SMU Kommunitas Indonesia’s annual production GAYA returns this year with an intriguing tale of Cut Nyak Dhien, a female freedom fighter from Aceh. Titled “Meraki,” the plot centres around the themes of love and war in Indonesia of the late 1800s under imperialist Dutch rule. The Blue and Gold recently met up with the producers, directors and actors of GAYA 2018 to get some inside information about the upcoming production!
1. Hi everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time from your very busy schedules to meet The Blue and Gold today! Shall we start with a round of introduction for our readers?
Arthur: Hello! This is Chevy, he’s our assistant director. I’m Arthur, the assistant producer. Tania, our main producer. That’s Avelin, our dance director and Laura, our vocal director. Haja is one of the main actors of the production and Joanna, our main director!
2. First off, what was your motivation to join GAYA 2018? What excites you and inspires about directing or producing a theatre production?
Joanna: I think what I like the most about clubs that allow you to perform like GAYA is that it gives you a platform to express yourself and your talents. It feels really good to let that expression out.
Haja: It’s an extra-curricular activity that I enjoy. Plus, GAYA to me is an outlet to meet different kinds of people. This is my third time participating in GAYA and every time I meet different groups of people. It’s exciting to see what every year brings!
Avelin: This is actually my second time in GAYA. It’s very art-oriented which is different from what I study at SMU. I think performing on stage gives me a good feeling!
3. Can you give our readers a background of what the production is about? Are there any sneak-peeks coming up?
Joanna: The story this year is about a female warrior called Cut Nyak Dhien and she’s from Aceh and she’s one of the more prominent female heroines in Indonesia because she helped Aceh achieve its freedom. And as a woman, at that time, I think we can all imagine how difficult it would have been for her.
Haja: The story is set in the 1800s. I think that will give you some more context to the plotline.
4. When you look back on the entire process, what do you feel was most challenging about GAYA for you, personally? Has it changed you?
Laura: GAYA involves a lot of people and it’s hard working in a team that’s so big. So, communication is bound to be a problem but eventually, it all comes together. But there are definitely complications but I guess even that’s a learning experience.
Arthur: Ultimately, we are a student run production and we are non-profit. There were times when we faced difficulty trying to find the appropriate sponsors or the amount of funds for the whole production. So, yes, that was a big challenge. From the entire experience, we learned how to do things in different ways, how to approach sponsors better and find alternative sources for the things we needed.
Joanna: I think one of the main things is that since we’re not professional directors or producers and we’re participating in this because we love it, there’s a lot to learn from the entire experience. That’s the fun thing about GAYA!
5. GAYA has a lot of historical elements embedded into the theme. Why the insistence on this historical theme? What is the message you’re looking to give out?
Joanna: The thing about history is that you can always learn from it. Even if it occurred in the past, you can always bring it up today and show how it’s still relevant to people.
Haja: In the end, GAYA is still a production that is run by the Indonesian community in SMU. I think that’s why there’s a big element of trying to showcase Indonesian culture because there are so many different kinds of cultures within the country itself. Every single year, it’s a theme from a different city, state or province. So, we’re trying to bring different messages every year to the audience. During the previous few years, the plots were related to wars, finding of provinces, kings and their kingdoms. This year it’s about a female freedom fighter. GAYA has come a long way. We first started in 2007, this is the 12th year. It started off with a crew as small as 20 people and now we have close to 60 to 70 people! So, you can see that people are influenced by all the history, they want to learn more and contribute more!
6. How often did you rely on the original script? Was there a lot of bouncing around of new ideas and frequent changes in the script? What was challenging about that?
Chevy: Script wise, we cannot expect a perfect script in the beginning. Yes, it is true to say that there was lot of bouncing around of ideas here and there. We got a lot of feedback, not just from the producers and directors but also from actors, vocals and dancers as well. The script is a guideline for actors and they are free to explore to make it even better. So, we want them to be really comfortable with their dialogues!
Haja: The script has changed a lot. Every time we met up, there was a lot of constructive discussions on how to make the play better. Everyone felt a collective responsibility to contribute to the script. Every other week we would have changes but we’re happy with that because it brings out a new way of showcasing the culture that we never thought of before. We want to bring the audience the best version of the story.
7. Picture this: it’s the day of the production, your actors are performing brilliantly out there. As directors and producers, when you look out at the audience, what emotions do you want to see? What is the vision in this regard?
Joanna: I would want them to be amazed. On the day, I would probably cry myself. I want them to see how much effort we have put into making GAYA a great show.
Tania: We started working on GAYA 2018 last year—in July, 2017. It has been a very long journey. We really do hope that the audience enjoys the show!
8. If you could play any character in this production, who would it be and why?
Haja: I think I would have done a more villainy role this time. Maybe I could have portrayed the villain because it seems like a very interesting character from the script and the practice sessions that we’ve been through.
9. SMUKI has done a fantastic job with GAYA over the past few years. How do you manage expectations? Specifically, how do you keep them up?
Joanna: We have a close relationship with our seniors and the previous GAYA team. In that way, it helps us transition easily. But every year, there are different problems. So, we can’t always try to ask them for solutions. We figure things out by ourselves and that’s where the fun comes in!
Tania: In addition to what Joanna said, I think we try to be very open to each other especially when problems arise.
Haja: I think the most important thing is that those who take up the roles of producers and directors were participants in the previous years’ versions of GAYA, most of the time. So, they have seen how the previous GAYA was run and they get a sense of expectations. They would try to do better or maintain the standard. Usually, they are well prepared, they know what others are expecting and they know what they should be striving for. That helps all the other departments—cast, vocals, props and stage management because they know that we have a benchmark.
10. Very briefly and very quickly, convince our readers why they should grab tickets for GAYA 2018!
Arthur: For those have watched GAYA before, it’s a familiar feeling—a kind of home-coming but for the new audience, it would be a very unexpected and refreshing experience since it’s a student run production.
Tania: One very special thing about GAYA is that it is a musical production where people from different schools come together and we form a very strong bond through it.
Chevy: From the performance side, I would say that you won’t regret it. There are, of course, other musical productions out there but GAYA tries to bring the story in a unique way, from different perspectives!
11. For our very eager readers, when will the tickets for GAYA 2018 be on sale and where can we get it from?
Haja: Ticket sales are starting next week so everyone can look forward to that and we have an early bird promotion from 29th January to 7th February in front of Pastamania!