Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Puppet festival will `shake and astonish'

CULTURE This year's Yunlin International Festival of Puppetry, which starts next week, will feature 11 acts from nine foreign countries, as well as 23 local acts

By Evelyn Shih  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Performers put on a puppet show during a press conference in Taipei yesterday to promote the Yunlin International Festival of Puppetry, which is being held in Yunlin County this month. A series of performances will take place from the 9th to the 15th.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The third bi-annual Yunlin Interna-tional Festival of Puppetry was officially launched at the Red Theater in Shimenting yesterday. The festival, which will be held in Yunlin in central Taiwan, promises to "shake and astonish the martial scene" -- a phrase often used in the martial-arts drama of traditional hand-puppet shows.

"After touring worldwide and giving 40-some performances, I know that Taiwanese puppetry is extremely welcome abroad. I am pleased that this year we will be able to share our art at home in Yunlin," puppet master Chong Ren-bi (鍾任璧) said.

Featuring 11 acts from nine foreign countries and 23 local acts, the festival will be the largest ever, with the most international participants. Events include a historical exhibition on the development of Taiwan's hand-puppet art form from the 8th to the 25th of this month, and performances scheduled from the 9th to the 15th.

Two groups from China were denied passage to Taiwan by the Beijing government at the last minute, Yunlin's Government Information Office representative Lin Meng-yi (林孟儀) said.

Council for Cultural Affairs Chairman Chen Chi-nan (陳其南) lauded the festival as a part of Taiwan's native culture industry.

"This is a constructive integration of culture with education and tourism," he said.

Yunlin is the birthplace of Taiwan's most treasured puppet characters, and was home to more than 200 puppet troupes in its golden era, Vice County Governor Chang Ching-liang (張清良) said.

Chen, who is of Hakka descent, said that he learned the language as well as historical legends by watching puppet shows as a child. He criticized past actions by the Government Information Office to broadcast puppet shows on public television with a dubbed Mandarin soundtrack.

"Whether the history we learned was correct or not, the puppet show is a part of Taiwanese collective memory," Government Information Office Chairman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

The 105-year-old puppeteer Huang Hai-dai (黃海岱), a native of Yunlin, will be performing in his hometown tomorrow, where President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will present him with a lifetime achievement award.

"I feel a sense of accomplishment," said Huang's son Huang Jun-hsiung (黃俊雄), also a famous puppet master.

"Having dedicated my life to puppetry, I am very honored to know that the president and the international community are doing so much to promote the art form," he said.

Because of limited local language resources in Yunlin, the national Council for Cultural Affairs helped county organizers to acquire the services of translators, Lin Meng-yi said.

A call for fewer than 20 volun-teers attracted hundreds of college students nationwide. Those chosen have undergone training with the council, and will live with international puppet troops as translators and guides.

Lin Meng-yi said that, although more can be done to attract overseas puppeteers to the festival, the growing number of foreign troupes showed a blossoming relationship with the international community.

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