交陪_4_5

時間 2015年8月18日
受訪人 蘇俊穎
參訪人 龔卓軍、羅文岑、林雅雯
地點 蘇俊穎阿公家
整理───陳湘汶
翻譯───藍文婷、王莉雰

布袋戲──家庭的啟蒙

小時候的我是個蠻自閉的人,家裡因為開雜貨店來來去去的人很多,開店時家裡都是陌生人,在家玩還會被大人趕來趕去,所以我大部分時間都跑到廟口玩。在廟口我也只能看戲或跟廟裡的老人們聊天,他們喜歡說些神明的故事,讓我慢慢對廟產生興趣。除此之外,我一開始對布袋戲也沒有概念,但因為阿嬤的偶像是史艷文,從小就聽她一直說史艷文的故事,後來我在書局買了一、兩尊三十元的尪仔回來玩,小朋友來我家,我就演戲給他們看。
附近的土公仔、撿骨的,或是議員等也會來家中的雜貨店聊天,我就在旁聽著。從小我就聽他們說這些有的沒的故事,像是昨天撿骨的撿到一具被火車輾死的屍體,肉都還在鐵軌上,議員說官場的經歷,工程花了幾千萬等等。自然而然地,我學會了他們的語氣,從有錢人、小老百姓或是大官們講話的模式,也就運用在之後的表演上,觀眾亦覺得滿新鮮的。傳統布袋戲有布袋戲的調,像「經書讀萬貫」就是經書讀萬卷的意思,又或是「舞藝十八般,非是誇大口,智勇兩雙全。」等等臺詞,觀眾常聽不太懂。所以我當時雖然才唸國小,卻已經開始想些有趣的方式去演布袋戲。
後來在新市國中讀美術班時,慶安宮被列為古蹟正在整修,我也跑去跟畫師們聊天,開始對廟內的彩繪產生興趣,在廟裡面看到整個屋脊向上揚起,看到藻井、雕刻,印象中還記得有面壁畫上畫著一位女生騎著大象,當時我心想為什麼女生要騎大象呢?這些事情讓我開始對廟中的彩繪、建築等產生興趣。廟裡也有很多善心人士捐贈的書,記得國中第一次畫十八層地獄,就是因為廟裡有本《玉歷寶鈔》描寫地獄的情景,我就畫了那些關於地獄、神像等等的情景。
雖然我國小時成績都是班上前幾名,但是到了國中後不愛讀書,成績掉到最後一名,開始學人作弊,但因為我們家裡開雜貨店人來來往往,很多人會跟家裡長輩說我在班上的表現等等,這讓我感到厭惡,導致身心壓力很大。再加上班上同學都從國小就開始學素描、西方藝術,他們覺得我畫得很醜,所以我跟同學的互動也不好,直到我遇見了一位老師,他一直鼓勵我畫畫,才持續維持創作。另一方面因為我課業不好,爸媽就將我送到私立的興國高中,那時我狀況更變本加厲了。我在學校會幫普通班的學生交美術作業,普通一張可能五十元,有些還能賺到上千塊!後來我自己坐火車到臺南市,再轉搭公車去安平買戲偶,一尊幾百元,從那時開始我累積大概幾百尊。我就是像瘋子般地愛上尪仔,像是得了「戲癌」,不斷地買,後來我就感覺自己越來越像演布袋戲的人了。
