Play about for­mer soldier set to re­turn to Bei­jing

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By CHENNAN

Ku Pao-ming re­call­showhis fam­ily cel­e­brated Spring Fes­ti­val when he was a child.

His fa­ther would cook many de­li­cious dishes and they would sit around the din­ing ta­ble re­mem­ber­ing their an­ces­tors. Dur­ing meal­time on the eve of Chi­nese New Year, he would lis­ten to his fa­ther’s sto­ries about their fam­ily, who lived in Shang­hai be­fore mov­ing to Tai­wan.

Ku’s fa­ther was a Kuom­intang soldier, who — along with thou­sands from the Na­tion­al­ist force — re­treated to Tai­wan in 1949 at the end of the civil war.

As he grew up, Ku, now 66, re­al­ized that the sto­ries his fa­ther told him were a re­sult of be­ing away from home for long.

So when the ac­tor was asked by the Tai­wan Godot The­ater Com­pany in 2015 if he could play the role of Zhao Guozhong, a war vet­eran who left Shan­dong prov­ince for Tai­wan, in the com­pany’s stage drama Jie Song Qing, Ku read­ily agreed.

After its suc­cess­ful de­but in April in Bei­jing, the drama, which is called Driv­ing Miss Xu in English, is set to re­turn to the city onNov 11.

As an ac­tor, Ku likes to play dif­fer­ent roles be­cause they en­able him to “ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent lives”, Ku says. “I’m fa­mil­iar with the role in Driv­ing Mis­sXu and it feels per­sonal and con­nected.”

He was born in Taipei and grew up among mil­i­tary depen­dents, a com­mu­nity in Tai­wan that was built after 1949 to house the for­mer Kuom­intang sol­diers.

When Tai­wan’s con­tem­po­rary the­ater scene was form­ing in the early 1980s, Ku opened the Lan Lin The­ater with friends such as vet­eran ac­tor Chin Shih-chieh.

Boss Yuan, a lead­ing man in the play Se­cret Love in Peach Blos­som Land, by Taipei-based di­rec­tor Stan Lai, is among Ku’s ma­jor roles. The play was per­formed in 1986 and is still staged.

When his fa­ther was alive, he wished to re­turn to the main­land to re­unite with friends — some­thing that the main char­ac­ter from Jie Song Qing also wants to do.

While Ku’s par­ents went to Tai­wan to­gether, Zhao Guozhong is sep­a­rated from his fam­ily in the play, which shows him as the driver of a doc­tor who saved him. He de­vel­ops a close re­la­tion­ship with the doc­tor’s daugh­ter, Xu Baihe, and wit­nesses her suf­fer­ings from los­ing her fa­ther to be­ing be­trayed by her hus­band.

“I like the por­trayal of long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships in the play, which is sim­ple but pow­er­ful,” Ku says. “Though Zhao Guozhong and Xu Baihe are not hus­ban­dand­wife, the emo­tions be­tween them is be­yond that.” and Du Lini­ang will Ren­con­tre be­tween De­bussy

Ren­con­tre be­tween De­bussy and Du Lini­ang com­bines piano, played by Gu, with Chi­nese Kunqu Opera clas­sic The Peony Pavil­ion, which is based on the work of Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644) play­wright Tang Xianzu. The mu­si­cal also has oth­ers — artists Yang Yongliang and Xu Yi; and a live band fea­tur­ing bam­boo flutist Shi Chengji, zhon­gruan (a Chi­nese plucked string in­stru­ment) player Chao Chen and com­poser Jin Weiwei who strive to ex­pand the di­men­sions of the piano and Kunqu Opera. In Tang’s work, the story re­volves around Liu Meng­mei, a poor young scholar, and Du Lini­ang, the daugh­ter of a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial, who share the dream of meet­ing and fall­ing in love un­der a tree, de­spite the fact that they’ve never met. Tor­mented by this un­ful­filled love, Du dies. Years later, Liu passes by the same gar­den and finds Du’s por­trait. He im­me­di­ately rec­og­nizes the woman and even­tu­ally digs her out of her grave, “re­vives” her and mar­ries her. In Gu’s ren­di­tion, Du stands out as an in­de­pen­dent role, singing to the mu­sic se­lected from French com­poser Claude De­bussy’s piano reper­toires, such as The Girl with the Flax­enHair and Clair de Lune. “De­bussy is one of my fa­vorite com­posers. WhenI was young, I played lots of his works but was not able to fully un­der­stand him,” Gu tells China Daily. As for Kunqu Opera, Gu’s fam­ily in­tro­duced her to the trad i t i o n a l Chi­nese art form as a child. Gu’s great-un­cle, V.K. Welling­ton Koo, was a prom­i­nent diplo­mat of the Re­pub­lic of China; and her fa­ther, Gu Keren, stud­ies tra­di­tional Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture­an­dis­aKun­quOperascholar.

