The Jakarta Arts Theater, also known as Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, traces its history to British colonial times when Sir Thomas Raffles proposed its establishment. The original theater building was made of bamboo. It was called Military Theater Venue. When the Dutch took over, they replaced the bamboo theater in 1821 with a permanent building. Called Schouwburg Weltevreden, the new bigger building measured 144 by 60 feet. It used kerosene lamps and candles for lighting the interiors until 1882 when these were changed to electric lamps. However, the lighting for the exteriors continued to use kerosene lamps until 1910 when they too were converted to electric lamps.
The Dutch constructed the building for the purpose of having a place where they could hold social activities. Later on, it became a venue for theater performances instead. It has excellent acoustics, making it an ideal place for staging musicals and other performing arts. The name of the building was changed several times, and in 1987, it was officially called Gedung Kesenian Jakarta. That same year, it underwent major renovations. The building was carefully restored in order to preserve the old structure and maintain its usability. Today, the Jakarta Arts Theater continues to be a venue for local and even international performances. Having been maintained well, it has kept up with the demands of modern shows.
The Jakarta Arts Theater has a lot of unique features. Its main building has a grand hall at the front that retains the classic beauty and feel of the old structure. The building’s auditorium holds 370 seats, plus 75 more in the balcony. People with a disability or those in wheelchairs will have no trouble going to the auditorium because the building’s right wing has a passage made just for them. On the same wing, there is a small office for the theater’s management board. Next to the auditorium, there are two lounges where small celebrations are held after a successful performance.
The building is equipped with a modern sound system, lights, and projectors. At the back of the stage, there are artists’ waiting rooms and makeup rooms. In the same area, there is a decoration room where the decorations are kept and prepared before the performances.
If you are visiting the city, try to catch a show at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta. It would be awesome to have a first-hand experience of watching a show in an ancient building that’s nearly two centuries old yet equipped with modern equipment. Not everyone gets the chance to be treated to an amazing theater performance inside a historically significant structure.
The Jakarta Arts Theater is located at 1 Jalan Gedung Kesenian in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta. Beside it stands another old building, the Post Office. The theater remains to be one of the famous landmarks in the city. It stands as a reminder of the rich history of Jakarta and Indonesia as a whole. The building has witnessed some of the best performances ever held in the city from local and international artists.