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A New Chapter for Theater Director Joned Suryatmoko

September 27, 2018

Theater director Joned Suryatmoko reflects on his 2016 ACC grant as he begins a new chapter as 2018 ACC Graduate Fellow.

Once in a lifetime, we ask ourselves as an artist: “What have we done? Where are we going?” For those who spend a majority of their time in the arts, these questions remain pivotal. I started to answer these issues and design the new chapter in my life when I received a six-month ACC grant to participate in a residency program in New York City.

On October 11, 2016, I arrived in NYC to start my residency. There, I spent six months as a visiting scholar at The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). I had the opportunity partake in academic conversation through weekly roundtable discussions with visiting scholars from all over the world. Moreover, I had the chance to participate in Richard Schechner’s class at NYU and Peter Eckersall’s at CUNY.


Joned Suryatmoko presenting at Purchase College during 2016 ACC Fellowship

When I arrived in NYC, I had some ideas for my next step. I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance. During the second half of my residency, I decided to continue my doctoral studies in New York, specifically at the Theatre Program, The Graduate Center CUNY. I took the time to comprehend more about the program and talk to the Executive Director of the Program. When I went back to Indonesia, I had a lot of work to do to submit my application to the program in the following admission year.

Alongside my main program as visiting scholar in the Segal Center, I had an excellent time exploring many genres of performance in the city—from Broadway musicals to experimental performances in Bushwick, play readings in small theatres to movement-based presentations in Judson Church every Monday, meeting artists at their place or briefly backstage. Every Thursday, I spent two hours to look at the theatre calendar and booked tickets for the following week. In October and January when many festivals happened, I literally ran from one theatre to catch another theatre performance. It was an unforgettable experience, as an artist and a theatre goer.

Juggling my hectic schedule, I explored the captivating life of the city—wandering through immigrant neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, spending time in museums and galleries to parks and flea markets to the nightclubs or local bars and coming home at 5 am. I believe the art residency, at the same time is a cultural residency. I need to know how the city breathes.


Joned Suryatmoko (center) with fellow ACC grantees at EJM Fund luncheon in 2017

While the Segal Center had its weekly roundtable conversation, my fellow grantees and I initiated monthly gatherings in our apartments. Typically, it also welcomed the new grantees that we had each month. They come from various countries in Asia such as Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and China. Not to mention they also come from different fields. I found it was very enriching to spend time together once a month to share what we had seen while we also cooked and enjoyed the meal together. As we circulated responsibility as the host, we had a different dinner every month. At this point, I realized that while Asian or Southeast Asian artists are neighbors, we barely visit each other. Later, after my residency, I started to position the Southeast Asian art scene as my main concern.

Several months after I came back to Indonesia, I submitted my application to the Graduate Center CUNY. I also sent one to ACC to support my Ph.D. Program. It was a couple of days before my birthday in March 2018 when I received an email from CUNY that they offered me Tuition Fellowship to do my Ph.D. in Theatre Program. In the following days, ACC also confirmed to support me as well.

So now, here I am. In New York City as a Ph.D. student in the theatre program. I still remember the questions that came to me before. What have we done? Where are we going? All these steps will lead me to a different chapter in my life. I know these questions will come again one day. 

 

Below: Joned Suryatmoko (far right) with Martin E. Segal visiting scholars during his 2016 grant