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A Matter of Elephantine Convenience

Performing with Animals and Children: A Back-stage Story from Bali Agung at Bali Safari & Marine Park.

(10/18/2010) As any seasoned actor knows: never share a scene with a child or an animal. Kids and members of the animal kingdom are "naturals" that can steal a scene and the audience's attention from even the most accomplished thespian.

The theatrical extravaganza of "Bali Agung The Legend of Balinese Princesses," presented every week at the Bali Theatre of the Bali Safari and Marine Park, features 150 human performers ranging in age from 4-years to elderly grandparents, and also presents a large menagerie of animals that include a small herd of elephants, a tiger, camel, goats, ducks, a large snake and numerous birds.

With animals and children in virtually every scene of the historical Bali production, the normal dangers of sharing the floorboards and spotlights with kids and animals take on an added dimension.

One story from the months of arduous rehearsals for "Bali Agung" underlines the special challenges the talented production team confronted in telling a millennium-old story of a love triangle between a Chinese princess, a Balinese king and the Goddess who inhabits Bali's Lake Batur.

Richard Jeziorny, who worked as the Production Designer of the Show, tells of an unusual complication the production team surmounted in staging the monumental wedding scene when the Princess and the King arrive on stage carried by a group of elephants. With a stage full of actors portraying enthusiastic villagers, children and court retainers, the creative team instructed the crowd to raise their hands above their heads, demonstrating their joy for the arriving royal couple.

On cue, the majestic pachyderms entered from stage-right. The regal prince sat astride the shoulders of one elephant while the Chinese princes sat suspended on the intertwined trunks of two more elephants. The accompanying mahouts, who are bothe actors and experienced animal trainers, suddenly lost their otherwise serene demeanor as they saw the villagers upraised arms. The elephants, trained to respond to hand signals, knew all-too-well the meaning of arms raised above the head as the cue that "now" is the appropriate time to answer's nature's call and "take a pee."

The well-trained elephants responded on cue, creating a flood that prompted an immediate change in choreography.

The word went out: welcome the King and his Princes, but do so with anything but upraised arms.

Those who have seen several showings of "Bali Agung" may have already spotted the cast members of the fully-costumed bucket and mop brigade who move around the scenery to deal with unscheduled "calls of nature" that might precede the final "curtain call."

Attending one of the regular stagings of "Bali Agung The Legend of Balinese Princesses" is a "must do" on the list of every Balinese visitor. And while the show regularly brings applauding audiences to their feet, cheering the performers and elephants on stage at the show's conclusion, the audience's kind cooperation is sought not to clap with their hands raised above their heads.

Related Links

[A Bali Show Not to be Missed]

[Now That's Entertainment]

[Bali Agung Performance]