我舅舅在善化是主持廟宇法會的道主,廟整修完後常會舉辦法會,我高中放學後就會跑去看活動,有人演鬼,道士斬妖。看到那些廟整修後只掛了幾幅圖,氣氛變得很凝重,我覺得廟的氣氛很有趣,所以高中美術班畢業後我開始創作一些作品,例如是燒金紙等關於宗教的畫作。準備報考大學時,我選填文化大學國劇系,面試的時候我表演布袋戲的「科仔」,「科仔」就像是布袋戲中的Rap或數來寶,那時候我覺得自己穩上,最後卻落榜了,才知道那些國劇系的老教授根本聽不懂臺語。高中時我參加很多比賽都有得名,想說以後應該能在臺北發展得不錯,沒想到考文化大學卻落榜,很心灰意冷,開始懷疑布袋戲是不是真的沒人看得懂?在如此悲觀時,突然就像電影情節般,一張單子飛過來,是臺南科技大學美術系的報考單,我想必定是天意,就死馬當活馬醫去考試,結果竟然正取第九名!
臺南科技大學在永康,雖然離我家蠻近的,但我堅持不回家住,想要自己在外面做些事情。進了大學後,我成立布袋戲社團,開始學黃俊雄講口白。一開始社團沒有經費,半尊尪仔也沒有,所以用保麗龍包一包,蓋起來就能當藏鏡人,我們做了兩尊很「菜」的布袋戲偶去接表演,後來逐漸存到經費,慢慢地買很多尪仔。在社團練習時我們都放黃俊雄的錄影帶,研究他的音調,例如鼻子要用多少力才會像秦假仙、喉嚨要加多少力才像史豔文;另外還看了口技的書,學共鳴,這些操偶技術都是自學而來的。那時有很多學校同學也有興趣,大家就用報紙糊,做了很多畸形的道具跟尪仔湊合著用,一學期也接了兩百多場戲。雖然幾十個人出去,才拿三、四千塊,有些人用童軍繩把戲臺綁在摩托車上,有些人就背著尪仔,一群人參與很好玩,跑過各式各樣的場地。
因為大學時有做道具,也有基本的演戲概念,也認識一些做戲的人,畢業後就直接進業界工作,有人請師傅,大夥就過去,因為現在布袋戲劇團沒辦法養十幾個人,所以當某個人接到表演後,其他人就去幫忙,四處去跟別人合團表演。
有次我在嘉義演史豔文,那天有記者去錄影,沒多久,我接到了黃俊雄要告我侵權的存證信函,這對當時大學剛畢業的我很傷,而且我當初還把他當成偶像,結果竟然被他告,心裡非常難過,有段時間就變得不想演戲。
之後我開始當起代課老師,人家知道我會畫畫,還會演布袋戲,剛好當時有在推動一校一特色,很多學校對布袋戲有興趣,我就從崇明國小開始教,也慢慢發現小學生其實很愛。雖然他們從小沒有接觸過尪仔,但還是覺得很好玩,除了對布袋戲感到好奇,也會自創一些很怪的臺詞,例如說「你這個人謀甘丹(不簡單),」再接著說「沒丹丹不會去吃麥當勞喔!」慢慢地我重拾了對布袋戲的熱情,也繼續去買尪仔。
有些做尪仔的老師會覺得這行業沒希望不想做了,我就去把他們的尪仔買回來加妝,把醜女變成巫婆,把壞人畫成Lady Gaga,慢慢地我成立了劇團,又有去各地表演的機會,也發現觀眾對這些改編的劇情滿感興趣。
如果要復興布袋戲文化,觀眾很重要。現在臺灣缺少觀眾,以前小朋友放學就由阿公帶去廟口看戲,他們長大後也自然會繼續看戲,可是現在小朋友放學是去補習,補習完回家寫功課,沒有機會去廟口,所以廟口活動自然而然就沒落了,沒了觀眾廟方也會縮減價格,而表演的水平就落在價格上面。

