In New York, Feng Guangyu and his team combined Chinese opera and shadow puppetry

—— Showcasing the Beauty of Traditional Chinese Performing Arts (Overseas Chinese Community)

"Ancient culture leaves a rhyme, and a generation of civilization shows a new wind." As an important part of traditional Chinese culture, drama has gradually gone abroad in recent years. In New York, USA, there is such a group of people who have integrated Chinese opera, shadow puppet theater and other innovations to show the audience the beauty of traditional Chinese performing arts.

"I know my dream is big"

50 years ago, Feng Guangyu was accidentally admitted to the Department of Chinese Drama of the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan. "Little Cow Herding", "The Concubine Drunk", "Fishing and Killing the House", lower back, lying fish, walking steps... Feng Guangyu was deeply attracted by the breadth and depth of Peking Opera, which opened her indissoluble relationship with traditional Chinese performing arts.

When reading "History of World Theater" in his junior year, Feng Guangyu regretted to find that Chinese drama had only been hastily brought along. In order to help Chinese drama enter the world stage, Feng Guangyu decided to go abroad to learn about Western theater culture. "I know that my dream is big, and I know myself and the other is possible." She said.

At New York University, Feng Guangyu specializes in Western theater theory and history. In addition to studying, Feng Guangyu watched other countries' dramas extensively. The Japanese "Sankaijuku" troupe still haunts her to this day: "They are not only acting, but also exploring the true meaning of life and the universe." I was blown away! ”

Every year, Feng Guangyu participates in the Shakespeare Festival in New York's Central Park. Excellent plays from all over the world are staged there. "A lot of performances amaze me. They interpret the common human emotions while also adding their own cultural imprint. Feng Guangyu sighed.

When she first arrived in New York, she attended the famous local theater annual conference. "After I finished the demonstration, I found out that the students who participated were all well-known drama professors." Coincidence is actually inseparable from people's own efforts. After arriving in New York, Feng Guangyu did not work to earn tips, but devoted all his energy to theoretical study and theater performance, hoping to truly "know himself and others".

In the process of understanding Western theater, Feng Guangyu will unconsciously compare it with Chinese theater. "Western drama is highly theoretical, and people do drama under the guidance of theory and perfect theories through drama." Feng Guangyu explains, "Chinese theater has a deeper cultural connotation and is more practice-oriented. These insights gave Feng Guangyu great encouragement, giving her more confidence to spread Chinese theater culture and enrich the world theater stage.

"I came prepared"

In New York, theater performers often move between troupes according to the needs of the performance, and most of them do not have a fixed affiliation. Feng Guangyu is no exception. After a performance, the question "Are you a member of this troupe?" made Feng Guangyu think: "This question woke me up. I decided to start a theater company in New York that focused on Chinese art, rather than just being a small part of others. ”

"I came prepared." Feng Guangyu customized several sets of costumes, purchased a complete set of heads and performance props in China early, and also learned opera makeup, making perfect preparations. "To do Chinese drama, we still have to use our own 'equipment'." She said proudly.

In 1990, Feng Guangyu founded China Drama Studio and officially took the first step in his dream. She has extensively participated in forum lectures, translated opera scripts, performed Peking Opera, spared no effort to spread Chinese opera culture, and gradually entered the American art circle.

By chance, Feng Guangyu met Joe Humphrey, who spread shadow puppet culture in New York. Under Qiao's guidance, Feng Guangyu quickly learned to manipulate shadow puppets. The like-minded two gradually reached a consensus: merge the shadow puppet troupe and the theater studio to form the New York American Chinese Theater Workshop. Feng Guangyu and her husband Stephen Kaipelin co-serve as artistic director.

"My husband is a puppet player. The unpopularity of the profession and the expansion of our horizons make us eager to pursue new things. Feng Guangyu said, "For me, the most important thing in making drama is originality. ”

How to combine traditional skills and modern technology? Feng Guangyu and her husband proposed the unique technique of performing small shadow puppets on a projector in front of the curtain, making shadow puppets more suitable for modern theater. "In doing so, it not only expands the audience, but also enhances the performance." She said.

For more than 20 years, New York American Chinese Theater has written, directed and performed more than 30 cross-border and cross-cultural original plays. They combine Chinese opera and shadow puppetry with modern dance, European folk tales and toy theater, allowing traditional techniques and modern film theater to echo and win the praise of locals. Feng Guangyu's original play "Tiger Story" won the Best Director, Modeling and Artistic Innovation Award at the first Shanghai International Puppet Festival and was widely acclaimed.

"We want to be close to today"

In Feng Guangyu's view, whether it is Beijing Opera or shadow puppets, innovation is an important source of its vitality. "We can't copy our ancestors forever, each generation of artists must have its own contribution to its own era." Feng Guangyu said.

At first, Feng Guangyu was not afraid to make a puppet show, "Although I knew something, the technical difficulty still made me feel timid. "Later, she heard that there was a doctor in New York who performed puppet plays." Even a layman has the courage to try, so what reason do I have to back down? In this way, Feng Guangyu stepped on another track.

Most of the traditional puppet operas are mainly characters, but under the dual considerations of feasibility and audience acceptance, Feng Guangyu and his team chose "Zodiac" as the theme. "The focus of our performance is not to show the basic skills, but to spread Chinese culture." Feng Guangyu said, "We came up with the Chinese idiom as a starting point. "Seon lost his horse, waited for the rabbit, the horse to success, the cunning rabbit three caves... The idioms with profound philosophical and cultural connotations and the different collisions of puppet opera quickly became loved and welcomed by the locals.

With the changes of the times, people's lifestyles and values have changed a lot, "If you still perform according to the traditional repertoire, the audience is likely to not understand, so we need to be close to today's people." "Feng Guangyu is most proud of the adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood.

The interpretation of "Little Red Riding Hood" in the form of a combination of Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera not only solves the problem of difficult to understand opera, but also has distinct Chinese cultural characteristics. "Many Americans can't accept the soundtrack of Peking Opera, so we switch to Kunqu opera and Kundi; There was a language barrier, so we tried to perform in English. Feng Guangyu introduced.

The ingenious performance won unanimous acclaim from the audience, and the adaptation of "Little Red Riding Hood" entered the Metropolitan Museum, the Natural History Museum and several universities. While performing at the Lincoln Center Outdoor Arts Festival, a child said excitedly: "I just saw your performance a while ago, and it was really good, so I came again!" ”

"I want to make my own contribution to the development of traditional Chinese performing arts." Feng Guangyu said, "Although it is difficult, as long as I am still doing it, I am successful." ”