WorldWideLab

Kuafu: a Journey from a Myth to a Solo / 「夸父」:從神話到單人表演之間的旅程

01 kaufu

This year, WorldWideLab was held in Rome. We had a theme called Upheaval, and the material I chose is an excerpt, “Kuafa Chasing the Sun,” from the Classic of Mountains and Seas (an ancient Chinese work). “Kua(夸)” means “giant,” and “fu(父)” means “man.” In the classic, “Kuafu” is a giant who makes up his mind chasing after the sun. He never made it however, and finally died of thirsty. There is also another version describing Kuafu as a man born in the darkness of Chaos. He saw Light for the very first time from the sun. After the light he pursued, and only ended up of being scorched to death.

The production is composed by a cross-cultural team: Two directors (Laura Tesman from the United States and I from Taiwan) and one Italian actor have worked together to create the Kuafu of the WWL version, adapted from the original “Kuafu Chasing the Sun.”

Kuafu vs. the Hero

Before we started our rehearsal, Laura Tesman and I had collected numerous versions about Kuafu’s story, and had lots of discussions on each of them. The main issue is, “what does that myth mean to us in the contemporary world?”

The prototype of “Kuafu” in our discussion is the Hero, and his chasing after the sun is therefore a journey belonged to a hero. We made our reference to Joseph Cambell’s The Hero’s Journey, and we asked things like “why do we need a hero? Does the modern society still need one? ” However, in the Chinese context, Kuafu is usually used to describe one who is so arrogant as to miscalculate his capability. This is nothing like what we shall recognize in whom we would call Hero. “Kua” means giant, and so it bears the meaning of “exaggeration,” too. It recalls someone who does things without thinking, one who fails to discern the truth, and hence, with his limited perspective, ends up undertaking a mission beyond his ability.

Kuafu’s chasing the sun is basically a mission impossible, and all the heroics films are popular for exactly the same reason: that they have challenged something beyond their power. That is how I’ve come to the contradiction during the discussion, and the contradiction conforms with the conflict the modern people are facing: The heroes are in themselves stupid. Their success comes from their foolish effort, and maybe plus some good luck. But if they fail, that would be more than natural. The tricky thing is that everyone wants to be that hero; no one wants to fail.

When those who are not afraid of being criticized by the society have successfully become the heroes with their strong devotion to their dreams, they also bear upon themselves the qualities ready to be teased and despised by others. It is precisely because of the existence of the negative aspects that his success could purify the audience of their spirits: The heroes would reverse the audience ‘s negative impression on the Hero, or they might trigger their self-pity and fear. Whatever it is, the audience would experience it as a stimulation from the Hero’s Journey. Yet, what I feel more curious about is the hero’s self-struggle during the chase. What is happening inside his or her mind? What has supported the hero to finish that stupid journey? I don’t believe when one determines to pursue the goal, no obstacles would come in the way and no ideas of simply giving up ever pop up. He or she might even fall harshly to the dark valley of fear with a crushing defeat.

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The Essence of Myth Lies in Self-Revelation

All healing processes must go through fear to reach the light, and must undergo darkness to see the sun. Dualism has split light and darkness in two. However, in Taoism, it is through the integration of both that harmony can be accomplished. This process of integration highlights the learning of balance as well as the embrace of coexistence. In the play, on the brink of collapsing, Kuafu’s fear of “unable to see the moon of tomorrow” grows. Nevertheless, his non-human companion Dex encourages him as such: “No sun, no moon.”

Dark coexists with the sun. There would be no sunlight without the darkness, and vice versa. To succeed, one must understand this reasoning and masters such coexistence. That is how the balance can be kept. It is only when the fear is accepted can one be free from it. Prone to either end of the spectrum means losing the balance, and overly bright optimism could only be false; it is only a mask to hide the brimming fear inside. Kuafu’s chasing after the sun is like a self-revelation. After stripping off one mask after another, he gains power.

We thus started our character shaping. Since ours was a corss-cultural production, we avoided social issues which might hugely differ from one culture to another, and focused particularly on the exploration of “humanity,” considering that humanity often bears similar discourses despite of cultural difference. For instance, consensus is more easily to reach on the discussion of “value of humanity” than on “human rights.” We hence put aside the diverse explanations we had collected, and reserved only the action in Kuafu’s story: “Determine to chase the sun; the process of chasing the sun; death.”