現實中打造傳統與創新的溝通平臺

我真正的興趣就是演戲,當老師只是為了給父母一個交待、混口飯吃,畢竟現在的大環境,演戲很難賺錢。像是在廟口做戲,很多人都會說扮仙就是尪仔插一插放著,甚至說一位賣芭樂的,可能在廟口看久了自己就能演了,現在反正只要畫個布景,買些尪仔擺弄一下,廟方付個幾千塊就解決了。其實以前一場戲至少需要兩位弄尪仔,口白、配樂、拿道具各需一位,基本都要五個人,成本算下來一萬至兩萬,但現在削價競爭後,一場只要三、四千塊就有人做。所以就算表演得再好,只要開價上萬就會讓廟方想說不如去請幾千塊的來做就行了。
大學畢業時我大概賺過一百多萬,但是因為都拿去買裝備,所以身上存款可能不到幾萬塊。好的表演必須投入很多成本,要把一個劇團經營好其實無法賺錢,家裡的人也很擔心這樣能不能生活。一路上我都是靠很多朋友幫忙,像把美術系的同學找來做海報、做道具等等,不過在傳統師傅的眼裡看來,我們做的東西根本就是屎,例如我們會考慮畫裡的色塊要保留筆觸,但是師傅會罵說:「這樣畫太髒了,賣不出去!」在老師傅的觀念裡,覺得布景畫面要保持乾淨,讓尪仔可以被突顯,只要有透視的深度就好,不用著墨在小線條上。他們也有透視的概念,只是現在的跟他們本來所擁有的東西容易產生衝突,兩個時代間有斷層,不過我覺得好玩的是我兩邊都有攝取到一些,但有時候做出來,可能就讓人覺得四不像。我今天刻了五隻小豬,叫做「豬豬家族」,生、旦、淨、末、丑,但師傅就覺得我在胡搞。不過台中施炎郎老師他說在淨這角色的偶頭上貼上紋身貼紙,便可以變成花臉,他們想像的創新就是做些小東西,所以我現在就是要學些傳統的技巧、訣竅和公式,讓自己的東西做出來是創新卻不失傳統。
如果要吸引年輕人來看,我認為就得做些新的道具,在演戲的過程中增加笑點,同時還要教他們一些事情,例如「看三小」其實不是髒話,那是以前一齣布袋戲裡面要有小生、小旦、小丑、男主角、女主角,所以看戲就叫看三小,當把這些知識加進去後,觀眾也會覺得有趣,認為看戲也可以學到東西。另一方面,傳統的布袋戲我們還是會學,像是傳統戲中的女生梳頭髮、嬌滴滴的步法都跟男生不同,傳統戲就美在這些細微的動作能被演得很精緻。很可惜的是現今在廟口前演出的傳統戲,觀眾已經沒有那麼多時間看,也不懂得「眉角」在哪裡。對我而言,廟口演戲反正也不能拿到多少錢,自己想怎麼呈現就怎麼呈現,演到忘我的境界就兩隻手演,自己爽就好,甚至還可以罵一罵政治。這種東西就是從小沒有正式跟著戲班、沒有固定的語言,所以還能說些廢話,引觀眾笑,符合觀眾的胃口,自然能把舊的東西換成新的語言。
透過電視播出的布袋戲跟現場表演是不一樣的世界,在電視上它可以經由後製做得很精緻,它是件作品,像看畫般隨時可以讓人細細品嘗;現場演戲是要將當下的氛圍營造出來,旁邊廟口有人賣芭樂、烤魷魚、香腸等等,你要勝過那些小吃的香味,要戰勝它們。現場演戲不像電視播放那樣單純,為什麼現場演戲要有爆破、噴煙、灑水的特效,因為要藉由這些特殊的效果才能直接把觀眾吸引進戲裡。另外,電視戲偶可能就一尊小小的很精緻,照人的比例去縮小,甚至皮膚還有毛細孔,動畫效果就用特效軟體做一做,但現場就需要變電箱牽兩條電線後,再用兩支鐵條敲打,火花才會噴出來,或者用殺蟲劑一噴做出噴火的效果,有時也用去漬油塗在板子上點火等,我們甚至還會自己學炸藥的技術。其實臺灣幾十年來,內臺戲有太多菁華,只是沒落後就被遺忘,現在反而只要把這些舊東西重新拿出來,大家也會嘆為觀止。
我們現在也做動畫當背景播放,同樣是把舊的東西重新包裝後給觀眾看,布袋戲的表演是沒有國界的,外國人來看也能知道哪個角色是好人,哪個是壞人。至於劇情,假設我演三天的戲,我會安排第一天把觀眾吸引過來,第二天再演劇情,觀眾看劇情後就會想留到第三天看最後的結局,所以第三天就會是一個大會合,有驚奇、有劇情,觀眾才會覺得這三天的看戲是有趣的。
除了在廟口之外,我們也曾去泉州、四川、澳門、廈門等地表演,有次也進到高雄市立美術館內做表演。在中國大陸的演出,懸絲傀儡較多,布袋戲較少,而且演老人的就一輩子專門演老人,一人就一個角色,所以他們能把單一角色的表演做到極致,像《大門府》幾百年來都是師徒傳承,但反而少了很多創意與創新。所以當我到那邊表演,他們就很驚嘆原來布袋戲也可以這樣,對我的道具、角色都很感興趣,覺得臺灣的布袋戲真的很天馬行空,而且處處都是自己文化的味道。我會刻鳳梨來創造成住在關廟的鳳梨大俠,還有香蕉等等讓人聯想到臺灣,這個島國的特色真的太多了,這些特色也引起更多觀眾的共鳴,而且有時反而出國表演的效果更好,雖然語言不通,但他們看到角色的設計就會大笑,反觀在臺灣,觀眾卻不願意去看,覺得傳統的東西一定都沒有新意。

