Alex had everything he wanted: money, fame, and a career. Everything, that is, except a meaningful human relationship. Material objects had blinded him from seeing how others had helped him move forward. Despite being successful in his career, it was clear that Alex had failed in doing one important task: appreciating what he had. Then came a mysterious yet benevolent stranger, who casted magic on Alex and transported him to a place he never thought he would go.

This Sunday, 12 February 2017, the Gelar Budaya (GAYA) production team presents “KISAR – The Turning Point”, a musical adventure into the past. Follow modern-day Alex as he journeys to  early 1800s Cirebon, West Java, Indonesia, where he learned about the power of love and the importance of being thankful.

“At the early stage of planning for GAYA 2017, the directors felt that it should be about something that even Indonesians are not familiar with,” said Ryvenny Putri Witarsa, GAYA 2017 Producer and President of SMU Komunitas Indonesia (SMUKI). “That’s when we came across the ‘Perang Kedongdong’, which is one of the biggest, yet long-forgotten war in Indonesia. KISAR is loosely based on that event.”

Ryvenny (left) along with other behind the scene crew members at GAYA 2016.
Ryvenny (left) along with other behind the scene crew members at GAYA 2016.

KISAR is the 11th show produced by the hardworking people at GAYA, an arts and cultural production team supported by SMUKI. Each GAYA production draws its inspiration from Indonesia’s rich collection of traditional folklore and historical events, injected with a modern twist. This year’s team consists of Indonesian students, local Singaporean students and various international students at Singapore Management University (SMU), as well as like-minded peers from other universities such as Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), LASALLE College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and PSB Academy. Since it was first staged in 2007, GAYA has transformed into one of the largest cultural productions in SMU, attracting over 1,000 audiences in its previous production in 2016.

GAYA 2016’s musical production, “Sang Pengibar”, garnered over 1,000 audiences over the course of two full-house performances.
GAYA 2016’s musical production, “Sang Pengibar”, garnered over 1,000 audiences over the course of two full-house performances.

Ryvenny credits the diversity of the GAYA cast and crew for its success. The team places an emphasis on “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”, an Indonesian national motto that translates to “unity in diversity”. By combining various forms of art such as acting, dancing, and singing, GAYA is able to present a large-scale musical production. In addition, the team has its own scriptwriters, songwriters, music composers, and artistic coaches. Its diverse cast and crew have also allowed the production team to widen its reach outside the Indonesian community in Singapore.

The diverse cast and crew members at GAYA have allowed the team to widen their reach outside of the Indonesian student community in Singapore.
The diverse cast and crew members at GAYA have allowed the team to widen their reach outside of the Indonesian student community in Singapore.

According to Ryvenny, each GAYA production takes around 8-12 months to prepare. This year, the producers and directors spent two months on planning and scriptwriting. This was followed by one month of casting and recruiting, with the rest of the time dedicated to rigorous rehearsals and regular meetings.

GAYA 2017 is directed by Crivelli Laudi Renaldi, a second-year business student at SMU. An artist at heart, Crivelli first joined GAYA in 2014 as a dancer, and became the production team’s Dance Director in 2016. Crivelli does not think that his involvement in arts contradicts his role as a business student, and he believes that it is important for business students to care about art.

Crivelli (left) guides GAYA dancers in preparation for GAYA 2016 as a Dance Director. This year, he is the Director for GAYA 2017.
Crivelli (left) guides GAYA dancers in preparation for GAYA 2016 as a Dance Director. This year, he is the Director for GAYA 2017.

“Art is not just about beauty and abstractness, but it is also about sending a message to the audience. In the business world, many of us will have to deal with clients and the way we convey the same message should vary to the different clients, depending on their personality. Art helps you become a better communicator,” he explained. “In addition, art is associated with creative minds, and these creative minds are what employers are looking for. Original ideas and true innovation are things that every company needs.”

Catch GAYA 2017’s musical performance, “KISAR – The Turning Point”, on 12 February 2017 at the Drama Centre, Singapore National Library Building. Matinee and night show tickets are now on sale GAYA’s website, http://gelarbudaya.com/.