吳興國——無處不天空

:::

1993 / 7月

文‧蔡文婷


身為「國軍文藝競賽獎」連續三年的最佳生角獎得主,吳興國卻在最近除去軍職,拍起廣告與電影。

「他早該離開劇隊。他的創作天空還能再開闊,留在劇隊中是很可惜的!」吳興國的太太林秀偉這麼說。


當代傳奇劇場七月新戲「樓蘭女」海報已在各文藝中心張貼。在排練場內,吳興國、魏海敏兩位出身平劇的男女主角正在排練。導演林秀偉場邊解說著大綱,吳興國即興地表演。這齣改編自希臘悲劇「米底亞」的新戲,將離傳統平劇的唱唸作打更遠。「我們已經等著被丟蕃茄了!」魏海敏笑著說。

只踩一條船,難哪!

排練不很順暢,三人坐在地上討論。助理人員敲門進來說:「吳哥,你到香港的機位已經確定,明天晚上七點起飛,電影公司會派人來接你。」這齣由徐克導演的電影「青蛇」,只等吳興國一到就開鏡。

平劇演員往影視發展的一向不乏其人,如嘉凌、秦祥林、張復健、李陸齡等都是。吳興國覺得在台灣這個多元環境,加上平劇生態的不健全,要演員一輩子只踏一條船是不可能的。他的過程就是學戲、念書、跳現代舞三條船一起踩。

去年底更因接拍「誘僧」一片未獲所屬的陸光劇隊答應,他於是提出辭呈,揮別棲身十五年的劇隊。「這個社會,機會、誘惑很多,可你想想,四十歲的節骨眼上還轉行的人,很少吧!」吳興國明亮的笑聲中,卻微微透出離開劇隊的不捨和無奈。看著自己滿屋子的平劇資料、錄影帶,他強調,自己還是一個平劇演員,未來他準備得更好了,還是會找三五同行粉墨登場,好好再唱他三五天傳統戲。

饅頭好小

民國卅八年,吳興國的母親隻身來到台灣,和在軍中任職的父親結婚。四十二年,他們生下第二個孩子,父親感嘆國家正是多事之秋,於是就叫新生兒吳國秋。三年後,父親殉職,吳國秋被送入國軍先烈子弟教養院。華興小學畢業,考上了個三流學校,「生活苦,我又不愛念書,人家說學平劇的孩子不會變壞」,吳國秋就這麼進入復興劇校。按照「復興中華文化」的排行,第二屆的他,改名叫吳興國。

當時劇校還是私立,學生又收得太多,「師兄們常說學校快倒了,大家心裡都不太安定」,吳興國回憶。那時,每天清晨四點,一群剃了光頭的小蘿蔔頭就被師兄們用棍子叫醒,在不見光的天色中上山喊嗓。一邊喊,山下屠宰場的豬也跟著咿喔地叫。

學校維持得辛苦,伙食也就差,吳興國經常沒吃飽,就偷藏兩個小饅頭,晚上在被窩裡硬啃,「你想,那饅頭連小孩都覺得小,可見有多小!」他形容。低調的生活,加上北投濕氣重,「那時,我是完全體會了什麼叫自生自滅。」

唉!氣數已盡

之後學校由國家接收,生活上改善許多,然而老師們卻沒跟上時代。有的畫大餅地對他們說「別擔心,大陸十億同胞,不怕沒人看戲。」更多的老師是不住地嘆息:「唉!平劇氣數已盡!」還沒畢業,很多人已打算改行了。

在學校就已嶄露頭角的吳興國,也常有老師對他嘆道:「要在大陸上,一定有好老師願意教你。」吳興國就這樣半夜起來練私功,「那時真是瞎練,只懂得用蠻力,總以為把大槍耍得風雨不透就很厲害,不知使力是有規矩的,反而練出一身邪魔歪道!」學武生的吳興國比了個架式示範,英氣逼人。他卻也惋惜,這樣一門完整精深的藝術,沒有累積一生智慧的前輩傳給你,瞎練一輩子也無法超越前人。

雖然沒有名師指點,但是學校老師都對他相當疼愛,劇校畢業時還特准他進入文化大學升學。又因文大老師的引薦,他進入「雲門舞集」,一腳由古代踏入現代,並得了一雙創作的翅膀。

自古代出走

加入雲門,第一次上課,大家換起貼身的韻律服。半天了,獨不見吳興國,催促中,才見打扮從未如此前衛的他臉紅到脖子靦腆地走出來……。「在雲門,是我最榮耀的一面,也是觀念開放的開始」,吳興國表示。

