La Trobe Student Theatre: Crossing Borders Documentary

La Trobe Student Theatre: Crossing Borders Documentary

In 1997 La Trobe Student Theatre initiated an exciting project which involved a co-production with the Indonesian tertiary institution, Ikip Bandung, of an Indonesian play, The Bottomless Well.

La Trobe students worked with Indonesian students to rehearse and produce this play for performance seasons in both countries. So successful was this collaboration that two of those students still work together after all these years.

La Trobe Alumna Sandra Long, who has had a successful career in the performing arts with extensive experience working in both countries and cultures regularly works with Wawan Sofwan, a key Indonesian student from the initial project.

They work together through an Indonesian theatre company, Mainteater, which is based in Bandung, and which has very strong connections with the student theatre communities from the various institutions in that city.

The original Crossing Borders project received funding from the then Vice-Chancellor, Michael Osborne.

The Project

During La Trobe’s 50th Anniversary, La Trobe Student Theatre, through the assistance of New Colombo Plan funding, will support seven La Trobe students through an international exchange program.  La Trobe students are currently participating in an international theatrical exchange, working with seven students from Bandung’s Teater Lakon from Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, to develop and rehearse a theatre piece about the understanding or lack of understanding that students from both countries have about the other’s culture and lifestyle.

The cast uses the ancient Sundanese tale of Jamarun, where a poor man is executed. Before he dies he tells the town that his innocent corpse will take on a beautiful fragrance. His words turn into a curse when the birds and butterflies that are drawn to the sweet smell blot out the sun and turn day into a perpetual night.

Two very different groups of students encounter this story and the issues that it raises.

Australia and Indonesia and their stories and behaviours are in many aspects still foreign to one another. This play peers into the very real cultural chasm which separates them from each other while at the same time searching for the things which connect them. The cast will perform the play in Bandung and then tour Bentara Budaya in Bali.

You can read about the students experiences here.

The students in Indonesia

The Indonesian students will then join La Trobe’s students in Australia in March to perform the piece as part of the 2017 Moat Festival as well as a season at La Mama Theatre, Carlton, as part of AsiaTOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts which is an artistic celebration of Australia’s relationship with contemporary Asia.

You can read more about AsiaTOPA here.

La Trobe Alumnus, Matthew Howat will develop a documentary capturing the students’ experiences throughout the project. He will travel to Bandung to record both the rehearsal process, the interactions between cultures, as well as the initial performance seasons.

Project details

The project is now complete but you can watch the documentaries below.

La Trobe Student Theatre’s Artistic Director, Bob Pavlich, said, “For our grant we committed to making two documentaries about a recent collaboration with an Indonesian student theatre group. We presented the shorter one earlier in the year and premiered the longer one for World La Trobe week. The event was held in the Private Dining Room in the Eagle Bar and was attended by about 40 people.”