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The Last 5 Years, An Off-Broadway Musical

I had the great challenging call of co-producing The Last Five Years in this pandemic. During the process of filming this musical, the cast and crew engaged ourselves in a game of sides. Are we Team Jamie? Or are we Team Cathy? And why? Let’s dig a bit deeper into their relationship.


Cathy


She gives herself completely to Jamie in the relationship and is left “Still Hurting” (according to the title of the first song) after he cheats on various women and leaves her. It’s easy to sympathize with Cathy because she got burned! She got cheated on! Plus she is not as successful in her career, so we feel a certain pity for her.

Her insecurities as an actress affected her sense of self; eventually taking a toll on their relationship.


Jamie


He tastes success quite early on in his career, soon after they began their relationship. He was smitten with Cathy and “all of the ten thousand women” that she was. However, when his writing career continues to bloom, his ego gets inflated. He starts being unsatisfied with their relationship which leads to infidelity with various women.

We can see that in both situations, the relationship deteriorated in accordance with their sense of self. Where Cathy feels smaller and smaller, Jamie feels bigger and bigger. Neither is healthy. Both contribute to the end of the relationship, and both feel they are in the right.

How often do we deal with this in our daily lives! Sometimes we are Cathy, feeling worthless and demanding our loved ones to continuously take care of us. Sometimes we are Jamie, feeling ourselves better than the people around us, thinking we don’t need them anymore.

Ouch.

I think if there is anything I learned from The Last 5 Years process, it is to reflect upon my own sense of self and the relationships I have with the closest ones around me. I am imperfect, and so are them. We are all just doing what we can. Perhaps the question here is, what will happen in the next five years? Will we have learned, will we evolve or change? Or will we be stuck in our same old mindsets and make the same mistakes even if our partner is someone different?

The Last 5 Years is streaming now on kiostix, featuring Andrea Miranda as Cathy and Taufan Purbo as Jamie. Directed by Fonnyta Amran, you can purchase the streaming tickets on Kiostix.

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Belakang Panggung, the Musical

For International Women’s Day last year in 2020, my colleagues and I initiated Belakang Panggung the Musical as part of Lentera Sintas Indonesia‘s campaign of awareness towards sexual harassment. We staged 5 shows (plus an open dress rehearsal) on the weekend of 6-8th March at the French Institute Auditorium in Jakarta. The next day, Indonesia went into lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

I’m so glad we were able to “get away” with it, as it was a project I had been working on since 2017 after I met Sophia Hage.

The show gathered a huge amount of press recognition. Our main actress Mian Tiara, came out with harassment that was done to her in one of her recent films: Perempuan Tanah Jahanam.

Synopsis

A theatre company is staging the epic Ramayana. During rehearsals, sexual abuse issues surface and threatens the show and the reputation of its director. What happens when the main actress speaks up on the opening night?

Belakang Panggung was our critique of a society that judges, shames, and punishes survivors who speak up. At the same time, it was our plea to leaders in Indonesia to acknowledge this issue. They can start with approving RUU PKS, the proposed bill to eliminate sexual violence and support survivors.

We thank all patrons and individuals that supported us financially for the project. If you are interested to watch a recording of the musical, please contact me. It’s in Indonesian with English subtitles.

This year, I did a small campaign on my personal social media channels from the 1st of March until today, the 8th of March. It’s been a wonderful week of speaking up and advocating awareness surrounding an issue that is so personal to me. I thank all of you who have joined me with your voice, internet bandwidth, time, and resources.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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How Music Helped Me Deal with My Eating Disorder

This is a summary of my Instagram Live Interview last Friday 15th of Januray 2021 with Mutiara Nusantara International School in Bandung, Indonesia. It was hosted by Mely Sutrisno, School Director. I would like to thank the school and Ms. Mely for making the talk happen.

What is an eating disorder?

Let me give a disclaimer first that I am not a psychologist. I will be sharing what I experienced with eating disorders, from my point of view. There are three common types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Details of each type can be found in this great article by Healthline.

What type of eating disorder did you have? Was there a trigger that started the disorder?