每個星期,他們討論著創作主題,上文學、音樂課、練毛筆字體會「靜」;討論什麼是自己的文化,下鄉去看民俗活動……。「在劇校八年,連踏出校門的次數都屈指可數,也沒有這些觀念性的課,感覺像是第一次學會游泳,剛開始有些陌生、害怕,再來是完全自由的感覺。」

除了創作的啟發,雲門人對理想的堅持,在台灣退出聯合國時,硬挺在外國人面前跳自己舞的熱血沸騰,和劇校的低靡無力也大不相同。

這時吳興國也在雲門中,認識了妻子林秀偉,兩人常在清晨慢跑到六張犁公墓上,在一些名人的墳前壓腿、練舞,那是吳興國最輕鬆快樂的日子。

一頭磕下去,回不來了

當兵退伍後,文大的老師提供他一個到美國繼續進修的機會,他心中卻想留在雲門。然而卻在平劇名鬚生周正榮一句「去問問吳興國,願不願意跟我磕頭?」廿六歲的吳興國又一頭栽回平劇的方寸舞台。

拜師大典上,祖師爺神像唐明皇端坐上頭,平劇前輩站在四周,吳興國一個人跪在中間。唯一受邀的外人林懷民原本並不以為拜師和跳舞有何衝突,然而看到這種嚴肅的氣氛,看到吳興國一頭磕下,就說:「這人回不來了。」

專心一意回到平劇圈,吳興國每挑大樑,而且連獲三年國軍文藝競賽獎最佳生角獎。只是軍制劇隊,主事者是二年一調的軍人,又有一些上軍訓課、一天打卡四次的軍事化規定。而排戲時,大家態度閒散,有人穿著軍人大皮鞋就來了,連軟鞋都懶得換。一到快公演,他就拉肚子、感冒,看醫生卻又說沒事。「他原本就是一個自苦型的人,他想學、想做卻突破不了現狀。有一回他呆坐了一天,很認真地對我說,他想去開計程車」,妻子林秀偉一旁看了心疼。

屈原怎麼死的

面對一般人對平劇獨佔優勢被保護,吳興國有些氣結地說:「是!平劇的確太被保護,但是怎麼保護法?」他不平地以為,將他們附屬在軍隊中勞軍不叫保護,而是慢性自殺;到今天平劇沒落了,又以「時代不同了」而任意裁撤。他生氣地問:「搞清楚啊,它不是一件東西!是祖宗傳下來的文化哪!」激動的劍眉微揚,可以想見何以他在劇隊中有「小鋼砲」之稱。

這些年來,吳興國在舞台上老扮悲劇人物,像是孫臏、王佐、袁崇煥,甚至後來的馬克白、哈姆雷特。尤其是屈原,吳興國相當喜歡這個歷史人物,「他不是一被放遂,就氣得立刻自殺,而是在七、八年的自苦無力下,才投江的。」從幼年劇校的低沈生活,到劇隊的伸展不開,「要沒這些苦和悶,也不會對這些角色揣摩得那麼深了。」

當代平劇傳奇

從劇校到雲門,再回傳統劇隊,吳興國的轉折不小;到自組「當代傳奇」劇場,則又是另一個平劇的傳奇。清大中文系系主任王安祈以為,大陸京劇的確令人目眩神迷,然而台灣的平劇卻已從老古董的形象,轉化為新生代和所有藝文工作者都關心的藝術。除了「雅音小集」嘗試新風貌的探索,「當代傳奇」則是新劇種的創造了。

看過中央京劇院的演出,吳興國回家又好好練了幾天功。對於大陸改編劇本的成績,像之前普為台灣劇隊和觀眾叫好叫座的「曹操與楊修」、「徐九經升官記」,都是大陸四十年來發展出來的,「那是他們的本土文化」。

然而吳興國以為,那仍舊是揹著傳統包袱地變,今天兩岸所共同面對的都是年輕觀眾大量流失,主要就是和時代不能結合。所以他大膽地以較貼近生活、話劇性,加上現代劇場的舞台、燈光,重新呈現一種現代中國戲劇。「我不以為自己是在革平劇的命,相反的,我就是知道它的好,才以它為養份來創作。」

相對於中京院演出時台下清一色是白髮蒼蒼的老戲迷,當代傳奇在吸引年輕觀眾上,的確是相當成功的。林秀偉表示,在「王子復仇記」謝幕後,一群女學生跑入後台,一看到吳興國就尖叫而哭了起來,林秀偉很知趣的就退到一邊去了。

