About 300,000 selected photographs recording a five-year tour of performances by entertainment troupe Paper Windmill Theatre (紙風車劇團) were officially accepted into the permanent collection at the National Museum of History yesterday, highlighting years of devotion and effort by the group and its supporters’ that aim to bring arts to children living in the country’s 319 townships.
Dubbed First Mile, Kid’s Smile: Arts for Children in 319 Townships, the tour was envisioned as a cultural movement dedicated to youngsters who are deprived of access to the arts in the nation’s rural areas.
Not accepting any government funding in order to remain autonomous, the troupe relied on individual donors, volunteers and corporate sponsors to bring a live 90-minute performance to any township that could raise NT$350,000 for the production that required a crew of 20 to 30 people.
The tour began in Yilan County’s Yuanshan Township (員山) in 2006. For the next five years, the troupe ventured into each one of the country’s 319 townships as far afield as Wuciou Island (烏坵), Kinmen County, where there are only about 40 inhabitants. The last show took place in New Taipei City’s Wanli Township (萬里) on Dec. 3 last year, in front of an audience of more than 6,000 people.
Designed to showcase different facets of the performing arts, the production combined theatrical performances, music, dance and multimedia shows with puppetry and an autobiographical theatrical piece that recounted the on-the-road adventures of theater director Wu Nien-jen’s (吳念真) when he was eight years old.
According to Chuang Chiung-ju (莊瓊如), the group’s artistic director, the troupe owed its success to everybody that had participated in the tour.
“In remote villages such as in Alishan (阿里山), school teachers and parents would charter buses to send children to see our shows. One of our most memorable performances was in Jianshih (尖石) in Hsinchu County [a remote Atayal community], where kids came from different hamlets in the mountains during a typhoon,” Chuang said at a press conference yesterday.
The troupe raised more than NT$260 million in the past five years through donations, and it is estimated that nearly 800,000 people attended its performances.
National Museum of History Director Chang Yui-tan (張譽騰) said he was initially surprised when Lee Yung-feng (李永豐), chief executive of the Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation, approached him regarding collecting the photographs.
“I want to thank [the Paper Windmill] for reminding us that our museum is not just about collecting antiques, but is also obligated to build relations and dialogues with society,” Chang said.
The photographs documenting about 380 performances over five years were shot by 14 volunteer photographers, including Tsai Yu-hao (蔡育豪) and Kao Hsiu-min (高修民).