audience promenaded through the performance.Papermoon website