Taiwan Fun Magazine, April 2004


Cross-Talk: The Art Of Laughing

By Zhuo Jing-yi Translated by Yvonne Chen

     Cross-talk is a form of the "Talk and Sing Art." The stories are told or sung in the third person. As characters are introduced, the narrator or the storyteller takes on the role of the new character before resuming the story. Throughout the story, the storyteller will switch between narration and playing a role. This is known as "Talk and Sing Art."

     The earliest cross-talk in Taiwan began with Wei Long-hao and Wu Zhao-nan's 16-volume cross-talk audio tape collection. However, as these two leading masters changed professions later on, it left a crack in Taiwan's cross-talk scene. The crack was filled with the establishment of Hanlin Folk Arts Story Telling Troupe (B1, 166, TongHua Street) in 1985. According to troupe leader Wang Zhen-quan, since 1985 everyone interested in performing cross-talk seems to have become affiliated with Hanlin, which has become the nation's cradle for cross-talk.

     Hanlin Story Telling Troupe takes an approach that is both traditional and modern. The group believes that cross-talk does not necessary need to be conducted in Mandrain. Hanlin gives performances in rural areas, where people speak mainly Taiwanese; the locals may find traditional Mandarin cross-talk interesting, but they will not understand it. Thus, Hanlin presents cross-talk in different languages giving a new dimension to the art. Cross-talk performances in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and English is one of their goals.

     Also, to make "Talk and Sing Art" more accessible, Hanlin will set up a cross-talk library this month at 37, WanMei Street, Section 1. The library will house a wide variety of educational material on cross-talk collected over the years.

     The Taipei Quyi Tuan (19, ZhongShun Street, Section 2) is also involved in cross-talk performances. Established in 1993, the group carries on with traditional "Talk and Sing Art. Group leader Guo Zhi-Jie says that cross-talk is high-end humor and a form of laughing art. Not only must the humor be reasonable, it must also tie closely to the story. More importantly, the presentation must relate to the audience's lives in order to speak to the audience's heart and evoke an echo.

     The Taipei Quyi Tuan holds study seminars every summer. The lessons include cross-talk theories, structure of cross-talk, techniques in bundle shaking, the language of cross-talk, and most importantly, creating. They hold a solo-string class every Monday at their headquarters on ZhongShun Street in MuZha. Wednesdays are video presentations. Their latest performance will be held in August and will include cross-talk performers from Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, which along with the actors from Taipei will total 16 performers for the entire program.