信仰與藝術

關於信仰方面,傳統是對演戲有規範的,例如我們就不能說「蛇」這個字,因為我們的祖師爺「西秦王爺」曾經在樹下休息時,有隻大蟒蛇要咬祂,當時祖師爺的忠犬就與牠互咬,結果兩敗俱傷,後來西秦王爺就很怕蛇,所以我們做戲就不能講到這個字。再來我們第二位祖師爺「田都元帥」,祂是棄嬰,被毛蟹救了一命,所以我們也都不吃螃蟹。
有信仰才會對戲有尊重,我今天演戲要出神入化,演的人要演得出神,看的人要看得入神。信仰能寄託在別的東西身上,譬如說我今天表演是有神明在看,神明保佑我演戲,尪仔不是工具而是夥伴。雕刻時,我們要灌輸神韻在尪仔裡面,本身如果沒有信仰就沒有念力,刻出來的尪仔就會四不像。例如我有基督教或是其他宗教的朋友,他們學做傳統的尪仔,可能會像塑鋼土仿製的,成果看起來就沒有味道,因為他們對這些尪仔沒有感情。所以我認為藝術創作的當下一定要有興趣、有感念去做,才會有神韻。
小時候媽媽會拿錢給我說:「俊穎拜託你不要再待在廟裡了,你改去泡網咖、去玩電動好了。」結果後來媽祖就托夢來罵他們說我去廟裡幫忙,不要阻止。所以我個人從小就跟神明接觸,像是廟兵一樣,甚至我每次要畫畫前,都會去點香跟神明說我要畫祢了,過程中才會把心靜下來畫畫。信仰,是一種念力。
以前我看藝術作品時也會用心去看筆觸、力道等,但隨著心境不同,現在所感受到的也都不一樣了。有些藝術品沉澱於內心的自我空間,那氛圍實在太安靜,讓我有點難受。我們這種奔放、散發出熱情的表演者,很討厭去美術館演戲,大家都很沉默,不過轉念一想,其實也是種挑戰,我一定要讓觀眾笑,他們如果笑不出來我就會很難過。
現在臺灣在傳統技藝的傳承上有很多問題,像歐洲教堂內古典的壁畫吸引許多人前去觀看,也帶動了文化保存的風氣;日本各式祭典吸引很多人去看,也讓古老的宗教儀式得以傳承下來,這些特有的建築及活動帶動著當地傳統技藝的傳承,但臺灣不一樣,如果人們不知道以前在做什麼就不會想接近,也不會去參與,沒有新的事物進入當然也沒有新的火花,文化壽命的延續力不足也就慢慢沒落了。政府應該要去思考怎麼把布袋戲變成臺灣特有的文化,進而去推廣,例如發給證書等等,讓年輕人增加想去學的動力。臺灣有很多很美的文化,大家如果不重視或者對它有錯誤的觀念,這個帽子一被戴上就沒有其他發揮的可能性。臺灣像是文化的大雜燴,好不容易經過幾百年的時間,才生出自己在地的文化,結果現在沒有被好好地延續,反而被誤解、被討厭,如果最後臺灣變成一個沒有文化的國家,那就太恐怖了。


 

Faith as a Motive for Innovation
───── Jun-ying Su

Time: August 18, 2015
Interviewee: Jun-ying Su
Interviewers and Guests: Jow-jiun Gong, Mirr Lo, Juliet Lin
Location: Su’s grandfather’s house
Compiled by Hsiang-wen Chen
Translated by Wen-ting Lan, Li-fen Wang

