Students in the 2012 performance on campus. Photo by Burat Wangi Cohen
In the summer of 2009, Lynn Kremer, professor of theatre at the College of the Holy Cross, took a group of students and alumni to perform her original musical drama “Mimpi” at the prestigious Bali Arts Festival; they were the only Americans to perform at the festival. Four years later, Kremer returned to the stage at the Bali Arts Festival with a new group of students, alumni and faculty to perform “Shackled Spirits,” an original multi-media dance drama co-conceived with Made Wianta, a Balinese installation artist. The drama originally premiered at the College in April 2012. The performance received many positive reviews in local news outlets throughout its rehearsals, including the largest English language newspaper in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, which credited Kremer with succeeding “in staging the best performance in this year’s Bali Arts Festival.”
“Shackled Spirits” was the only American act on the festival program. The troupe was made up of 13 current or former Holy Cross students and two middle school students, joined by dancer-actors and musicians from Makaradhwaja, a professional Balinese performing arts group. The entire performance was supported by a local gamelan orchestra.
“’Shackled Spirits’ addresses the topic of mental illness. The central character, a writer, is inspired by Pramoedya Ananta Toer and other writers jailed in Indonesia for their political beliefs. The writer in ‘Shackled Spirits’ was not incarcerated in prison, but rather spent time in a mental health facility. The scenes in the play portray his memories, fantasies, and dreams; all of the other characters spring from his experience and his mind,” says Kremer.
While Kremer is the director, “Shackled Spirits” is a ‘devised’ drama: a drama in which student actors are co-collaborators, bringing their talent and experiences to the table as active contributors. Students studied research performed by Kremer, listened to lectures by experts, and watched videos about mental illness in the U.S. and in Bali to build a foundation of knowledge on which to become true collaborators.
The following students attended the festival with Kremer: Joshua Armstrong ’14, sociology major; Keon Fernandes ’15, history and theatre major; Aubrie Kimble ’15, English and theatre major; Shannon LoCascio ’14, theatre major; Elizabeth Mason ’14, English and theatre major; Megan McDermott ’16; Adia Vellaccio ’14, theatre major; and Matthew Wasser ’15, physics major. They were joined by alumni Daniel Goodman ’11, theatre major; Annie Le ’13, theatre and studio art major; David Martinez ’12, Chinese and theatre major; Erin McMahon ’13, Spanish and theatre major; and Kody Onyiuke ’13, psychology major. In addition to Kremer, Barbara Craig, assistant professor of theatre and Kurt Hultgren, costume designer, were faculty attendees. Additionally designer Bobbie-Jean Powell, student actor Colton Chaney and his mother Anne Casavant, and student actress Serey Kremer and her father Iouri Alsov were part of the group.
The troupe was invited to perform at the festival by the Balinese Ministry of Culture after the production received an excellent review in The Jakarta Post, a local Indonesian newspaper. It continued to receive press coverage locally throughout the festival, including stories in Indonesian newspapers Nusa Bali, Radar Bali and Warta Bali.