Taiwan's Yung Shing Le Shadow Puppet Theatre Troupe (永興樂皮影戲團) returned to Michigan and Pennsylvania once again with a Nov. 10 – 15 tour that showcased an age-old Taiwanese performance art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Macomb Center for Performing Arts, Ann Arbor District Library, Oakland Community College, and the University of Scranton.
With an emphasis on preserving traditional art forms, the century-old family theater of Yung Shing Le has handed down traditional practices and stories through five generations, with each generation infusing a new selection of modern techniques and original tales to keep this art form relevant to contemporary audiences.
The 2018 tour curated Taiwanese shadow puppetry in three plays — "The Sandbag Trilogy," a comedic series of entanglements with a seemingly mischievous sandbag; "The Mountain of Flames," an excerpt taken from classic 16th-century Chinese novel "Journey to the West"; and "Momotaro," a retelling of the traditional Japanese folk hero who sprang from a giant peach.
The last play was a collaboration staged with Japanese narrator Kanako Morishita. Guests were also invited to the backstage for a hands-on experience with the beautifully handcrafted puppets.
Chang Hsin-hung (張信鴻), the fifth-generation operator of Yung Shing Le Shadow Puppet Theatre Troupe, expressed his gratitude for the hundred-strong turnout for each of the five performances, as the tour took place amidst a snow storm that cancelled university attendance. The troupe also held a special puppeteer workshop for theater majors at Oakland Community College.
Shadow puppetry began to take root in Taiwan during the early Qing dynasty (1644-1911) as mainstays of temple fairs and folk celebrations. Only a handful of troupes like Yung Shing Le are still active today.
(Wait for it) pic.twitter.com/e54Ppoqwco— Ann Arbor District Library (@aadl) November 13, 2018