I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Tuesday May 24, 2016: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: 1st Floor Lobby

Founded by Tien-Lu Li in 1931, I Wan Jan is one of the finest hand puppet troupes in Taiwan and around the world. The name I Wan Jan describes the vivid, life-like hand puppet movements when controlled by their skillful masters.

I Wan Jan has performed on an invitation-basis around the globe since 1971, most recently in 11 Mexico cities in 2015. Their performances are often seen at international puppet festivals. In 2016, I Wan Jan will visit New York, Houston, and Ann Arbor for this special performance for the public at the Ann Arbor District Library. The troupe will perform the acclaimed “A Chance Encounter Leads to Marriage.” This event is cosponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library; the Michigan Taiwanese American Organization; The University of Michigan Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.

Live music is an integral part to an authentic, traditional hand puppet performance. Besides two puppeteers, the visiting troupe consists of eight musicians performing drums (single skin drum, flat drum), gong, cymbals, erhu, Chinese flute, dulcimer, and suona (Chinese double­reeded horn). A Q & A with the audience will follow.

This classic performance will showcase the puppets’ fine movements, such as the young male character folding a fan, the female character holding an umbrella, older male smoking, the clown decking chair, and street entertainers’ bustling martial arts and acrobatic acts.

The story begins with the play boy, DU-Xing, and his servants going into the market to watch street entertainment. PAN-Rong also arrives at the market with his daughter, PAN Yu-Zhi, to watch the show. DU Xing falls head-over-heels at PAN Yu-Zhi’s beauty and decides to kidnap her for himself. PAN-Rong’s cries for help attract XIAO Jin-Jun, a scholar well-versed in martial arts who comes flying to the rescue.

Although he was fluent in both southern and northern styles of folk drama music, Master Li was also credited for creating a new style of music called Wai Jiang School by blending rich Beijing Opera elements with the traditional Northern Style of folk drama music. After his passing in 1998, many of Master Li’s works have been digitized for future generations to enjoy (http://ltl.gac.ntnu.edu.tw/). His vision, persistence, and efforts in the authentic, traditional puppetry have kept this art form alive today.

There will be a related lecture on The Art of Taiwanese Glove Puppet Theater on Monday, May 23 at 8 pm at the Downtown Library.