Catherine Diamond (PhD) is a Professor of Theatre and Environmental Literature at Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan. She is the author of Communities of Imagination: Contemporary Southeast Asian Theatres (2012), and the director/playwright of the Kinnari Ecological Theatre Project


Theatre of Animals and Gods: Zoo Animals Perform Themselves to Educate Humans

Abstract: This presentation examines the potential of performance in Southeast Asian zoos, specifically, the controversial intersection between animals, Balinese performing arts, zoo culture, and conservation education at the Bali Safari and Marine Park. It questions the ethics of animal performance of any kind and whether the claim of education about endangered wildlife is sufficient justification for using animals to perform. Any animal performance that takes place in a zoo raises questions about both the treatment of performing animals and what the animals are used to mean in the performance, and whether they should perform if the purpose is to further human understanding of their lives. The Gajah (elephant) and Harimau (tiger) shows at the Bali Safari and Marine Park present dramatic plots that incorporate living animals to re-enact their species’ survival skills, and the conflicts they face in the wild. These two shows are animal bio-dramas and suggest that the zoo can be a unique site for nature and culture integration through theatrical performance.
Keywords: Southeast Asian theatre, zoos, performing animals, Bali elephant shows, human-tiger relations