My eating disorder was bulimia nervosa. At that time I was 12 years old, studying in a junior high school in Bandung. I was a very unhappy teenager. My relationship with myself was bad, I did not have a mentor to speak openly regarding emotional issues, plus ideals of beauty from images shown in the media were all factors that contributed to the disorder. The trigger however, was when a friend called me “montok” (which translates into curvy). I thought that being curvy was not beautiful, and so I had to do whatever I could to change my body. I had this disorder for 10 years, until I was 22 years old.

At which point did you realize that this was bad for you, and when did you try to stop?

At that time in Bandung, there was no awareness about eating disorders. So I did not realize that it was a destructive or dangerous habit. When I went to college in Michigan, there was more awareness about various types of disorders. Some people openly talked about their disorders. Student counseling services were also available, and that made me understand that this was something I needed to stop. From then, it took me about 4 more years to be able to heal from the disorder.

Did your family know you were dealing with bulimia? Or did you keep it all to yourself?

I kept it to myself because I was ashamed to be doing this. I did not know how they would react if they knew about my habits. My parents were also busy, so they probably did not notice the symptoms and my behavior patterns. At the time, they probably did not even know that such a disorder existed.

What are some symptoms or behavior patterns for parents of teens to look out for?

In our culture, we can easily miss the symptoms because one of them is eating a lot of food without control. We tend to encourage eating a lot, especially in family gatherings. So eating a lot can be (mistakenly) seen as a good thing. After the binging, I would always go to the bathroom to try to throw it out. So be on the lookout for that-going and staying in the bathroom for a longer period of time after one has eaten a lot of food.

Were you affected also by your social life in school?

For me, not so much. It was more the home situation, including the eating habits in the family. Older people tend to dump food on my plate, making it harder to be in control of my eating. So that’s a good tip for families: don’t put food on people’s plates, or force them to eat more food. Just let them serve themselves.

So how did you manage to stop the habit? How did you distract your emotions?

This is where music comes in for me. In college I studied piano performance so I had to practice 6-8 hours everyday. Piano practice required intense focus and high concentration. Since it was my degree program, I wanted to do it well. I needed to do it well, so I threw myself wholeheartedly into piano. One thing about music is that when we succeed to make better sounds, it feels great! It made me happy. I became proud of myself. (Check out this related post about how being happy helps to build a healthier mindset.)

Another factor was a college roommate that also had the same disorder. We trusted each other and made a pact to try to support and help each other change. This is crucial. I would not have been able to do it by myself.

What are activities would you suggest for teenagers who don’t like music?

Anything that is physical, requires concentration, and makes you happy. Drawing, dancing, sports,…lately I got into diving and that is an activity that requires full concentration underwater plus makes me really happy. But diving can be expensive, so just find another option that fits your budget!

Why should we try to stop the habit? What are the dangers if we live with that disorder?

Well, with anorexia you are malnourishing yourself, so you will be losing out essential nutrients your body needs. With bulimia, I was throwing up everyday. On my worst days I would throw up twice to three times. Imagine all that acid coming up through your system several times a day for years. It causes stomach, esophagus, and oral irritation and damage. Not to mention the emotional and mental destruction you are doing to yourself.

It is quite damaging for the long run. So one really should try to get help from a professional, or at the very least find a supportive community with a positive mindset.

Yes! And don’t get discouraged when you start trying to tell other people. Parents might not know how to react, some friends might not understand, but don’t get discouraged until you are able to find the help you need.

So what would your advise be if a child or friend told you that she/he is struggling with eating disorder?

Do not judge if your child or friend shares something with you. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of effort to be able to speak about it, so receive the words with care and love.

We’re at the end of our talk for today, do you have any last words for our teenagers?

Being a teenager is so difficult isn’t it? I hated being a teenager. But life gets better. As you get older you will have more experiences and be more confident in handling others and handling yourself. Hang in there.

Okay! I think that’s a good end for today. Thank you very much for your time, and I wish the best success for your music, work, and writings.

Thank you so much for the invitation and the opportunity. Have a good evening 🙂

*The full interview (in Indonesian) can be accessed on Sekolah Mutiara Nusantara IGTV.