Glove Puppetry—Enlightenment from Family

I enjoyed being alone. When I was little, my family ran a grocery store. Many people would come and go, and most of them were strangers. I spent most of the time playing in front of the temple, because the adults told us not to play in the store. I could only talk to the elders in the temple or watch the shows in front of it. Most of the shows were about the story of gods, which made me gradually develop interests in temples. At first I knew nothing about traditional glove puppetry. My grandmother idolized Sú Iām-bûn, one of the most popular characters in Taiwanese glove puppetry, and told me lots of stories about him. Then, I paid thirty dollars for one or two puppets at a bookstore, and when friends came to my home I would play the puppets for them.
Bone collectors, undertakers, and councilors would come to the grocery store for chit-chat. I would sit beside them and listen, so basically I grew up with lots of stories. For example, one bone collector said he attended to a dead body crushed by a train and the flesh parts were still stick on the rail. The councilors talked about the experiences working as a government official and how tens of millions of dollars were spent on a construction project. So I picked up their tones naturally, and learned different ways of speaking from moneybags and government officials to ordinary people. I then included those in my performances. The audiences also found it interesting. Traditional glove puppetry has its own set of tones, for example, to “study tens of thousands of scriptures” means to study scriptures enormously, or “eighteen martial arts, not exaggerating, wise and brave that’s what I am” means “Mastering all kinds of martial arts is not an exaggeration, I am wise and brave.” Usually, the audiences did not understand these kinds of lines. Therefore, although I was just in elementary school, I started to think about interesting ways to perform glove puppetry.
When I studied art in Hsinshih Junior High School, Chin-An temple was under renovation and was listed as national heritage. I chatted with the painting artists working there and started to grow interests in temple painting. I still remember the ridge of the roof curved upward, the caisson ceiling, the sculptures and a painting on the wall in which a woman rode an elephant. I wondered why the woman wanted to ride an elephant. It was because of all these things that I started to have interest in temple painting and its architecture. I remember when I was still in junior high school, I read a donated book called The Jade Calendar which described the scenes in hell. I then drew my first picture that depicted the scenes of the eighteen levels in hell according to Buddhist stories.
I was one of the best in the class in my elementary school. When I went to junior high, I did not like study and became the worst in my class. I also learned how to cheat. Many people came to the grocery store and they often told my family about how I did in the class, which made me feel sick and pressured. Moreover, all of my classmates had learned about sketch and western art since they were in elementary school, so they thought my drawing was ugly. That was why I did not have a good relationship with them. Not until I met a teacher, who had been encouraging me to draw, did I continue to create. My parents sent me to private Hsing Kuo Senior High School because of my bad grades, but the situation became even worse. I did the fine art assignments for students in regular classes and charged them fifty dollars for each case. Sometimes I could even earn more than a thousand dollars. With the money, I took a train to Tainan city and transferred to Anping by bus to purchase a puppet worth hundreds of dollars. Since then I have collected around hundreds of puppets. I was crazily in love with the puppets. It was like “puppet cancer” to me and I could not stop buying those puppets. I felt I was like a glove puppetry performer.
My uncle is a host in charge of ceremonies for temples in Shanhua. Usually when a temple finished a reconstruction project, they would have a ceremony. After school, I liked to see the ceremonies in which people played ghosts and Taoist priests would slaughter the ghosts. With only a few paintings on the wall after the reconstruction, the atmosphere suddenly became serious. I found the atmosphere of temples very interesting, so after I graduated from senior high school, I started to create some works related to religion, such as the scenes of burning paper money for the dead. I wanted to study at the Department of Theatre Arts of Chinese Culture University when applying for university. When I was having the interview, I performed kho á, which can be seen as the rap or doggerel in glove puppetry. I thought I would definitely get myself a place in the class, but I failed. Later I found out the reason that I failed was because the professors did not understand Taiwanese at all, so they had no clues about what I was performing. I won a lot of awards in high school, and I thought I was going to have a bright future in Taipei. I never thought I would fail the entry exam. I was so frustrated and started to wonder maybe no one would understand glove puppetry. At that very sad moment, a piece of paper was sent to me just like one of those movie scenes. It was an application form of Department of Fine Arts of Tainan University of Technology. I thought this must be fate and I had to try anyway. The result was I got the ninth place in the entry exam.
