It’s devotion, not a profession.

I have to admit, I’ve been a little out of touch with the ‘real world’ recently. And I also have to admit, when I live in the city, I don’t read the newspaper often, and when I do, it’s normally the comics and the crossword that capture my attention.

But whenever i travel, I become all about the newspapers. Especially when you stay in a hotel where the paper is delivered to you every morning.

I remember being in India and the newspaper being my saviour from extreme culture shock. Words in english about the world that I was in, helping me to unravel the confusion of threads that lay before me dusty town after dusty town.

Now, in my village, I have never seen a newspaper. And I’m sure if there is one, it’s certainly not going to be in English. So today I picked up a newspaper for the first time in months. And the first words I read where.

I want to die on the stage.

And my breath caught in the back of my throat for a second as images of face powder and hot lemon drinks, of sweat from the lights, of long tech rehearsals, of papercuts and highlighter stains, of smiles that last for days, of reviews, of chapped lips and sore throats, of makeup and costume and losing yourself – all came rushing through my mind at a million miles an hour.

The other part of my world – performance, has been lost in me a little since I moved here.

And today I read a story that brought it all back to me, like a slap across the face. It was the story of the death of traditional Javanese theatre due to lack of audience and lack of interest in the old tradition. Even though the determined theatre group still put on different seasons at least twice a month (Can you imagine the logistics of this?) for their dwindling audiences.

‘ I want to die on the stage’ Poniman, a traditional Javanese theatre artists says. And I say, I agree Poniman, what better place to die. ‘Theater is my life’ another performing artist is quoted, and again, subconsciously my head nods. A child of the stage. I have lived my best and worst days inside the cool dark walls of the theatre. I understand. Poor old Poniman is being sent so broke by the lack of support of the traditional art that he barely makes enough to keep up his stock of kretek (traditional clove) cigarettes.

‘Its a devotion, not a profession,’ he says. I know that my scores of friends out there slogging it out the hard way on the little stages across Australia, Canada and London would agree – their aint no profession in it when you only eat 2 minute noodles, your socks all have holes, you smoke tobacco not tailors, you haven’t seen a decent piece of meat in months and your probably pretty anaemic – not to mention exhausted from the lack of sleep, the forever mounting stress and the constant rejection. But you keep on doing it – as I will when I go back to the homeland. Why? It’s devotion. It’s art. It’s addiction. It’s worth it.

Because when you get the gig and you step out on stage we all think – If I died out here, I’d be happy. It’s devotion.

If I ever happen to run into Poniman, I will shake his hand and bow to him, and I will tell him in my broken Indonesian  Saya mengerti anda. I understand you. And then I will buy him a packet of kretek cigarettes.

Thanks Poniman, you’ve reminded me where I come from. This ones for you.

Barefoot learning its mark, far from stage and far from home.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: