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I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe presents
A Chance Encounter

Saturday July 13 | 7:00 pm
$16 / $12 Puppets at Night Members

Puppetry! Comedy! Music! Martial Arts! Taiwan’s legendary I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe shares the rich traditions of Bu Dai Xi hand puppetry in this delightful action-packed show. When a mild-mannered scholar leaps to defend a lady, a mid-day stroll turns into an unforgettable encounter. Three master puppeteers showcase expert puppetry while a five-person orchestra provides drumming and lyrical music backstage.

“A Chance Encounter,” is a delightful story told almost entirely without words through movement and music, showcasing the intricate and acrobatic movements of Bu Dai Xi puppetry. The energetic performance will be followed by a brief conversation with the artists, with American Bu Dai Xi practitioner and I Wan Jan student Margaret Moody facilitating.

A Chance Encounter Marriage Scene

The name “Bu Dai Xi,” (布袋戲) meaning “cloth bag theater,” points to the style’s modest materials and origins. A puppet’s head, hands and legs are folded into its cloth body after a show, and packed into a travel box along with puppet-sized props, an innovation developed in the 18th century as puppeteers traveled in rural Taiwan and Fujian.

The I Wan Jan troupe’s fourth generation of puppeteers continues the tradition of small puppets with big impact, subtly moving their hands to transform cloth puppets into graceful ladies, scholars and raucous clowns.

Recommended for ages 7 to adult.

FREE! Artist Exchange and Welcome Event

Jana with Gretel. (Photo Credit: Shannon Herrick)

Meet the Artists: I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe

FREE! (Space is limited - RSVP Required)
July 11 (Thursday) | 6:00 - 7:30pm

Join us for an evening of international cultural exchange with the puppeteers and musicians of Taiwan's acclaimed I Wan Jan Puppet Troupe. Learn about traditional Bu Dai Xi hand puppetry from Taiwanese and American practitioners, see live and video demonstrations of the style, and enjoy conversation with artists and puppetry enthusiasts from across New England. Light refreshments will be served. Recommended for adults and teens.

About the Artists

I Wan Jan was founded by Li Tien-lu, grandfather and great-grandfather of four of the troupe’s current performers.  He called his troupe I Wan Jan, meaning “like natural,” because he believed that a puppet show could be as convincing as any performance by a live actor. Li had trained both with his puppeteer father and with Chinese opera troupes in Shanghai and added new styles of music to his shows.

Troupe founder Li Tien-lu said that the success of a puppet performance depended half on the front of the stage –the puppet actors -- and half on the backstage musicians. I Wan Jan’s backstage orchestra includes drums, gongs, a stringed hu-chin and shuo-na -- a wind instrument often compared to an oboe. Lyrical songs set the tone for reflection and romance while drums and gongs power martial arts scenes.  

Li Yi Hsien leads the group’s three puppeteers as they perform all the roles vital to Bu Dai Xi: ‘wu sheng’ (martial artists), ‘chou’ (clowns), ‘wen sheng’ (scholars), and  ‘dan’ (ladies). Yi Hsien learned puppetry from family members, notably his grandfather Li Chuan Tsain, a renowned performer, puppet maker and leader in puppetry education.  As a way of preserving the Bu Dai Xi tradition, Li Chuan Tsain began teaching puppetry in schools and convinced Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to support student troupes.  Li Yi Hsien now leads the troupe’s education work. The San-chih Elementary School Bu Dai Xi troupe, which he coaches, was recently honored as Taiwan’s “Best Elementary School Puppet Troupe” in an island-wide competition.

I Wan Jan Puppetry Troupe’s Massachusetts tour has been funded, in part, by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture with support from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston and the Taiwanese Film Festival. After leaving Massachusetts, I Wan Jan will perform in New York City, and then offer a week of performances and workshops in Ann Arbor, Michigan.