Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 15 News List

Italian puppets speakin many tongues

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

TT Puppet Theater has their hand in it again. Long the protector of local puppetry traditions, their offering tomorrow -- and every Saturday this month -- comes from the Italian tradition. For those familiar with the foreign-run company, this comes as no surprise. Company member Pippo Massimo helped bring Marco Polo to the tiny stage and this time is bringing Fagiolino.

Fagiolino and his friend Sandrone are the Laurel and Hardy of the Italian puppet stage. Their stories of buddy buffoonery have been passed from generation to generation both on the stage and in Italian homes, where the tales have taken on a life of their own.

"Sandrone is kidnapped by the bad Penelope and Fagiolino has to find him," Massimo offered as the simple plot of the coming production. But there are other stories of their odd-couple antics in which short, fat and gullible Sandrone plays the dupe to tall, thin and wickedly clever Fagiolino.

One story has the pair sitting on the seashore at dusk.

"Look over there how beautiful the water shines like gold in the sunset," Sandrone says.

"You idiot! It doesn't just look like gold. It is gold!" Fagiolino tells him. "Get a boat and row over there and scoop up as much as you can before it disappears! I'll stay here and distract people so no one wonders what you're up to."

Sandrone falls for it, but much later comes back cold, wet and of course empty-handed.

"You're too fat and slow!" Fagiolino tells his friend. "By the time you got there the sun was already slipping out of the sky and the gold was gone."

Massimo is well-versed in the Italian tradition, having first performed a traditional Italian puppet play in 1979 at 18 years old. In addition to traditional pieces, he has also created puppet plays of Nosferatu and Cyrano de Bergerac.

The novelty of TTT's production of Fagiolino -- and how the Italian tradition differs from Taiwanese puppet theater, Massimo said -- is that the characters interact with the children in the audience.

"The story is explained in Mandarin, but the puppets speak all languages," including Italian and English, Massimo said.

Fagiolino plays tomorrow at 3pm and every Saturday in June at the same time at the TTT Puppet Theater, located at 68 Minle Street in Taipei (台北市民樂街68).

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