Intricate puppets, expert manipulation, and lively music will take your breath away on Sunday, July 14, when the Taiwanese I Wan Jan Puppet Theater returns to Flushing Town Hall with a mesmerizing performance of Cave of Fire and Cloud.
The traditional Cave of Fire and Cloud story is adapted from Journey to the West, a well-known Chinese novel published in the 16th century that is considered one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. The high-energy, non-verbal episode includes exciting martial arts scenes. The show is recommended for ages seven and up.
I Wan Jan Puppet Theater is an acclaimed hand puppet troupe that led the revival of Bu Dai Xi, a traditional folk art that had declined with the advent of movies and television in Taiwan. Founded in 1931 by the highly-respected Taiwanese puppet master, Li Tien-lu, the fourth-generation Taiwanese hand puppet company is best known for its intricate puppet manipulation, which incorporates Peking opera-style techniques and lively classical Chinese music.
“I Wan Jan Puppetry is educational, entertaining and artistic,” says Dr. Hsing-Lih Chou, Flushing Town Hall Teaching Artist and Asian Arts Advisor. “Their amazing techniques, expressing all kinds of gestures, movements and body language, are unbelievably human-like. Everyone will easily enjoy their show.”
In addition to promoting hand puppetry in Taiwan, I Wan Jan also developed a storytelling style without Taiwanese dialogue. This has helped to make hand puppetry more accessible for global audiences, and I Wan Jan has performed in China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, and the United States.
Hand puppet shows, also known as Zhan-zhong-xi (drama of the palm of the hand) or Bu-dai-xi (cloth bag drama), have been a tradition in Taiwan for centuries. Traditional hand puppet performances are conducted by two teams: the “front stage” team, who operate the puppets, and the “back stage” team, who perform the music. The plays are typically adaptations from classical novels that incorporate history, mythology, and folk heroes.
Following the performance, I Wan Jan will host a family puppetry workshop. Puppeteers from I Wan Jan will demonstrate basic techniques of manipulating Chinese hand puppets for maximum drama. Participants will have a chance to use intricate hand puppets belonging to the troupe. The workshop is recommended for ages 10 and up, with prior registration required.
You can get a sense of what to expect from an I Wan Jan puppetry show in this video.
Performance tickets are $14, $10 for members, $8 for children, $6 for member children, and free for teens. Workshop tickets are $8, $5 for children, and free for members and teens with tickets to the performance (RSVP required). Tickets can be purchased at www.flushingtownhall.org or by calling (718) 463-7700 x222.
Flushing Town Hall is accessible by car, bus, train and foot—located a short distance from the 7 train—at 137-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing, Queens. Access for wheelchair users and individuals with limited mobility is available.
Once again, Flushing Town Hall is opening its doors to teenagers—for free. Under the “Teen Access Program,” all 13- to 19-year-old teens (whether a member or not) will be welcomed to attend any performance for free. The program is designed to appeal to students and help foster a greater love for arts and culture.