Chun-Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe
Chun-Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe performs at temple celebrations and other public events. Canvas tents are erected in temples' courtyards. The tents double as dressing and backstage areas. Performers have no air-conditioned dressing rooms to prepare. Makeup and costumes transform the troupe into character, while the audience gathers, fanning themselves in the tenacious heat. Chun-Mei has many die-hard fans which come out in the middle of the day to ensure they save a good seat. The shows usually begin at 7:00 p.m., but the crowds wait patiently for hours. This is certainly different than other troupes.
Founder and managing director Ms. Guo Chun-mei, was born into a Taiwanese opera family business. Growing up she became accustomed to Taiwanese opera performances and touring Taiwan's towns. She herself is part of a living history in the evolution of Taiwanese opera. Ms. Guo believes every profession has its pros and cons and has chosen to devote her life to the business. "When General Tian Du (guardian deity of Taiwanese opera and folk art) invites you to his table, you can't say no to his treats, even though there is always a little bitterness mixed in with the sweets."
Chun-Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe was established in 2000 and selected by the Council for Cultural Affairs as a focus group in 2004. Every year it receives prestigious recognition. Ms. Guo has been in the business for 30 years, cultivated numerous new talents and has even performed at the National Theater. However, even after performing in some prestigious theaters, Ms. Guo still favors the traditional tents, stages on scaffolds and performing for temples. "It is where we have come from; this is where our roots are!" She is widely recognized for her many artistic merits. On average, Chun-Mei has performances 200 days per year, with a troupe of 15 performers in rotation. With such a high frequency of performances they have solid stage experience and are motivated by strong fan support. "You can't help but give your best when the audience is putting on rain coats in order to watch the rest of the show in the pouring rain".
Taiwanese opera is also known as "Sing-song Theater" or "Field Theater". There are no written scripts and details are decided on the day of the show. The plot master gives the troupe a story outline, sequence of events and other details. The rest is left to performers to improvise. Song is also a large part of the performances, which are left up to the personal merits of the performers. A good performer can move audiences with eloquent language and verses and capture their attention with their acrobatics and gestures. Ms. Guo has been playing "Sheng" (a young leading male) for decades. Although she is a master of the trade, she believes there is always more to learn and no end to self improvement. She believes the most important assets for a Taiwanese opera performer are their understanding and ability to use language and culture in performances. Due to the fact every show is improvised, every performance challenges the performers' vocal and theatrical talents. Some performers incorporate slang and proverbs into their songs; however, rhyming is a skill that takes years to perfect.
Running a theater troupe is a huge responsibility, particularly for Taiwanese opera. Traditionally, companies are responsible for the livelihood of all its members. Ms. Guo, regards her troupe like family. Inheriting the business from her parents, she feels a strong sense of duty to preserve these traditions. She also hopes people regard her character, as the customary high energy and cheerful "Sheng". She hopes audiences will continue to enjoy their shows and come out more often.
- Source: 大東藝術圖書館
- Date: 2012-01-09