Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Taiwanese Puppets to Perform at the San Marino Public Library

The beautiful lady in a gorgeous costume tiptoes slowly across the stage. Her feet are bound, so she can only take small dainty steps. Her lover, the elegant gentleman, moves smoothly towards her. The warrior strides in with confidence, his painted face matching the boldness of his walk. The clown bounces comically across the scene, and the old man hobbles, stooped and smoking a long pipe.

Are they real people? No, they are just puppets, characters in the traditional "glove puppet theater", or budaixi [http://deall.ohio-state.edu/bender.4/perform/pg2puppe/bdx.htm] of Taiwan.

On Saturday, May 8 at 1 p.m. , these characters will bring their stories to the San Marino Public Library in a free performance in honor of Asian Pacific Heritage month. Dr. Raymond Ho, a pediatrician by day, animates the puppets and acts the story. "This is a one-of-a-kind and magnificent performing arts form," he says. The rare puppets possess finely sculpted faces and magnificent silk costumes. "Everything about them is human-like," Ho notes. "There are a lot of details in the costumes, especially the embroidery."

Ho deftly manipulates the puppets through their kung fu movie action sequences in miniature. A favorite with audiences is his "tiger fight" in which three warriors duel with a wild cat. The puppets wield metal staffs and spears at each other and even shoot tiny wooden arrows.

Although this style of puppet theater originated in china in the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago, budaixi flourishes today on a popular and action-packed cable TV show in Taiwan [http://www.sinorama.com.tw/en/1998/199801/701144e1.html].

The San Marino Public Library is located at 1890 Huntington Drive in San Marino. For more information, call (626) 300-0777.

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