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The Process of Creation

Francesco Meola is an active actor. He offered to use his drumming ability and provided us with a tambourine resembling the sun as well as the moon. He began using the tambourine from the very first rehearsal, to get familiar with it. To let him do as much as he could, we simplified the stage to a mere tambourine, a stick, and a chair, taking our inspiration from “one table, two chairs” from Chinese Opera. The purpose is to guide the focus to the solo performer. Francesco as a solo performer has interpreted all the characters: those before and during his journey, both humans and non-humans. This was a great challenge for the actor’s endurance, physical strength, and deftness to shift between roles. Francesco however was able to quickly absorb new skills like a sponge, which also became a challenge for the directors. They had to constantly put down higher standards for him deeper faith in him. They let him master the stage.

English is the language we used to develop the play. Yet, there appeared a language gap when the actor tried to adapt it into Italian on the stage, and when the precise, neutral and double-meaning lines developed from English instantly revealed on the actor as a Italian improvisational comical gesture. Francesco felt depressed, and hoped that he could also use English in the performance to help him stay focused on the “neutral” position.

We became aware of the power of language, as well as the bodily culture behind it and the physical inertia when we spoke it out. This new understanding and the process itself is interesting. On the stage, language has to be used carefully and precisely. I personally believe that the less it’s used, the better. Sometimes, Too many speeches only prevent one’s imagination. They frame people up, and we are deprived of the organic beauty and the depth of listening.

04 Fra with drum

However, with the audience being Italian, we still had to use Italian in the performance. To mend this gap, we returned to the body for a solution: the public region, and then the spine and the knees…we turned to a situation when no language yet came out. We let the body release all the cultural inertia led by the languages. Step by step, we led him to remember the scenes by his body first, and only let languages join in slowly. To retain the local features, we assigned the most concise words to those lines with mysterious and prophetical qualities. As for the supplementary characters, we let the actor keep his Italian comical inertia to do what he would like to.

The tambourine was utilized throughout the chasing journey. This was a bit like the percussion rhythm in Chinese Opera, and could create a supreme space of imagination. How to further take advantage of the tambourine is something worth exploring in the future. Yet in general, merely the usage of the tambourine has rendered the performance more oriental; Francesco’s powerful acting together with this exotic element has made this play some what more mysterious.

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This journey from a myth to a solo has undergone several steps:

  1. The process from myth to body: the creation and imagination of space. How does the actor present the views he see, and how do the audience see the world he sees from his eyes?
  2. The process from body to language: how to pick up the right words and how to speak them out without damaging the air?
  3. The process from the private to the public: as mentioned above, Kuafu Chasing the Sun is a journey of self-revelation; this is true for both the performer and the directors. They would experience the un-touched field inside themselves during the rehearsal. Usually the rehearsal was extremely private, since there was only one actor, and it would take him much energy to extract only a few results. And besides that, this was indeed a rehearsal requiring other’s protection. WWL however is a platform for exchange of ideas, and you cannot prevent others from visting. This is why much power and persistence is required during the process to maintain one’s clear thinking.

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The Presentation of the Stage

The presentation of the stage needs to be as simple as possible, but levels of space must still exist. When it is a solo, the stage can be as simple as nothing, or else there must be sufficient levels of light changes to make the stage even more three-dimensional looking, so as to complement the actor’s performance. Also, usage of light districts needs to be reduced, and efforts should be put in the rendering of the stage as a piece of flowing picture.

Much physical strength is also needed during the performance. Even though the actor is very experienced, we still have to work together on the shifting between roles. We don’t really have enough time, yet the actor is endowed with a very good quality: openness. He is totally willing to constantly try, and the result is that we have produced at least 9 characters with fixed lines, not including the characters improvised by him. The most difficult part is the skill to make the shift at the precise moment. How to do this is of course a secret; the actor will have to master his or her own body well to achieve that.

In general, “Kuafu” is a production which successfully creates cross-cultural experiences. We hope that this work could be even more mature and complete in the future, and believe that there is good chance for it to be developed into a even more delicate work with top quality.

