Wayang in Translation

The History and Benefits of Simultaneous Interpretation/Translation

Since 2005, Kathryn (Kitsie) Emerson has been interpreting wayang performances into English on stage and online through running text projected for the audience to read. She developed this technique in her work with Ki Purbo Asmoro for international tours and continues to be its only practitioner. To date, she has simultaneously translated 227 all-night performances for 52 different dhalang (x 135 performances for Ki Purbo Asmoro in 17 years, and x 92 performances for 51 other dhalang over about 10 years)

Different from pre-prepared subtitles:
—simultaneous translation allows for live, immediate access to a performance without waiting for subtitles to be produced post-performance, which could take months. It also allows for more performances to be translated, as these are simply ROUGH interpretations. This method also respects the dhalang’s need for complete spontaneity in the moment. Some planning an overseas tour, for example, might expect to see a transcript ahead, and prepare subtitles for the anticipated “live” projection, but not with this method. In fact, I make it a point of not communicating with the dhalang about any specifics of his performance ahead of time, lest I interfere with his creativity.

Different from running commentary by an MC with a microphone over the dhalang:
—this written method honors the authority of the dhalang’s voice as the only voice that should be heard.

Different from simply offering a plot synopsis in program notes:
— this method lets the audience in on the precise nature of the dialogue between characters, the meaning of inside jokes, interesting aspects of the dhalang’s presentation and interpretation. It offers far more than a plot summary.

If there is a wayang performance coming up that you would like to see interpreted/translated simultaneously—by any dhalang anywhere—feel free to contact us and we will arrange the technical side. You can sit back and enjoy! We actually have dozens of other performances by other dhalang translated, but these are currently in a cyber-space prison, as YouTube has flagged “Punakawan Solo Channel” where they are housed. We hope to have them here soon as well!

THANK YOU to the following institutions and individuals who have contributed to “Wayang in Translation” in the past! (Please notify us if you have contributed and your name is not yet listed.)

Playlists of Wayang in Translation

“Wayang in Translation” has been made possible through funding from AIFIS (Oct 2020–Dec 2021) and many individuals from across the globe. These contributions go exclusively to covering the costs of our two tech teams in Java (the dhalang’s team and the translator’s team) for the equipment, time, and internet “pulsa” needed to offer such clear and uninterrupted productions. Please consider contributing (think of it as a “ticket” price!) if you enjoy these or use them for a course or lecture, as we are almost always short of funding. Thank you!

All titles below are available with translation in the playlist buttons ABOVE!
Other “Wayang in Translation” Sources and Platforms:
%d bloggers like this: