Play about for­mer sol­dier set to re­turn to Beijing

China Daily (USA) - - 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.”

Taipei-based ac­tress Lang Tsuyun plays the role of Xu. Both Ku and Lang have built a per­for­mance rep­u­ta­tion with TV dra­mas, movies and stage plays. Like Ku she was drawn to the play due to a per­sonal con­nec­tion.

“I re­mem­ber on Mother’s Day lots of elderly peo­ple joined ... a 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.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The theater pro­duc­tion JieSongQing, star­ring Ku Pao-ming (left) and Lang Tsu-yun, re­volves around con­nec­tions across the Tai­wan Straits.

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