 Written by Jocelyn Yuchia Chang (Taipei/Taiwan)

Translated by Yu-Ting Kao

 

「夸父」:從神話到單人表演之間的旅程

撰文:張育嘉(台灣/臺北)

01 kaufu

今年的WorldWideLab移師到義大利的羅馬舉行,主題為Upheaval。我選擇了一個以神話為主的題材《山海經》中的「夸父追日」。「夸」,夸(誇)是高大的意思,父指男子。「夸父」意為高大的男子,是山海經中記載的巨人,立志追趕太陽,終未及,半道渴死。另有相傳夸父誕生於混屯之初的黑暗世界,太陽是他第一次看見的光,因此追逐著光,最後被太陽烤死。

創作之初,本就考量到這會是一個跨文化的合作團隊,由兩位導演(來自台灣的我,和美國導演Laura Tesman)與一位義大利男演員(Francesco Meola) 共同組成這個跨文化創作組合,我們一起將原本的「夸父逐日」改編成為這次在WWL呈現的版本「夸父」。

夸父 VS. 英雄

在開排之前,我和Laura搜集了很多版本的夸父追日,我們也針對我們所搜集來的版本逐一討論,這個神話相對於現在的我們,到底具備了什麼樣的意義。

「夸父」在討論的過程中,所具備的雛形是英雄。所以夸父逐日之旅,也是一個英雄的旅程。我們參考了約瑟夫.砍伯的「英雄之旅」,也討論「為什麼我們需要英雄?現代社會還需要英雄嗎?」但是在中文世界裡,我們用夸父逐日形容他人不自量力,這似乎和我們認知的「英雄」不一樣。「夸」有大的意思,但也有誇張的意思。好比一個不經思考,不用腦辦事的人,用自己侷限受限的眼界,去執行一件超過自己能力範圍以外的事情。

夸父追逐太陽,基本上就是一件不可能的任務,所有的英雄主義電影之所以受到歡迎,也是因為主角成功的挑戰了不可能的事情。因此在討論的過程當中,我發現我有矛盾和衝突,這個矛盾和衝突剛好符合現代人的自我矛盾:原來英雄是愚蠢至極的人。他能成功是因為努力外加好運,如果失敗則理所當然。可是偏偏每個人都想當英雄,而且不想失敗。

於是那些不畏眾人眼光誓死追逐夢想的人成了當代的英雄,而且具備了被眾人唾棄、被當成箭靶批判或者被嘲笑等特色,因為這些負面的價值,導致於他的成功會帶給群眾洗滌和淨化心靈的作用,群眾會扭轉原先對「英雄」批判的印象,或者群眾會因不服氣而引發自己哀憐恐懼之心。然而這些都是屬於「英雄之旅」帶給群眾的交流,我更好奇「英雄」在追逐太陽的過程當中,他自己內在到底發生了什麼事情?是什麼支持他繼續完成這個愚蠢的旅程。因為我並不相信當一個人立定目標勇往直前的過程當中,不曾碰見阻礙,不曾遭遇困難,不曾想過要放棄,甚至跌落恐懼的深淵,甚至一敗塗地。

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神話的本質在於自我揭露的過程

所有被療癒的過程,都必先經歷恐懼才能看見光。必先經歷黑夜才會看見太陽。二元對立的思維將光明與黑暗分屬兩邊,但在道家思想陰陽調和才能終見和諧。陰與陽的調和過程講究平衡的學習、講究接受共存。戲中夸父在近幾放棄的邊緣,心生對死亡的恐懼怕見不到明日月亮,同行的非人類夥伴Dex鼓勵他,「No sun, no moon.」黑暗和陽光是並存的,沒有黑暗則見不到曙光,但沒有光也不會有黑暗。要能夠成功,必須懂得黑暗和光明的道理,缺一不可。知道何時該收何時該放,這樣才能保持平衡,要能深入恐懼才不會被恐懼所左右。傾向兩極的任何一方,都是失衡。表面的樂觀開朗並不是真的光明,那只是面具,表示心裡有更多的恐懼。夸父逐日的過程,也像是在自我揭露的過程。脫下一層又一層的面具的過程,也是獲得力量的過程。

對於這樣的創作組合,大家毫無疑問的朝向角色塑造為開始的第一步。跨文化的創作最好是以「人性」為基礎,避開有社會共識的議題,因為社會價值觀因地而異,但是人性的探索則有共同的語彙。要容納不同文化的聲音,儘量選擇有共通的語彙,例如討論人性的價值觀,可能就會好過討論人權。因此,我們將搜集來的各種版本或解說捨棄,只保留行動「決定追逐太陽,追逐太陽的過程,死亡。」