At age 18, she went to Con­ser­va­toire de Paris on full schol­ar­ship and grad­u­ated with a master’s de­gree in piano and cham­ber mu­sic. She re­turned to Shang­hai around four years ago.

Her study in France en­abled Gu to bet­ter in­ter­pret De­bussy and she re­al­ized the com­poser was fond of us­ing un­usual scale pat­terns, es­pe­cially pen­ta­tonic scale, a mu­si­cal scale con­tain­ing five dif­fer­ent tones, which is the ba­sic scale of tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic. Since 2009 she has been do­ing a com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis of De­bussy’s piano mu­sic and tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic.

Over the past five years, Gu has widened the sub­ject to Chi­nese tra­di­tional paint­ing, ar­chi­tec­ture and po­etry. Kunqu Opera is part of her re­search on con­nect­ing Chi­nese cul­ture with De­bussy’s mu­sic.

In 2014, she pre­sented a 15-minute show, which, by work­ing with Suzhou Kunqu Opera The­ater, formed the ba­sis of the later pro­duc­tion Ren­con­tre be­tween De­bussy and Du Lini­ang.

Lu Jia, a vet­eran Kunqu Opera per­former of the Suzhou the­ater, plays the role of Du in Gu’s pro­duc­tion. “When Kunqu Opera and De­bussy’s mu­sic come to­gether, it turns out to be har­mo­nious and com­pat­i­ble,” says Lu.

Ac­cord­ing to Gu, Ren­con­tre be­tween De­bussyandDuLini­ang is the first pro­duc­tion of her series, I Fan­tasie— a mul­ti­plat­form mu­sic the­ater con­cept, in which she ex­per­i­ments not just with mu­sic but also on a broader artis­tic level.

“I will ad­just Ren­con­tre be­tween De­bussy and Du Lini­ang as we stage it more,” Gu says.

“Both con­tem­po­rary West­ern art and tra­di­tional Chi­nese art heav­ily in­flu­enced me. And withmy projects, I like to push bound­aries and reach a bal­ance.”

Con­tact the writer at chennan@ chi­ pa­rade. They wore T-shirts, which had printed words like ‘go­ing home’. My fa­ther was one of them,” says Lang, 51, re­fer­ring to 1987, when for­mer Kuom­intang sol­diers were al­lowed to visit the main­land for the first time after the found­ing of NewChina.

In1988, Lang and her fa­ther vis­ited Nan­jing in Jiangsu prov­ince.

“The mo­ment my fa­ther saw his mother he knelt down and cried like a child. I un­der­stood how badly my fa­ther wanted to go home,” says Lang.

In the play, the driver also re­ceived a let­ter from his wife in Shan­dong prov­ince in 1987. But after decades, the cou­ple barely rec­og­nized each other when they fi­nally met. The last thing he re­mem­bers is a pan­cake his wife made for him be­fore he left for Tai­wan.

“His wife brings him pan­cake when they meet again, and Zhao cries. This scene touch­esmy heart,” says Ku.

Tai­wan Godot The­ater Com­pany’s founder, Liang Chih-min, is the di­rec­tor of the play. Founded in 1988, the com­pany has pro­duced more than 30 con­tem­po­rary plays, in­clud­ing Kiss Me Nana and The An­gel Never Sleeps.

“This is the first pro­duc­tion of our com­pany that deals with the sub­ject of the sol­diers,” Liang says.

“These peo­ple and their home­sick­ness should be re­mem­bered.”


Gu Ji­et­ing, pian­ist. Gu Ji­et­ing and Kunqu Opera ac­tress Lu Jia share the stage dur­ing the show Ren­con­tre­be­tween De­bussyandDuLini­ang. 7:30 pm, Nov 14. 2 West Chang’an Av­enue, Xicheng dis­trict, Bei­jing. 010-6655-0000.

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