Continuing to explore the rich legacy of Chinese performing arts in the United States presented in Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater, the Ballard Institute’s Spring Puppet Forum series will open this Wednesday at 7:30 with a special performance of classic Chinese handpuppetry by Margaret Moody’s celebrated Galapagos Puppet Theater from Boston. The Galapagos company will perform The Banana Princess, an episode from the classic Chinese epic The Journey to the West.
In the 1930s Pauline Benton’s Red Gate Players performed the same story themselves, with shadow figures, under the title Mountain of Fiery Tongues. The story, as Galapagos Puppet Theater tells it, concerns the travelling monk Tang and his retinue of colorful and magically endowed disciples, who find their path to India blocked by a blazing fire mountain. Only a magical fan owned by the powerful Banana Princess can put out the fire–but she doesn’t want to lend it. The disciples use their magical powers of transformation and persuasion in a struggle to win the fan.
Margaret Moody’s expertise in Chinese handpuppet performance stems from her three years of study with master puppeteer Li Tien-lu of Taiwan; a video she made for the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts about the famous Monkey King (one of Tang’s disciples) can be seen here.
This rare performance of Taiwanese Chang Chung Hsi (“theater of the palm of the hand”) will be an eye-opening introduction to Chinese handpuppetry, and a rich complement to the equally impressive display of Red Gate Chinese shadow figures now on display at the Ballard Museum.
Like all Spring Puppet Forum series events, this performance of Galapagos Puppet Theater is free and open to the public. The Ballard Museum will be open for viewing an hour before showtime, and refreshments will be served at the event.