Tainan University of Technology is in Yongkang, which is not far from my home. But I insisted on moving out because I wanted to engage more in puppetry. I established a glove puppetry club in university and started to learn the dialogic expressions of Chun-hsiung Huang, a leading figure in Taiwanese glove puppetry. At the beginning the club did not have funds, not to mention puppets, so we had to make tsông kiànn lîn “Mirror Man” (a popular character in Taiwanese glove puppetry) by using styrofoam and cloth. We made two very “rough” puppets to perform. Gradually we managed to save some money to purchase puppets. During the practice sessions we watched videos of Chun-hsiung Huang and studied his tones. For instance, how hard we had to press our nose to create the voice like Tsin Ké-sian (another popular character in Taiwanese glove puppetry) and how much force we had to use on our throat to speak like Sú Iām-bûn. We also studied how to do vocal impersonation from books, and learned resonance and manipulating the puppets all by ourselves. Many students in the university were also interested in puppetry.
We then made lots of rough props and puppets with newspapers and managed to perform more than two hundred shows in one semester. We, a group of dozens of people, could only get three to four thousand dollars for each performance. Some of us had to fix the stage onto motorbikes with ropes, and others had to carry the puppets on their back, but we still had fun visiting different venues.
I had some basic knowledge about performance and making stage props in university and had also known some people who were in the theater business, so I went for puppet show business soon after graduation. The puppet show business then was not big enough to support a troupe consisting of about a dozen people, so when someone got a case, others in the troupe would also go and help, or sometimes we would co-operate with other troupes.
One time when I was performing Sú Iām-bûn in Chiayi, a journalist came and videotaped my show. Later I got a legal attest letter from Chun-hsiung Huang saying that my performance was an infringement. I felt very upset because I just graduated from university and was sued by my idol. For a period of time, I just did not feel like performing.
Later on, I became a substitute teacher. People knew I could draw and perform puppet show. Coincidently, many schools were interested in glove puppetry because of the government’s policy which aimed to develop each school’s unique feature. I started to teach at Chongming Elementary School. Gradually, I found that in fact the students loved to play puppets. Although they did not have the chance to learn glove puppetry before, they found it very interesting. Apart from the curiosity about glove puppets, they also created some interesting lines and puns by themselves, such as, “lí bô kán-tan” (“you are something” in Southern Min). Then the next line is: “if you don’t have Tantan (a Taiwanese fast food store) why don’t you go to McDonald!” Because of these, my passion for glove puppetry was reignited and I went on buying puppets.
Some craftsmen thought there would be no future for the puppetry industry and they did not want to put any more effort into it, then I would buy their puppets and redecorate them. I could turn an ugly puppet into a witch and make a villain into Lady Gaga. Gradually, I established my troupe and got chances to perform in many places. I also found out audiences were quite interested in adapted plots.
I think the audiences are crucial if we want to revitalize the glove puppetry culture. At this moment, what we need is audience. In the past, grandfathers would take grandchildren to the square in front of a temple to watch puppet shows after school so that they would go to puppet shows naturally after they grow up. But nowadays, children go to cram schools to study and then go home to finish their homework. They do not have the opportunity to go to a temple, so temple events have declined. Without the audiences’ support, the temple will cut the budgets, but the quality of shows depends on the amount of money a troupe can get.

