Two weeks ago, I had the fun adventure of participating in the 'Oregon Country Fair', a classic hippie gathering in the woods near Eugene, Oregon, boasting everything from live music, street parades, painted bodies, and some excellent performers. The first time I went to the Oregon Country Fair I was sixteen years old, and to me then it seemed like a utopia of rainbows and wacky performances, costumes and wafts of marijuana. At 26, after spending two years in Indonesia and prior time abroad as well, I find myself more skeptical of that 'hippie' stuff, in many ways I don't feel myself as connected to it as I might have in the past. In spite of that, I took the opportunity offered by my good friends Gary and Liza from Seattle to take part in their 'Mighty Tiny Puppet Stage' and create a performance to perform two times a day at the fair, in collaboration with my boyfriend Lilik, who is newly arrived in America for his first time from Indonesia.
Oh overwhelming!! In the end the preparation for the performance was a bit more than I had expected, given the fact that we'd only been in America for a short time, still juggling everything between cultural adjustment, family, friends and being back. That in addition to my continuous search for what kind of performance I do want to create. My performance over the years has been such a mish mash of so many different things, sometimes I don't even know how to pin it down anymore!!
The result of our search for an idea came to this: instead of being a basic 'puppet show', which I've strayed away from for a while in hopes of not getting locked into anything too specific, we decided to blend the world of Mr. Matterly, the famous green-headed know-it-all puppet from a previous show I did, 'The Secret Life of Isabel Jukes', with the world of the West Javanese mask dance I've been studying recently in Indonesia, 'Tari Topeng Cirebon'. This way, the audience would still have the visual eye candy of puppetry and masks, in addition to seeing something new and different, that of the dance, and perhaps even learn something about that place so far away that not many people, especially in America because it's so darn far, have even heard of!
The result in the end was great, at least we felt like it was! The audience seemed to be mesmerized, especially the children, with lots of questions to ask afterwards like: "How do you hold the mask on with your face?" (with my teeth), "Where is Indonesia?" (south of Malaysia, which is below Thailand, and spanning in an archipelago of islands to the east, above Australia...!), and even a flattering one or two: "Do you do this dance professionally?" (well, um, not yet, still learning, which is why I'm returning to Indonesia in November!) Among other things....
The more I do performance, the more I learn that every time is a new experiment. The performance I did with Lilik at the Oregon Country Fair was a completely new attempt, as I've yet to perform a lot of Indonesian dance, especially publically, or dance in general, although it's something I've always loved to learn and do. That, in combination with puppetry and exploring new ways to meld some of the many things I do love doing together into one, which is a challenging task, but definitely one that I want to continue to conquer. That, in combination with some of the amazing performances I saw at the fair (The Yard Dogs, Jason Webley, Gamelan X, a hilariously funny guy who called himself 'Donny Wu' with a New York accent and tried to preach his yoga philosophy to the audience, with products for sale and all...!), resulted to be a truly inspiring experience, both from my own efforts to explore what I do, and from seeing those of others and how they succeed.