Beginning this weekend and running through the Lunar New Year, TTT Puppet Center (
A real-life Robin Hood, Liao lived in the same neighborhood from which TTT Puppet Center gets its name, Tataocheng (
"That's where reality ends," said Robin Ruizendaal, who heads TTT Puppet Center and wrote and directed the production. "The rest of the tale is pure fiction." The Liao of the story is a reclusive hero whose face is badly scarred. Though he dares not approach her, he is in love with a beautiful young girl whose mother has been imprisoned for peddling her wares on the streets of Tataocheng. Desperate to pay the rent, the young girl goes to the temple to pray for good fortune. A cunning Liao hears the girl's prayer and, disguising himself as the temple god, gives the girl some money. It's not enough, however, and her landlord, a wealthy textile merchant, demands her hand in marriage.
"If she marries him," Ruizendaal explains, "the house she lives in would be hers and the merchant could pay her mother's way out of prison." The deal is done and it looks as though the newlyweds will live a peaceful life until the Japanese policemen pursuing Liao accidentally kill the wealthy merchant. They conspire to pin the blame on the fugitive Liao, ensuring that he will never have the chance to show the girl how much he loves her.
While it may not have the happiest of endings, Liao's fate in the story is far better than it was in reality. The real Liao was caught by the police and executed.
Bringing the puppets to life is one of Taiwan's foremost puppeteers, 72-year-old Chen Hsi-huang (
The Honorable Thief Liao Tianding will be performed tomorrow and Sunday at 3pm and every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm through the Lunar New Year holiday.