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  The Staging

The translucent screen (kelir) is a rectangle of white cloth stretched on a bamboo frame and lit by an oil lamp (damar) hanging directly above the dalang's head. The primitive coconut-oil or a gas-flare lamp, set behind the screen, is preferred over an electric bulb as its warm, flickering flame dramatizes, enlarges, and mystifies the motions of the puppets.

'Wayang kulit' can also be staged in the daytime when the usual screen is replaced by twine tied between two poles or the branches of a tree, allowing the audience to view the puppets directly.

At the foot of the screen is the soft trunk of a banana tree where the pointed horn ends of the puppets are stuck when not in use.

The 'dalang' sits cross-legged next to a long, coffin-shaped wooden chest (kropak) in which is stored his puppets. Between the toes of the dalang's right foot is a buffalo horn taper with which he knocks out sharp raps on the kropak clapper, providing sound effects, punctuating the action, signaling starts and stops, changing the tempo and moods, and cueing the musicians.

Behind the 'dalang' sit the musicians, usually a virtuoso gender orchestra consisting of four xylophones in the case of the Mahabharata, plus a few 'kendang' and kettle gongs for excerpts from the Ramayana.

The musicians must play specific music-such as martial music or love music-consistent with the scene so that the music and drama match perfectly.

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