Ngesti Pandawa is a professional wayang wong or wayang orang art company located in Semarang. The Ngesti Pandawa wayang orang is housed in the Ki Narto Sabdho Hall in Taman Budaya Raden Saleh or the Taman Raden Saleh Cultural Complex at Jalan Sriwijaya 29, Semarang City, Central Java Province, Indonesia.
Ngesti Pandawa was founded in Madiun by Sastro Sabdo on July 1, 1937 with the aim of reviving the art of wayang orang panggung, wayang plays performed by human actors on a proscenium stage. Wayang orang panggung is a blend of court wayang orang (which was also called pendhapa wayang orang because it was performed in the pendhapa [the spacious open hall of Javanese stately mansions] instead on a stage) with western theatera. The founding of wayang orang Ngesti Pandawa was intended to preserve the art of wayang orang, and inspire a sense of love in traditional arts. The wayang orang performances also provide entertainment to the public. Sastro Sabdo’s mission was supported by Sastro Sudirdjo, Narto Sabdo, Darso Sabdo, and Kusni.
Since its founding, wayang orang Ngesti Pandawa has been much liked by the public. Not only by the Javanese but also by the Dutch and Chinese population. Wayang orang, from its early beginning, was a performing art that was enjoyed by a diverse audience, indigenous and non-indigenous.
Ngesti Pandawa has gone through a long historical journey in the city of Semarang. During that time, Ngesti Pandawa has had to move several times. In 1954, Ngesti Pandawa occupied a new building in the Gedung Rakyat Indonesia Semarang (GRIS) building complex at Jalan Pemuda 116 (currently Paragon City Mall Semarang).
From the 1960s to the 1970s, under the leadership of Sastro Sabdo and Narto Sabdo Ngesti Pandawa reached its peak of popularity and became an icon of Semarang. Ngesti Pandawa became a point of reference for other wayang orang groups in that era. Its theatrical scenery, musical accompaniment, costume, choreography, and stage tricks were emulated by other wayang orang groups.
In 1994, the GRIS complex was sold by the local government to a third party. Ngesti Pandawa had no home anymore, and had to move to the Taman Raden Saleh Cultural Complex and was housed in a theater bulding for two years. In 1996 it moved to the Majapahit Amusement Park and formed the Wayang Orang Ngesti Pandawa Foundation.
In 2001 Ngesti Pandawa was again given the opportunity by the local government to use a hall at the Taman Raden Saleh cultural complex. Ngesti Pandawa reserves the right to use the hall every three days in a week. However, regular performances are only staged on Saturday evenings starting at 8 pm.
Despite the ups and downs, the Wayang Orang Ngesti Pandawa continues to perform, keeping its mission to preserve Javanese culture and to entertain the people of Semarang and tourists visiting the city. Every Saturday at 8 pm Ngesti Pandawa is never fails to perform, presenting different lakons or stories from the vast wayang repertoire.
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