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The Homecoming : A preview of NUANSA Dasawarsa

Five months after their last concert, NUANSA Dasawarsa returns with its signature musical performance, titled Galigo: The Chaos Within on Sunday 26 March 2017.

3) NUANSA 2017 Galigo Main Poster

As part of their Dasawarsa (ten years) celebrations, NUANSA is introducing a new facet of the Indonesian culture, from an unexplored frontier of Indonesia; namely, the island Sulawesi from the east, and specifically the Bugis culture.

So why Sulawesi?

Scriptwriter Katherine Erika noted that Sulawesi, in addition to being a new territory for NUANSA, is very unique due to its culture and traditions. “The Bugis culture is quite distinctive, as it recognises three realms and five genders: Bissu (genderless), Makkunrai (female), Urane (male), Calabai (feminine male), and Calalai (masculine female). So while many countries today are talking about non-binary gender, the Buginese have recognised it from long ago.” Indeed, the storyline of Galigo: The Chaos Within will incorporate a part of this culture by having a Bissu as one of the main characters. Returning costume head Stephanie Mahasin concurred with the uniqueness of the Bugis culture. “[As opposed] to the more abstract Papuan culture for the 2015 show Flowers of Asmat, the Buginese have more customs to be followed, such as how the white color is reserved only for Bissu, as well as the placement of headpieces as a status symbol.”

Naturally, adapting a story from uncharted territory presents its own challenges. Music director Kenzo Nagari said that the artistic team drew inspiration from the production I La Galigo by Robert Wilson. “We’ve had references from Robert Wilson’s work, in which the music director Rahayu Supanggah not only presented the intensively-researched music of South Sulawesi, but also drew influence from Javanese and Balinese music. This gives us greater accessibility to South Sulawesi music, while at the same time giving us the courage to incorporate it into our own distinct ‘musical’ sound.” Set designer Viany Sutisna also talked about how the set team shared their research findings with the artistic team, while also exploring online resources. “We made the best out of whatever resources we have.”

Ho Ching Yee as Bissu,
Ho Ching Yee as Bissu.

NUANSA is also pushing its boundaries to be more inclusive this year with the involvement of non-Indonesian students as performers. This builds on the precedent set in 2015 when NUANSA recruited non-Indonesian students for the first time. The 2017 show will feature the first ever non-Indonesian main cast member, Ho Ching Yee. She shared that in the beginning, she decided to join NUANSA to experience being involved in a musical production, having watched professional productions such as Wicked and Les Miserables. As she underwent the audition process and training, she started appreciating Indonesian culture a lot more. “I started to get into the culture and I found that it was really so interesting.”

Fernaldy Frumentius Sutandyo, Sharon Lynn and Mark Rustandy Hutagaol as Galigo, Cudai and Saweri.
Fernaldy Frumentius Sutandyo, Sharon Lynn and Mark Rustandy Hutagaol as Galigo, Cudai and Saweri.

The 2017 NUANSA show will also see a record number of alumni performers and crew. In fact, this is the first time that former main cast members are returning as main cast for a second production: Mark Hutagaol and Sharon Lynn are having their second stint after NUANSA 2014: The Priyayi. What convinced them to have another go? For Mark, it is some unfinished business. “There’s just a debt to be paid: Singing on stage,” referring to how his 2014 character Marto had no song items. On the other hand, Sharon is coming back as this is her final year as undergraduate in NUS, “so I’d like to be part of the legacy once more.”

The performers and crew of NUANSA Dasawarsa.
The performers and crew of NUANSA Dasawarsa.

Indeed, this legacy is a key reason why many alumni are returning. Abram Komara, one of the most senior alumni members, paid tribute to the lasting memory of past NUANSA productions. “I can’t speak on behalf of all the alumni, but I believe most of us enjoyed the experience as part of NUANSA during our undergraduate days, and would like to contribute in our own capacity to the project. It’s a homecoming, it’s a celebration; and I would like to be a part of it.” This pride is also the reason why co-producer Marvin Gowinatra is now serving his fourth time as a NUANSA crew since his first in 2013, becoming one of the very few to join NUANSA production four years in a row. “I’ve learnt a lot of things during my university years through NUANSA, and I just wanted to give back to the NUANSA community and share the same passion to my juniors. At the core of what we’re doing, it’s always about our people and the one-family-one-legacy spirit.”

All the best NUANSA performers and crew, looking forward to the shows on 26 March!