TCU’s Puppet Play Takes Children into Wonderland


Text/Photo: Jia-Yi Lee
Translation: Steve J. Lin

TCU’s Puppet Theatre has sponsored numerous puppet shows around Taiwan. The puppets, which were made by TCU students, have splendid colors. The “hand and rod puppet” show is new to Hualien residents, and puppeteers operate their puppets on the stage, and in front of their audience. Some puppet movements take two students to operate. This year’s theme was “Ocean adventure,” which explored ocean garbage. TCU’s Puppet Theatre toured elementary schools in Taiwan, and the pupils were delighted with their performances. After the show, some pupils did recycling work with TCU students and excitedly answered the recycling questions.

Professor Xin-Dan Hu was the key person who made these performances possible. She organized the Puppet Theatre last year, and invited mainly Oriental Languages and Literature students to join. Last year, they presented “Bus Adventure,” which was much loved by young children. This year the theme “Ocean Adventure” was chosen, and the screenwriter was Yun-Ping Tian of the Department of Human Development and Psychology. There is a story behind why Professor Hu chose “Ocean adventure.” A student who studied sea turtles showed a horrible scene to Professor Hu, in which the anatomy of a dead sea turtle showed that 70% of its digestive tract contained plastic garbage. Professor Hu was really sad that marine lives are threatened. She noticed that many sea turtles’ noses were pierced by plastic straws, and dolphins’ stomachs were filled with plastic debris. Moreover, there is an island of garbage in the ocean of a size larger than Taiwan. Through the puppet show, Professor Hu anticipates young children will realize the importance of protecting our environment and reducing plastics use.

Professor Hu mentioned that puppeteers must hold their puppets with their hands to keep them upright. TCU’s Puppet Theatre is the only hand and rod puppet performance group in Hualien. Sing Peng is a member of the Puppet Theatre. He said that all the puppets were designed by students, and after preparing needed materials, they made clothes for their puppets, and put various colors on them. Usually, it took a month to make a puppet. He noted that people were unable to communicate with each other face-to-face, yet they were able to talk to each other through puppets.

Ting Ting is a puppet, and she was a girl who rode a dream bus driven by a witch, to go to the deep ocean and save marine lives. She met a sea snake, which was contaminated by heavy metal pollution, a dolphin that was wrapped in plastic products, and a sea turtle which only had a breath of life remaining.

Sih-Ying Jhu operated Ting Ting, and she practiced in front of a mirror enthusiastically. A puppet weighs 2 to 3 kilograms, and thus her arms were sore after several hours of practice. Ting Ting’s facial expression never changes, so Sih-Ying utilizes the puppet’s body and hands, to help Ting Ting to express herself by using body language. In addition to practicing in front of a mirror, Sih-Ying videoed her movements, and reviewed it over and over again, trying to enhance her skills.

On May 15, “Ocean Adventure” was performed at Tao Hsiang Elementary School. School principal Dong-Jhih Sun and all first, second, fourth and fifth graders enjoyed the performance very much. The audience went along with Ting Ting to the deep ocean. After the show, TCU students accompanied the elementary school pupils to do garbage sorting and recycling. These elementary pupils volunteered to do recycling vigorously, and vowed that they would never litter their trash, would carry their own water bottles and do recycling regularly.

Miss Siou-Yu Syu, a Tao Hsiang Elementary School teacher, pointed out that fifty years from today, the amount of ocean garbage may be more than the ocean’s fishes. She really enjoyed this performance, which taught elementary pupils the harm that ocean garbage brings, and encouraged students to cherish the Earth.

On May 25, they gave a presentation at Jian Elementary School, and June 1 at Tai Chang Elementary School, to enable children living in Hualien County to enjoy a different kind of art performance.