Today…I became what I always wanted to be…Well…one of the things that I have wanted to be… a Chinese opera performer! Well. I LOOKED like one, at least…but, believe me, that is just temporary. Give me ’til December. :-O
Ever since my Chinese History in Film course with Dr. Fernsebner, I became fascinated with the Chinese opera. It started when I watched a film called “Farewell my Concubine” in class. I had heard of it but I had never watched it. The symbolism in that movie was just beautiful to me! When Dr. Fernsebner taught us about the history and meaning behind the Chinese history I became even more intrigued. In the movie, the movements looked like an art form. To connect that power of movement with the inspiration for the opera became the main reason why I continued to have interest even after the semester ended. So when I heard about the TUSA program and saw that the 2012 TUSA ambassadors had the opportunity to learn about Chinese opera and dress like the performers, I was ecstatic!
Today, laoshi (the professor) taught us about how Chinese opera originated in China and that different types of opera had a different kind of presentation. For example, Chinese opera from Southern China is more soft spoken and the movements of the performers are more delicate. Laoshi demonstrated how the female character performers sang with a high pitched voice. What I found fascinating is that every single movement on the stage represents something. I remember being fixated on how the performers were moving during Farewell My Concubine and how much of a big focus it was that other members of society also applauded the performers for their movements. In hindsight, I feel like I did not understand the importance of the movements until the cultural experience that I had today.
Even more fascinating, laoshi taught us what the colors of some of the masks said about the character. A read mask symbolized loyalty. A white mask symbolized a crafty man, an evil person. Basically, you could tell the kind of character in the opera just by the face paint! The clothing is beautiful! I was fortunate to be able to wear one of them! It was simple and not as extravagant as the others but it was so beautiful! Operas are not used for movies or television and the clothes aren’t either. The clothes are not even worn outside casually. She said that people would think you are crazy if you walked around in Chinese opera clothing! All that to say…Chinese opera as a whole has its own purpose and that is it. Also, laoshi showed us how to use some of the props with the costumes…she is very talented! We were taught a five word song… the way that chinese opera singers move their voices is just amazing. I feel like I’d have the same medical issues the Bee Gees had from singing the way that they do for so many years if I attempted to sing like the Chinese opera singers for too long.
Laoshi also discussed with us the training that Chinese opera performers went/go through in order to get on the stage. Basic training would start with acrobatics and the like. It takes someone SIX years (and more) to master a male role. Laoshi emphasized that once you train for a role that is the only one that you can play. You spent most of your life training to play that male role and you can’t just switch to another role because you felt like it. You would basically be that one role and that is it. “For the rest of your life”, laoshi said. She then taught us how to move and the differences between female and male movement. She taught us hot to open a door and walk out. Hahaha! None of us have the grace that laoshi has! Not even a bit of it!
And then we began to paint our own faces… I thought we were going to be in groups and painting each other but we were going to do everything ourselves! I was so excited! Laoshi had a model on stage and instructed us to follow her direction…
Well. I am completely – COMPLETELY- blurry eyed without my glasses on and so I listened, asked some questions of those nearest to me, and one of the ladies were willing to do one side of my eye with eyeliner so that I could bring the mirror close to my face and do the other eye. I remember when Laoshi came by and started using her palms to pat my face. Hahaha! She kept saying 不錯,不錯 (pretty good, pretty good)! While my cheeks were being smushed by her palms. 哈哈哈哈哈哈! Hahahaha!!!
I was proud of myself though… not bad for being straight up blind! Imagine me trying to smile while laoshi is smushing my cheeks. Haha! I think she could tell that I wasn’t making faces and that I was just grinning at her compliments. Hahaha!
I wanted to paint the Bat signal on my cheek and had a good outline going but one of the ladies came by and saw what I was doing…not sure if she realized what I was doing. She seemed to react as though I had made a mistake and promptly grabbed the powder and started patting it away. In my head, I screamed “Noooooo!!!” I suppose my DC comics appreciation has no place in the Chinese opera. …but as she was removing the beginnings of a masterpiece, I knew that one day…one day…I would give Batman a place in the Chinese opera! Mark my words! HAHAHA!!
I have also posted photos of the other ambassadors. Will reminded me of the Joker. I am sure you can guess which one he is!
On another note… my Chinese teacher shared some useful translations for me. Ha! I have been known to use certain phrases VERY often! I often say “really” in so many different ways depending on the circumstances. It is really ALL about TONE. Hahaha! 你真的嗎? = for real!? = Really.
I’ve been practicing it… I will be a natural in no time!
Today, my language partner, Christina, left for America. She is staying for three weeks! I miss her already! She has been an EXCELLENT language partner and I enjoyed getting to know her. I was able to spend some time with her! I was afraid that I was not going to see her until the next time that I come to Taiwan so I was grateful for the extra time! Before I left, her boyfriend, Derek, also met up with me and we all took photos together and they gave them to me to have. I thought that was very touching! They are both great people! I know that I will see them again one day. Until then, we will all keep in contact. I know that I have made a friend for life in Christina!
But before I rush myself off of my post….I have to call attention to this camera. Remember back in the day when they had cameras that instantly gave you the photo when you took a photo? And you had to wave it back and forth so that it dried and the people/images in the photo appeared? When Christina pulled out her camera I was astounded! Not only was it a camera that took instant photos but it was PINK… she said it is a popular camera from Japan. I HAD to take a photo! It was the cutest thing!
This weekend, I spend the weekend with my host family. To say that I am excited is an UNDERSTATEMENT! I have been looking forward to this experience! I know that it will be just as memorable as I’ve been told it will be! I have seen a photo of the family. The children are just adorable and the family is just beautiful! They seem very nice from the interaction I’ve had with a member of the family, Stella, so I look forward to seeing them tomorrow!
I will definitely write a blog about my experience on Monday!
Over and out! *cue Chinese opera music as I gracefully close the doors to my blog*