The Kethoprak Balekambang group has been active in Surakarta for a long time preserving oral traditions by performing traditional performances. On December 17, 2022, Ketoprak Balekambang collaborated with academics from the Indonesian Literature Study Program, Diponegoro University. To continue good friendships in the world of art, culture, and cultural education, the performance entitled Penangsang Autumn was done collaboratively.
This performance takes the traditional values that already exist in the process of the birth of the archipelago. One of the important values in the implementation of this staging is the movement of the director from act to act, eliminating text as a guide used by the characters. Ketoprak as a form of oral tradition is not much different from Ludruk in which the text is the logic of the players themselves. The director only provides the concept of an outline that the players outlined in free dialogue. It’s just that, important conditions in this free dialogue should not get out of the groove.
Applying this, the performance titled Penangsang Autumn intends to retell the story of Haryo Penangsang in the history of the existing canon. Haryo Penangsang is known as a leader who supports coastal areas with an iron fist. However, not many people know that there are hidden sides to Haryo Penangsang’s leadership that can be compared to the concept of Wali Mansur. Wali Mansur is usually known as a leader who often makes short, authoritarian decisions, and gives the impression of making people miserable, even though this triggers reciprocity, either in a positive or negative form. This reciprocity is related to whatever is the policy. This is confirmed by Haryo Penangsang’s close relationship with Sunan Kudus.
Being the antithesis of Haryo Penangsang, there was a disciple of Sunan Kudus who was also the king of Pajang named Hadi Wijaya. This king has the ambition to defeat Haryo Panangsang. As the antithesis, he also clothed himself with meek, yet cunning souls that resided within him and his duke. So that made him full of doubts, about whether he could do it.
As the basic moral of an antithesis, when it is resisted it will fight. Unfortunately, Hadi Wijaya, who is already old, had to find another character to end Haryo Penangsang’s history. A competition was held, but none of the knights were suitable and considered capable of killing Haryo Panangsang. Suddenly Pemanahan appointed Danang Suto Wijoyo and Wasis, Hadiwijaya’s two sons, to continue his father’s ambitions. Even though he had to be scared, Danang Sutowijoyo was able to stab a large spear into Haryo Panangsang’s stomach which made one of the officials of the coastal region of Java droop and fall.
The performance of Balekambang’s ketoprak with academics from the Indonesian Literature Study Program Undip romanticizes tragedy in Javanese stories. This is also a method to touch the oral tradition directly. The performance itself has been watched offline at Graha Wisata Niaga and online via the BALKAM TV YouTube channel.
Head of Indonesian Literature Study Program, Dr. Sukarjo Waluyo, M.Hum., sees this performance as a way to bring academics closer to living material objects. One of the objects highlighted here is the oral tradition. Responding to this, Ketoprak Balekambang also hopes that academics from Undip will continue to attend and liven up ketoprak performances in various domains.