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The University of Connecticut (UConn) is a public research university in the U.S. state of Connecticut. UConn was founded in 1881 and is a Land Grant and Sea Grant college & member of the Space Grant Consortium. The university serves more than 30,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 8,000 graduate students in multiple programs.

CANCELLED: “Tobacco: A Crankie Shadow Play” with Gusti Sudarta and Rumput on 3/27 at 7 p.m.

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The UConn Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, UConn Puppet Arts Program, and Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry present Tobacco: A Crankie Shadow Play with Gusti Sudarta and Rumput on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Ballard Institute Theater located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. Shadow master Gusti Sudarta from Bali, Indonesia and the string-band group Rumput from Richmond, Virginia collaborate in an intercultural performance involving traditional arts from Indonesia—specifically wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre) and keroncong (string-band music)—with crankies, or moving panoramas. This production will focus on the history of the global tobacco industry, with an emphasis on Virginia and western Indonesia. This performance is free and open to the public with a run-time of approximately 75 minutes. There are no age restrictions but parents should be aware that old American jingles will be sung.

When the American tobacco industry was hit with lawsuits in the late 90s, companies rebranded and reoriented towards international markets such as Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, tobacco is poorly regulated, ads regularly target children (remember the “smoking baby” on Youtube?), and lung cancer deaths have gone through the roof. Cigarette taxes are now an important source of national income and politicians receive regular kickbacks from the industry. The story of tobacco is a tale of global exploitation in which American capitalists have benefitted wildly from the suffering of Native Americans, African American slaves, blue-collar labor, and the engineered addiction of billions of smokers across the globe. This new “crankie” and shadow play about the story of tobacco, shows how Richmond, Virginia and, today, Indonesia are two of the most important chapters of tobacco as a global industry.

Tobacco: A Crankie Shadow Play will feature shadow puppetry by the renowned Balinese shadow master Gusti Sudarta. In addition to the main feature, there will also be several traditional and new works for keroncong (Indonesian string band music) and several other crankies included in the program.

The music ensemble Rumput plays keroncong (a string-band tradition from Indonesia) and explores parallel threads with other traditions, especially old-time string-band music of the United States and British Isles, and Indonesian gamelan. The company produces multimedia performances involving traditional and original music paired with shadow theater comprising elements of American and Indonesian traditions — crankies (scrolling panoramas) and wayang (shadow puppets). Rumput has performed internationally, including tours and residencies in Java in 2017 and 2018, performing with local artists at each stop, and collaborating with Indonesian master artists including Danis Sugiyanto, Peni Candrarini, Endah Laras, Ubiet Raseuki, and Gusti Sudarta.

Dalang (shadow master) I Gusti Putu Sudarta Ph.D., was born into a family of artists in Bedulu village and has been performing music, dance, and shadow theater since he was six years old. He is a permanent faculty member in the puppetry department at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Denpasar (Bali) and holds a master’s and Ph.D. in theater from the National Institute of Arts in Solo, Java. He regularly performs various forms of traditional Balinese music, mask dance, and wayang kulit (shadow puppet theater) in ceremonial contexts and has taken part in several international tours and inter-cultural experimental music and theater productions.

This performance is sponsored by the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, in collaboration with the UConn Puppet Arts Program and the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.

This performance is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For further information or if you require an accommodation to attend, please contact Dr. Matthew Cohen at matthew.i.cohen@uconn.edu.

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