Striving for a Platform Where Tradition Meets Innovation

What I really want to do is to perform. Being a teacher is to assure my parents I have a stable income. After all it is hard to survive just by performing puppetry in this environment. People say to manipulate puppets you only need to put them on the stage and leave them there, they even say a peddler who sells guavas can perform puppetry if he stays in the square in front of a temple long enough. The current situation is that after you set the scenery and have some puppets to manipulate, you can then perform your show. The temple will pay you a few thousand dollars and it is done. In the old days, you needed two puppeteers, you still need one more to speak the dialogue, another for the music, and still another for stage props, making it at least five people to perform a show with the cost up to ten to twenty thousand dollars. But now, some people are willing to do a show for the price of three to four thousand dollars just to get a case. Once the price is higher than ten thousand dollars, the temple committee would rather have someone else who charges less regardless of how good you are.
I earned more than a million dollars when I graduated from university, but I spent most of the money on equipment and only had tens of thousands of dollars left. If you want to have a show with good quality, you have to invest a lot. You cannot make a fortune if you want to run a troupe well, and that is why my family worries about my living. I have had a lot of help from friends. For example, my friends in the fine art department helped me with posters and props, but the things we made were pieces of junk to traditional craftsmen. Once we considered retaining some brushwork traits in a painting, but the craftsmen yelled at us, “This looks too complicated. It will never sell!” Old craftsmen hold that the scenery has to be clean, so that it brings out the puppets. As long as visual depth is achieved, a craftsman does not put too much attention to small details. They know about perspective, but their concept often contradicts to what we have now. There is indeed a generation gap, but I still believe I have learned from both the old and the young generations. On the other hand, it means the pieces I create are neither fish nor fowl. For example, I carved five piggies and named them “The piggy family.” Each of them represents a different character in puppetry, they are: Sheng: the male leading character; Dan: the female leading character; Jin: the supporting male character; Mo: the supporting elderly male role; Chou: the jester. The old masters thought I was mischievous, but Master Yang-lang Shi from Taichung said if I put some tattoo stickers on piggy Jin’s face, it would become Hua-lien (the male role with a quick-tempered and treacherous personality). They use small things to innovate, but what I need now is to learn traditional techniques, tricks and programming. I want to make my creations innovative but still keep traditional traits.
If we want to attract more young audiences, I think I have to create new stage props and add some humors in the show. Also, I can teach them some things in the show. For instance, the phrase “What the three littles are you looking at” (“What the hell are you looking at?” in Southern Min) is not foul. It was because in the past puppetry needed to have little Sheng, little Dan, little Chou, the leading male role and the leading female role, so “what the three ‘littles’ are you looking at” refers to watching a puppet show. When you add this kind of information into performances, the audiences will find them fascinating and they can learn something new. Meanwhile, we still learn traditional puppetry. For example, the ways a female puppet walks or combs her hair are different from those of a male character. But that is the beauty of the tradition which enables detailed movements to be shown with dexterity. It is a shame that the audiences today do not have time to enjoy traditional puppetry, neither do they understand where the “highlights” are. To me performing in the square in front of a temple does not make much money, but the advantage is I can perform whatever I want and I can immerse myself in the play. To enjoy myself is the thing I care the most, and I can even criticize politics. The reason why I can do so is that I did not learn puppetry from the troupe, so I am not restrained by any fixed languages. I can talk about nonsense to make people laugh and perform the shows that audiences like. Naturally I can transform the tradition into a new language.
Unlike the glove puppetry on TV in which you can add special effects to make it exquisite like an artistic work or a painting to be enjoyed anytime you want, live puppet shows must create proper atmosphere on the spot. There are people touting guavas, backed squids, and sausages at the temple square, so you have to beat the smell of food and win the audiences over. Different from TV puppetry which can be edited, live puppetry has to create lots of special effects along the show. Explosions, smokes, or water spray are the tools to draw people’s attention. Moreover, a puppet on TV is small and exquisite as it is the miniature of a real man. Some even have pores on their face, and the animation was created by software. But in a live show you have to have a transformer box on site and wire two iron bars to create the sparkles when you tap two of them together. You may also need to spray some insecticide to create the spitfire. For that same special effect, sometimes we put cleaning naphtha on a board and ignite it. We even learn how to make explosives. There are too many back stage stories to tell. Sadly they are forgotten when the puppetry culture declines. Now if we bring back those old tricks, people will still be amazed.
We now have animation as background scenery, and we can re-package old techniques to introduce them to our audiences. There is no boundaries for puppetry. Foreigners who coming see a show can tell which one is the good guy and which one is the villain. As for the plot, if I am going to perform for three days, I will try to get people’s attention on the first day, and then to perform the repertoire with interesting plots on the second day. By doing so, people would want to come on the third day to watch the ending. Therefore, the shows on the third day have to integrate surprises into plots. The audiences will then find watching puppetry in these three days an interesting experience.
Besides the performances in the square in front of temples, we performed in Quanzhou, Sichuan, Macau, and Xiamen in China and once in Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art. There are more marionettes than glove puppetry in mainland China and a puppeteer plays only one kind of character throughout his whole career, so the puppeteers there can often show the best quality of a character. However, the case like “Da Men Fu” which has been passed down through apprenticeship for hundreds of years is less innovative and creative, so when I performed there, they were all amazed to know that glove puppetry could be presented in this way, and they were all interested in my stage props and characters. They also found Taiwanese puppetry very creative and could see the traits of Taiwanese culture. I would carve a pineapple as a Pineapple Hero living in Guanmiao and use a banana to associate people with Taiwan. As an island country, Taiwan has so many unique features, and most of the audiences also respond to those features. Sometimes the reaction of the audiences is better in foreign countries although we do not speak the same language. Once they see the design of the characters they all laugh, on the contrary, audiences in Taiwan do not appreciate the shows because they think tradition means something outdated and lacks innovation.

