French Apprentice of Taiwan Legendary Traditional Puppeteer Holds An Exhibition in Taiwan

French Apprentice of Taiwan Legendary Traditional Puppeteer Holds An Exhibition in Taiwan
Photo Credit: 小宛然劇團

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Legendary Taiwanese traditional puppeteer Li Tian-lu’s apprentice, Jean-Luc Penso, is holding an exhibition called “The Origin of Puppetry” at the Puppetry Art Center of Taipei, presenting many puppets and historical relics from France in hopes of helping the Taiwanese learn how the traditional art has been spread overseas.

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Legendary Taiwanese traditional puppeteer Li Tian-lu’s apprentice, Jean-Luc Penso, who is also currently director of the Theatre du Petit Miroir in France, has been promoting the culture of Taiwanese traditional puppets in France for a long time. This time, Penso is holding an exhibition called “The Origin of Puppetry” at the Puppetry Art Center of Taipei, presenting many puppets and historical relics from France in hopes of helping the Taiwanese learn how the traditional art has been spread overseas.

Liberty Times reports, Penso says that his getting to know Li was quite dramatic. When 20-year-old Penso arrived in Taiwan in 1970, he met Li for the first time in an antique shop near Lungshan Temple. Penso did not recognize Li at the time, and was very rude and arrogant enough to ask Li if he knew how to play the traditional puppets. “I didn’t imagine he would start to put on a puppet show right then and there, and I was deeply attracted to his movements and voice.” It was only then did Penso realize that it was Li, who he had admired for a long time, standing in front of him.

RTI reports, Penso decided to come to Taiwan to learn how to play puppets from Li because he watched a documentary on Taiwanese glove puppetry when he was still a student. Penso recalls that Li did not charge any tuition, but only ask him to obey his instructions and to not give up.

Awakening News reports, Penso says, “Mr. Li encouraged me to be creative, and create my own stories. So after I finished learning the art, I combined stories and cultural creations from around the world through raditional Taiwanese puppetry techniques. Now I have been to more than 80 countries.”

Penso founded the Theatre du Petit Miroir in 1975, and had his theatre’s first debut in 1986, performing “The Odyssey,” a creation inspired by the Ancient Greek mythology.

The works exhibited in “The Origin of Puppetry” have all been transported by air from France. They are Penso’s collection of historical relics, including Chinese puppets, shadow puppets, original western puppets and old photos with Li.

Former Representative of Taiwan in France, Michel Ching-long Lu, also attended the press conference in the exhibition’s opening ceremony on January 6, paying tribute to his friend, Penso. Lu often plays traditional puppets in French when he attends diplomatic events, and his performances are always well received. Lu says that his many years of experience in France has made him realize that the traditional puppetry is a good way for Taiwan to engage in cultural diplomacy, and it should be preserved and promoted.

►Related News: Former Taiwan Representative to France Impresses the French with Taiwanese Glove Puppetry

“The Origin of Puppetry” will be exhibited at the Puppetry Art Center of Taipei from January 5 to March 27. The center is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Translated by Wen-yee Lee
Edited by Olivia Yang

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