Pluralism live on stage
Imagine the head of a radical Muslim organisation standing on a stage together with 99 other people from his hometown – among them human rights activists, members of the LGBT community and a former political prisoner once accused of being a communist. And this self-declared extremist is saying: “We are one body with one hundred heads.”
Only a week ago, I would have thought this a rather unrealistic scenario. But then “100% Yogyakarta” premiered, a collaboration of the German theatre directors’ trio Rimini Protokoll and the Indonesian collective Teater Garasi.
Rimini Protokoll took their 100%-concept already to 26 other cities, before they came to Yogyakarta on invitation by the Goethe-Institut as part of the German Season currently running in several Indonesian cities. Teater Garasi was their local co-direction partner and was among others responsible for the casting process: For five months the casting team interviewed people on a snow-ball-principle always seeking to fulfil the criteria of the city’s population statistics.
“You think statistics is boring?” asked “Mr. 1%”, Istato Hudayana, a civil servant at the statistics office before giving the stage to his co-citizens to introduce themselves one-by-one – from a rickshaw driver to an art collector, from a little baby to a 90-year-old grandma.
The main criteria during the casting were age, gender, religion, family composition and residential location. The additional filters applied were ethnicity, cultural and linguistic diversity, education, profession, income and mixed abilities.
The result was not only very entertaining, but also very moving: Since probably almost everybody in the audience started after a while projecting her- or himself onto the stage as well, it felt very touching, when people started to confess their deepest fears and brightest hopes in front of everybody.
It seemed that the stage suddenly offered a chance to the participants to gather enough self-confidence to stand-up for their ideals without blaming others for their contrasting views.
Politicians and activists nowadays struggle hard to keep up the pluralism and tolerance in their hometown Yogyakarta as well as in other parts of Indonesia, once so famous for its diversity on all levels. These hundred people on the stage demonstrated, how much tolerance and mutual respect could be improved by simply discussing controversial issues in an open way.
“I felt myself very much represented”, confirmed a viewer after the show. “It changed my view of this city. And I am sure that the whole process must have even a lot more changed the people involved in the project.”