From the Guest Editors: Kathy Foley and I Nyoman Sedana

Puppetry International Research as a free online scholarly publication was first an idea raised during an UNIMA-USA leadership retreat. Board members brainstormed ways the organization could better serve puppetry locally and internationally—a free online scholarly journal was suggested by Paulette Richard and became one of the “dreams” that made our strategic plan. To become a reality was the work of many hands.

It is the hard work and willingness of Claudia Orenstein at Hunter College to take the administrative steps for hosting that made it possible. The meticulous eyes of Karen Smith were crucial: her experience in copy editing World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts has given her the ability to correct and improve. Incisive critiques of multiple reviewers improved submissions. This issue was planned during pandemic lockdowns. Emerging from COVID to participate in UNIMA International’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic provided the opportunity to test many of these papers, shared in the UNIMA-USA and Institut Seni Indonesia (Indonesian Institute of the Arts) conference in Denpasar, Bali, on 2 May 2023. Drafts were then co-edited with conference chair, I Nyoman Sedana, and give a taste of the rich puppetry culture of Bali. 

Other submissions help us circle the globe, including a report on two name succession performances of the Youki family in Japan by Mari Boyd, Israeli performances on Holocaust narratives by Achinoam Aldouby, innovations in contemporary puppetry of India by Rahul Koonathara, and protest puppetry in Zero-COVID China by Zhixuan Zhu. 

The range of submissions from international performers like I Made Sidia; to emerging scholars like Zhixuan Zhu, Achinoam Aldouby, and Rahul Koonathara; to seasoned authors like Mari Boyd, shows the mixture of scholarship we discussed in our strategic planning. The hope was that writers nationally and across the globe would share research and reports on special events (see Karen Smith’s report on an UNIMA-USA Wayang Workshop in Bali and Alissa Mello’s account of the Second International PuppetPlays Conference in France). Book and performance reviews finish off the offerings. I wish to thank the many authors who help model the international reach and mix we planned. More scholarship, dialogue and awareness of the diversity and depth of puppetry both in the U.S. and across the globe will help move forward the artistry and scholarship of this wonderful art of animated things. 

Kathy Foley
University of California Santa Cruz

As a member of the Arts faculty at Institut Seni Indonesia where I am a professor of pedalangan (puppetry), I have been strongly motivated in recent years to engage in written scholarship internationally prompting practitioners to engage. For advancement in tertiary institutions, international publication is now expected, and, for a full professor, the firm requirement is multiple publications in Scopus level journals. For faculty members who were hired for their skill in teaching performance of mask dance or puppetry, the transition toward evaluation based on scholarly writing brings a learning curve. Balinese artists who have regularly had their work written about by foreign scholars of ethnomusicology, dance, and puppetry find themselves now focusing more on scholarly endeavors while still deeply involved in creating the major performances needed for community temple festivals, cultural missions abroad, arts festival events, and government displays. 

Due to my training with scholars like John Emigh (Brown University), Farley Richmond (University of Georgia), and Kathy Foley (University of California Santa Cruz), I have already had more exposure to publication in scholarly journals. I am pleased that as co-editor of the Balinese section, I can help others in Bali understand the peer review process and the value of clarifying Balinese performance to an Anglophone readership. 

Most Balinese articles in this first issue of Puppetry International Research were presented at the “International Conference on Contemporary Wayang” held at ISI Denpasar (2 May 2023), which was part of an UNIMA-USA wayang workshop that followed the 2023 UNIMA International Council meeting in Bali, April 26-May 1. This issue of Puppetry International Research has allowed authors to present their thoughts on Balinese wayang more widely. I thank Claudia Orenstein and all the peer reviewers who helped improve the papers. 

A paper by I Dewa Ketut Wicaksana, Ni Diah Purnamawati, and Dewa Ketut Wicaksandita shares insight on the important purification story of wayang sapuh leger and notes different but related narratives. Today, mass purifications via this important performance ritual are increasingly sponsored by the government of Badung and other areas of Bali. Dru Henro and I Made Marajaya share their analysis of Dalang Cenk Blonk’s YouTube videos doing COVID education—research the authors did as faculty members at ISI Denpasar. I Ketut Sudiana’s paper discusses the visual impact of wayang figures as new technology is replacing the traditional oil lamp as light source. Two other papers discuss major creative works of the authors: I Gusti Putu Sudarta and I Gusti Made Darma Putra share their process of creating a show on an important literary source Tutur Candra Bherawa, while I Made Sidia discusses his production of Surya Sewana that mixed, dance, puppetry, masked clowning, and other features at Sanur Village Festival 2022. We hope that readers will appreciate these insights into wayang’s past and present.

I Nyoman Sedana, Guest Editor for Puppetry in Contemporary Bali
Institut Seni Indonesia, Denpasar