Reaching its impressive half-century milestone, the Jakarta Theatre Festival (JTF) is the oldest theatre festival in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. To celebrate its golden anniversary this 2023, the festival presents Homo Theatricus: City, Subsistence and Imagination as their annual theme, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to experience theatre as part of everyday life, a place of expression, speech, entertainment, tourism, literacy and education.
The festival is held over two programmes, the first were held in October, with 15 selected theatre groups from different regions in Jakarta held performances at Teater Kecil and Teater Arena Wahyu Sihombing at Taman Ismail Marzuki complex, as well as Teater Luwes at the Jakarta Arts Institute. From 20 to 29 November 2023, a host of performances will take place, including repeat performances from the three winning groups of the JTF competition. The ‘Lebaran Theatre’ programme, held mainly at Taman Ismail Marzuki, will feature performances from disabled communities as well as the best theatre groups from the winners of the Campus Theatre Festival. Other performances include three curated out-of-town theatre groups and one theatre group from overseas (Portugal). There will be two off-site performances which will take place at the Bantar Gebang landfill and the other at Warung Tegal, Tebet, South Jakarta.
The premise of Homo Theatricus centres on a thespian facing the conditions of a harsh city (Jakarta), who, despite challenges, perseveres in their mission to harness their creativity and imagination.
As a coaching platform, the Jakarta Theatre Festival follows a competition format, whereby different theatre groups across the city perform to the public and winning groups are awarded by a select committee. It was originally known as the Jakarta Teen Theatre Festival, initiated in 1973 by the late Wahyu Sihombing a member of the Theatre Committee at the Jakarta Arts Council (DKJ). The JTF tiered competition became part of DKJ’s core initiatives to enrich performing arts in Jakarta.
Developing a theatre festival in Jakarta is not without challenges, but it has built up a resilience amongst the spirited theatre activists who have pushed tirelessly to perpetuate the development of performing arts in the city. “We’ve experienced the ups and downs of the festival,” shares Krisna Aditya, Chairman of the Theatre Committee, Jakarta Arts Council. “It was once held from arena-arena across five administrative regions of Jakarta between 1991 to 2005. Entering its 50th year, and at this celebration we can claim that JTF has influenced the arts scene in Indonesia. A lot of JTF graduates fill the professional art space and become actors and actresses. and work throughout the Indonesian art scene.”
JTF 2023 also makes tribute to Indonesia’s theatre legends; Motinggo Busye, Arifin C, Noer, Ikranegara, and Zainal Abidin Domba.