Religious Belief and Art

As for religious belief, there are several conventions in our profession. For example, we cannot say the word “snake” in our performance because of a myth. It is said that a large python wanted to bite our patron deity Lord Xiqin when he was resting under a tree. His loyal dog fought with the python and both of them were seriously injured during the fight. Therefore, Lord Xiqin had fear for snakes ever since, so we cannot say the word. The other convention is about our second patron deity “Marshal Tiandu.” He was an abandoned baby and was saved by a mitten crab. Therefore, we do not eat crabs to express gratitude for the mitten crab.
Only when we have religious belief do we have respect for our performances. The audiences and puppeteers should be fully involved in the show so as to make a performance perfect. The belief can be transferred. Suppose I have to perform to gods, I believe they will bless me and then the puppets are no longer tools but my partners. When carving a puppet, we have to put our soul in it. Otherwise, the puppets you carve will not meet your expectation. I have friends who are Christians or believe in other religions. The puppets they make all look like those made with plastic soil and have no souls. Because they do not put love or emotions in the making of puppets. That is why I believe when creating artistic works one must create with interest and gratitude for the pieces to have a soul.
My mother would give me money when I was still little and said, “Jun-Ying please don’t go to temples any more. You can go to an internet café or play video games instead.” One day my family had a dream in which the goddess, Matsu, told them not to stop me from going to temples because She needed my help. Because I have associated with gods since I was a child, I am like a soldier in a temple. Every time I paint in a temple, I would calm myself by lighting joss sticks to tell gods that I am going to paint for them. For me faith is the motive.
Before I would concentrate on the brushwork and the force put in art pieces, but now that my state of mind changes, the feelings I have is also different from before. Some of the pieces reflect the inner world of the artists and the viewers of the artistic works are too quiet, which makes me feel uncomfortable whenever I perform in museums, because people like us are passionate performers who engage audience with our passion. But from a different point of view, I should take it as a challenge. I ought to make audiences laugh and I will be very upset if they do not.
We are facing serious problems with carrying on traditional crafts in Taiwan. The frescos in European churches attract many people, and they also promote the concept of cultural preservation. Various Japanese festivals fascinate people and also help to pass down the traditional religious ceremonies. These unique architectures and festivals enable local traditions to be passed down to future generations. As for Taiwan, people do not want to understand or participate in these events if they have not done so before. If you do not put new things into traditions, there will be no sparkles, and if there is not enough sustainable driving force to preserve traditions, the cultures will slowly decline. The government should be thinking about how to make glove puppetry a unique Taiwanese culture and promote by say issuing certificates to people engaging in it. Then, younger generations will have an incentive to learn. Taiwan has so many fascinating cultures. If people ignore or have wrong perception of them, there will be no space for our cultures to present themselves. Taiwan is like a culture hodgepodge, and it has taken hundreds of years to develop its own local cultures. It would be a nightmare if we cannot carry them on, or worse, if we misunderstand or even hate them, Taiwan will eventually become a country without its distinctive cultures.

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