The Charles B. Wang Center takes shadow puppetry beyond a slumber party pastime. Shadow puppetry’s rich theatrical background of Southeast Asia was highlighted at last Saturday’s puppet performance and creative shadow puppet-making workshop. This performance, along with an interactive workshop and exhibit, is one of many the Wang Center will be holding this year.
“Two Tales from Southeast Asia: Aung’s Voyage,” a Burmese folklore, was depicted through simplistic visuals and imaginative narrative. French artists Caroline Borderies and Christian Barthod brought this cross-cultural art to Stony Brook, drawing viewers into a historical and cultural experience unlike any other.
Aside from Western traditions, shadow puppetry does not consist of contorting one’s hand into different shapes. It is played through intricate paper cut outs reflected through a colorful transparent backdrop.
“What I love about shadow puppetry is the audience’s freedom to imagine the characters in the show as how they want to see them. Because the view consists of only the outlines, the rest is up to the viewer,” Borderies said.
Borderies does not specialize in East Asian folklore in particular, but was requested to do so by Jinyoung Jin, the new associate director of social programming of the Wang Center. Her French culture usually bases puppetry around more eccentric themes, like cabaret.
The Wang Center’s new up and coming exhibits attracted a diverse range of ages and increased community involvement. With advertisements presented throughout elementary schools and pre-schools throughout the community, this program had a strong family turn out.
“By making programs held on weekends, we hope to attract a more community members, and welcome younger kids and families,” Jin said.
There was a family oriented puppet-making workshop prior to the performance. It allowed the public to fully experience the folklore by cutting out their own puppets and learning the history behind shadow puppetry. The workshop was personally organized by Borderies and Barhod.
Families living in close proximity to the Wang Center attended, as well as Stony Brook students. Stony Brook resident Cliff Moressy attended the show along with his two daughters.
“We have been to the Wang Center before for dance recitals, but we came to this show today on a whim, its great that there are more things to do here now,” Moressy said.
The Wang Center has seen an increase in weekend programming in relation with workshops such as the puppet making event. Stony Brook student Kai Chen said “it is very convenient that there a programs on the weekends, it will definitely attract more students like me, who have to write about Wang center programs for class.”
The center will present other interactive programs, such as “Chinese Tea Drunk” with Shunan Teng, on Saturday Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. Teng will introduce “Gai wan,” a brewing method commonly used in Chinese culture. Attendees will learn the history and culture behind the tea, taste different teas and learn how to brew their own.
Jin expressed how she hopes to increase community involvement at the Wang Center and not just limit it to Stony Brook University, saying, “by making programs held on weekends, we hope to attract a more community members, and welcome younger kids and families.”
“Ever since [Jinyoung] has become director there has been more weekend activity [ at the Wang Center]. In a little over a year as a director here at the Wang Center, she has transformed the venue into a welcoming and interactive space for students and families,” Zara Sayeed, assistant program coordinator, said.