Everyone has to start somewhere. Throughout our journey, we’ve met would-be visionaries; the starters who are about or just began to take their first steps.
Our series On the Come Up will highlight them as they start their journeys. For Part 1, we talked to TEMAN, a musical theater company in Jakarta, as they were preparing for their debut production.
In late November, Globetrotter attended the press conference of the Indonesian production of famed Broadway musical, Into the Woods. And to see a youthful production team, being all bright-eyed, hopeful and clearly passionate about their project, was quite a revealing moment. It’s hard to imagine this happening 10 years ago in Indonesia, what with the country’s lackluster musical theater scene and all.
Time is clearly changing, and Teman Musikal Nusantara (TEMAN) is a part of this change. A Jakarta-based theater company, TEMAN (which literally translates to “Friend”) has a burning ambition to change people’s lives through musicals. Its dream is to change Indonesians’ perspective on theater through workshops and productions.
The company will take one step further into realizing their dream on December 22 and 23, when they hold their inaugural show, their own production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Held at Teater Salihara, Jakarta, this performance marks the first time for the Broadway musical to be played in Indonesia. The team, helmed by producer Chriskevin Adefrid, will also add aspects of Indonesian culture into the fairy tale-inspired, Tony-winning musical.
We talk to Chris about producing Into the Woods, involving TEMAN’s neighbors in Vietnam (actor Marc Valentine as the Wolf) and Singapore (actress Frances Lee as Baker’s Wife, directors Benjamin Chow and Venytha Yoshiantini) and why Indonesia is not ready for Hamilton.
Globetrotter Magazine: Can you tell us something about yourself?
Chriskevin Adefrid: I’m a theater practitioner. I’m a producer, I’m also a director, but now I’m focusing more on producing. I make sure everything run smoothly, from recruiting the creative team, finding financing— Since this is a professional production, everyone here is being professionally paid. It presents a certain kind of challenge because, business-wise, we’re selling a show, so we have to figure out how to present something that can be accepted by the public and sell tickets. Those are my responsibilities.
Globetrotter Magazine: What about your involvement in TEMAN?
Chriskevin Adefrid: TEMAN is me, Ivan (Musical Director Ivan Tangkulung) and Venytha (Co-Director Venytha Yoshiantini). I take care of the business side, making sure that the business run according to the project.
Globetrotter Magazine: In other countries like Japan and South Korea, theater companies would reinterpret Broadway plays and translate the dialogues to their languages. What is your consideration behind performing Into the Woods in Indonesia in its original language aka English?
Chriskevin Adefrid: It all comes back to the purpose of the production. We want to make an introduction; this is our production debut, so we want to start with something classic. Some people may say, “Oh, I’ve seen Into the Woods somewhere!” But we want to produce something different. Although we use the same language (English), our visual and artistic directions are different. Why didn’t we translate (the dialogues)? Because this is also a form of soft diplomacy, which is why we also involve an international team in this production. The team is divided around 70-30; there are still more local talents than the foreign ones. And these local talents are gathered in one Broadway musical platform with the international ones.
Globetrotter Magazine: During the press conference, the team mentioned that TEMAN wants to develop the theater industry in Indonesia. How do you plan to achieve that? Through workshops or acting school, perhaps?
Chriskevin Adefrid: Acting school is the dream. But we’ve already done workshops on acting and musical theater. Musical is such an interesting form of art, because to do it, you have to be good in three things (singing, dancing, acting); be a triple threat, and you have to be excellent in all of them. That’s what we’re teaching.
I think it would be such a waste if I say that I want to develop the industry, but [I can’t provide a platform for anyone who wants to learn]. Not everyone can go study theater in New York; not everyone can have that opportunity. That’s why in TEMAN, we’re calling out to the Indonesians abroad to come home because their people need them. That is our vision.
Past Workshop by TEMAN
Globetrotter Magazine: Is TEMAN more prone to classic stuff like Into the Woods or will you do something contemporary like Hamilton?
Chriskevin Adefrid: That’s an interesting question. So, we have to look at our market. It’s good to be idealistic, but we have to be realistic. For example, Cats is selling so well abroad. It’s crazy, it’s been revived for a lot of times. But is Cats applicable in our market? I don’t think so. Maybe someone else will be bold enough to produce it.
For me, there are musicals that will fit the Indonesian market, but maybe not now. So I’m focusing on the shows that can fit right now, which is why I chose Sondheim. [Into the Woods] has something that is already ingrained. Everyone knows Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood; everyone knows giants. [When someone asks,] “What is this about?“ [We can say,] “It’s a mix of fairy tales.“ And that person will be interested, even though they don’t know Broadway at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Hamilton; I think Lin Manuel Miranda is a such a genius. But if I say, “Hey, let’s go watch Hamilton!“ And if someone asks, “What is it about?“ “History.“ “Whose?“ “Alexander Hamilton.“ “Who the hell is he?“
So it depends on what will work in Indonesia. That’s our focus for now. We will do it slowly, like a domino. It’s a domino effect, I say. So one by one, we will make people more and more accustomed to the theater.
The thing is— For instance, our Early Bird ticket is IDR 250.000, while movie ticket is around IDR 35.000. The time spent to watch a play and a movie is the same, but one of them is cheaper. So this is what we’re competing against. Imagine if we produce something that’s not applicable. It will be hard, won’t it? Even our local movie industry is still competing with the Western film industry. So let’s start with something chewable, digestible. And then, slowly, we’ll get there. Hopefully one day we can make our own Cats or something similar.
Check out the photos from the performance below.