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創作的過程

Francesco Meola 是個主動積極的演員,他提供了他的打鼓的技能,並主動貢獻了一個像太陽也像月亮的手鼓,從排練的第一次就開始使用,且熟悉它的特性。我們參考了中國京劇一桌二椅的舞台概念,將舞台上的素材簡化成一面鼓、一個手杖、一張椅子。簡化的理由無非就是想讓表演聚焦在單人表演身上。讓演員有充分的表演創作空間,可自由發揮他的想像。Francesco詮釋了所有的角色,所有可能在旅途前、旅途中會出現的角色,不管是人類或者非人類。這挑戰了演員的耐力、體力和角色切換的能力,吸收能力像海綿般強壯的Francesco也挑戰了導演們的能力,我們必須不斷地調高我們對他的要求,並相信他,把舞台放心交給他。

英文是創作的語言,文化上的隔閡出現在角色開始使用義大利文的時候,原本用英文發展出來較精確的台詞,帶有中性且具雙重意義,台詞第一次被用義大利文說出來的時候,演員的身體瞬間回到義大利即興喜劇式的身體姿態,Francesco感到沮喪,並希望可以用英文演出,這可以幫助他聚焦在「中性」的位置上。

在這個過程當中我們看到了語言的力量、語言背後的身體文化、還有使用不同語言時身體會產生的慣性,這個過程和發現都非常有趣。在舞台上,語言必須謹慎而且被精準的使用,我甚至認為可以越少越好。有時候台詞多反而會造成想像力的阻礙,形成某種框架或牢籠,少了有機美,也少了聆聽的趣味。

04 Fra with drum

因為觀眾是義大利人,我們演出還是要使用義大利文。解決這個文化隔閡,還是得回到身體上去尋找中心點,是丹田的位置,是脊椎還有膝蓋。先回到沒有語言的狀態,讓身體先釋放掉語言帶來的文化慣性,然後再逐步調整,用身體記憶情境,慢慢加入語言。為了保留當地文化,我們讓所有俱有神祕性、預言性的對白用最簡練的文字,其他輔助角色則借用義大利喜劇的角色慣性,讓演員自由發揮。

所有追日的行動過程,都使用手鼓,這有類似京劇鑼鼓點的風味,卻又可以營造一種超凡的想像空間,鼓的使用在未來若要繼續發展成為更完整的演出是可以繼續探索,但是基本上帶有鑼鼓點的概念,的確有東方的風情,而演員Francesco的本身的表演張力和這個異國風情的結合,反倒讓舞台張力增多了不少神祕性。

05. papers JPG

這趟從神話到單人表演的旅程,總共經過了幾個過程:

  1. 從神話轉譯成身體的過程:空間的創造與想像。演員如何如實呈現他眼裡所見的景象,觀眾如何透過演員的眼睛看到他所看到的世界。
  2. 從身體到口語之間的過程:如何揀選使用的文字以及如何被說出來不至於影響氛圍。
  3. 從很私密的排練過程到公開被看的過程:如前面所提,夸父逐日是一趟自我揭露的旅程,對於表演者和創作者來說,也是一趟揭開自己內在未曾碰觸的領域的旅程,排練過程極度私密,一則演員只有一位,而且消耗大力精力才能萃取出少少的果實;二則創作過程的確很需要被保護,但是WWL是個以觀察彼此工作為主的一個交流平台,避免不了其他人參觀排練,這需要很大的力氣和穩定度來確保過程當中的思緒清晰,不被擾亂。

06

舞台呈現

舞台呈現和燈光盡可能精簡,但是一定少不了層次上的變化。單人表演要不什麼都不要有,要不就是要有足夠的燈光層次變化讓舞台的空間感更立體,幫演員演技加分。演員需要有光源才能讓演出的層次感豐富,並緊可能的減低使用燈區的概念,儘量讓舞台呈現像是一幅流動的畫。

至於在表演上則是需要很多大量的體力,演員有豐富的表演經驗,但是在角色切換上,我們需要一起集思廣益,一方面是我們時間並不夠,另一方面是演員具備了很好的特質:敞開,願意不斷嘗試,我們一共產生了至少9個有固定台詞的角色,這還不包括即席發揮出來的群眾角色。最大的難度在於表演切換的技術,如何切換則是表演的秘密,演員必須對自己的身體有很好的駕馭能力才能做的精準。

大體上來說,「夸父」是個成功創造跨文化創作經驗的作品,也期許這個作品在未來的某一天可以更成熟,更完整,這是一個可被期待發展成為更細膩而完整的高規格單人表演作品。

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One comment on “Kuafu: a Journey from a Myth to a Solo / 「夸父」:從神話到單人表演之間的旅程

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