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Now That's Entertainment

Theatrical History in the Making as Opening Nears for Bali Theatre at Bali Safari Marine Park Presenting 'Bali Agung The Legend of Balinese Goddesses'.

(8/18/2010) A team of technicians and artists at the Bali Safari & Marine Park are working almost non-stop to put the finishing touches to what will be the region's premier performing arts venue when it opens on Sunday, August 29, 2010. Designed and built to exacting standards, the indoor mega-stage theater complex has a 1,200 seating capacity, fully equipped with advanced multi-media technology and 'state of the art' sound and lighting.

Located within the 40-hectare Bali Safari & Marine Park, the "Bali Theatre" will be the permanent home stage to a spectacular stage production dubbed "Bali Agung The Legend of Balinese Goddesses."

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Purposely designed to enchant, mesmerize and overwhelm the senses - "Bali Agung" blends Balinese traditional and contemporary dance performance, collaborative music and cutting-edge puppetry on what is arguably one of the largest performance stages in the world. The massive performance area measuring 80 x 40 meters in front of the sets is matched by stage wings and behind-set spaces equally expansive. The resulting more than 1,200 square meters of space is needed to contain a 150 member cast comprised of Bali's most accomplished dancers, shadow-puppet masters and musicians. Also sharing the spotlight and the space will be an extraordinary array of exotic animals including elephants, camels, eagles and tigers. Making for a completely magical theater experience an original musical composition of Balinese Gamelan in combination with western orchestral music will fill the hall.

The show is inspired by the historic and legendary accounts of Sri Jaya Pangus, King of the unassailable Balingkang 12th century Balinese kingdom and his beloved Chinese wife, Kang Ching Wie. Set in Bali's misty and mystical mountain-lake district, the massive stage transforms into the crater lakes and rising cliff faces that provided the background for the historically based tragic and heroic epic story.

Executive Director of the Bali Safari & Marine Park, Hans Manansang said: "Our vision is to create a story of epic proportions that captures the essence of Bali. ..while at the same time demonstrating our commitment to the conservation of wildlife and culture".

Behind the Scenes

"Bali Agung" has been created and produced by an internationally acclaimed theatrical team. The Director, Composer and Production Designer have all been involved in large scale celebration productions including the Sydney and Doha Olympics and Asian Games.

Famed international director, Peter J. Wilson is now busily rehearsing the 150 strong cast who will tell the tragic love story of three of Bali's most historically revered figures. Wilson's fascination with Balinese culture traces back to his long time collaboration with one of Bali's most acclaimed puppet artists, I Made Sidia, whose puppet mastery is a central part of the production. Wilson's career spans more than 35 years in the entertainment industry where he has been responsible for successful major productions in Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States of America.

For the Bali project he has gathered around him a team that shares his artistic vision and have worked with him in the past. In addition to Sidia, the team includes award-winning production designer Richard Jeziorny whose credentials include a full range of stage productions from puppets, musical comedy to grand opera. Acclaimed composer Chong Lim who has penned musical scores for numerous films and theatrical productions is the show's musical director. Choreographer Ian Knowles comes to Bali fresh from working on the spectacular "Colours of Malaysia" and lighting director Phillip Lethlean joined the team after working on the World Expo in Shanghai, China.

"They are an incredible talented group of individuals whose combined skills are blending together to present a show that people will be talking about for years to come," Peter said.

Peter was quick to caution that such a powerful team of international artist would not diminish or change the Balinese cultural heritage and art forms the show presents. Every member of the team, he insisted, was committed to making sure that their western influence would only enhance the telling of a truly Balinese tale.

Local Balinese artist, I Made Sidia, shares Wilson's enthusiasm for the project, assuring the "Bali Agung" will be the most elaborate cultural show ever performed in Indonesia. "I've seen many theatrical shows around the world and most of them have been great, but the Bali Agung will stand out in terms of concept and philosophy," he claimed.

"Bali Agung" shows how the locals developed an open door policy to visitors and traded their surplus crops for goods they didn't manufacture themselves." Made continued: "One of the ship's captains brought his princess daughter with him and she and King Sri Jaya Pangus fell in love and married. Their wedding spectacular is majestically re-enacted on stage in an authentic ceremony that will enthrall all who see it.

"Although we are using all the modern stage effects available to enhance our production, it is predominately an enthralling Balinese cultural experience," Made emphasized.

In fact, the three principal characters portrayed in the production are still revered today and statues of them can be found all over the island. Effigies of both King Sri Jaya Pangus and his Chinese wife are paraded around from house to house in most villages during the rare Barong Landung ceremony which is held once in every 210 days of the Balinese calendar. This prominence given to a Chinese princess is accorded by the Balinese to Princess Kang Cing Wei deemed one of the two supreme deities in Balinese tradition and known as the Goddess of Prosperity. Shrines in her honor are still found at many trading locations and merchant's homes in Bali.

Dewi Danu is the other supreme deity featured in the show and is considered a symbol of fertility. Dewi is also the goddess who inhabits Bali's Lake Batur, the source of most of the water that irrigates the island's farmland.

Minding the Animals

Helping to keep the animal members of the cast in peak performing condition is Singaporean animal trainer, Richard Sam Pillai. Working with a team of keepers from Bali Safari and Marine Park, Richard has the exacting task of coaxing the different creatures to share a stage environment and do what is required of them in the show.

He comes to Bali with 27 years of experience working with animals in high profile projects around the world including Thailand, Vietnam, Oman, Malaysia as well as in Indonesia where he wrote and produced the "Wild Wild West Cowboy" show at Taman Safari Indonesia, Bogor.

Richard's considerable skills have been fully employed in the current production to allow so many different types of animals to perform indoors on a single stage.

"My training methods are based on trust, respect and understanding and the need to become as one with the animal," he explained. "We never allow any of our animals to be stressed so trainers have to be able to read the body language of the animals and be able to interpret it."

In addition to elephants and camels, visitors to the show will see many different kinds of exotic flying birds including birds of prey, pigeons and hornbills from Kalimantan.

Creating a virtual Noah's Ark, these animals will be joined by domestic herds of goats who compete for limelight with flocks of ducks. Banteng the Indonesian native bovine and chickens also make appearances together with large snakes and tigers.

Not to be Missed

The "Bali Agung" performances for the public commence on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 with daily show (except Mondays) at 2:30 pm at the Bali Safari & Marine Park, Gianyar.