而自從吳興國跨行拍電影「誘僧」之後,今年「當代傳奇」新戲「樓蘭女」的工作人員中,就出現不少電影界人士,像曾獲金馬獎最佳造型獎提名的葉錦添,就為「樓」劇做服裝設計。「這是一個活潑的年代,對我來說,已經沒有什麼是不可以做的」,吳興國的想法和自信神采,已和一般平劇演員不一樣了。

〔圖片說明〕

P.13

跨行電影圈的吳興國,新劇「樓蘭女」的服裝造型也由電影圈人才支援。(黃鎮洋攝)

P.14

在劇校的日子雖苦,然而英氣逼人的吳興國已嶄露頭角。(吳興國提供)

P.15

從最保守的平劇到最前衛的現代舞,不僅擴展了吳國的舞的舞台空間,也使他因而結識了妻子林秀偉,一同比肩創作。(本刊資料)

P.16

當代傳奇的第一曲戲「慾望城國」,打破平劇窠臼,另創一種新的中國戲劇。(本刊資料)

P.17

傳統和現代可有界限?吳興國由平劇圈跨出,為流行服裝拍廣告,對他而言,現在已是「無處不天空」。(吳興國提供)

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近期文章

EN

Wu Hsing-kuo: A Life of Dranatic Transformations

Ventine Tsai /tr. by Phil Newell

Wu Hsing-kuo, who has won the "Armed Forces Arts Competition Award" for best male lead three years running, has recently turned to filming commercials and movies.

"He should have left the opera troupe a long time ago. He can broaden his creative space. It would have been quite a waste to stay in the opera troupe!" is how Lin Hsiu-wei, Wu's wife, puts it.


Posters for Medea, the new production of the Contemporary Legend Theater for July, have already been put up in each cultural center. In the rehearsal hall, Wu Hsing-kuo and Wei Hai-min, both with backgrounds playing the male and female lead roles in Peking Opera, are rehearsing. Director Lin Hsiu-wei is standing next to the stage explaining the basic story outline which Wu then immediately improvises. This new production, which is an adaption of the Greek tragedy, is extremely far from the traditional singing and gestures of Peking Opera. "We are already prepared to have tomatoes thrown," laughs Wei Hai-min.

Movieing on:

The rehearsal has not gone well and the three people sit on the floor discussing it. An assistant knocks on the door and comes in saying, "Elder Brother Wu, your ticket to Hong Kong has been confirmed. You fly tomorrow night at seven and the film company will send someone to meet you." Green Snake, a film directed by Hsu Ko, will begin filming as soon as Wu arrives.

There have been no shortage of Peking Opera performers who have developed towards film and television. Wu feels that given Taiwan's diversified environment, plus the unsound situation in Peking Opera, it's virtually impossible for any actor to spend his whole life sailing a single ship. His path has taken him to simultaneously study drama and do modern dance.

At the end of last year, Wu resigned from the Lu Kuang company because he could not get their permission to shoot the film Temptation of a Monk, thus waving good-bye to fifteen years in the troupe. "In this society there are many opportunities and temptations. Just imagine, there aren't many forty year olds who can change professions!" laughs Wu brightly. But he is still unable to completely hide his reluctance at leaving the troupe. Looking at all the Peking Opera materials and videotapes which fill his room, he stresses that he is still an opera performer. In the future he will be even better prepared and will still find some colleagues to get up on stage and put in a good performance of a traditional opera for several days.

Such a small steamed roll:

In 1949 Wu's mother came to Taiwan alone and married his father, who was in the air force. In 1953 they gave birth to their second child. Because the country (kuo) at that time was in turmoil (a Chinese expression for which includes the character chiu, or autumn), they called their new born child Kuo-chiu. Three years later his father died and Wu was sent to a home for children of military martyrs. After graduating from primary school he only tested into a third-rate school. "Life was very hard and I hated studying. Everyone said that children who studied Peking Opera would not turn out bad," says Wu, explaining how he entered into the Fuhsing Peking Opera School. On the basis of the "Chinese Cultural Renaissance" rankings, he changed his name to Wu Hsing-kuo in his second year.

At that time opera schools were still private and they took too many students. "The older students often said that the school would soon close and so no one felt very secure," recalls Wu. At that time, each morning at four o'clock, a group of bald headed little kids would be awakened by older students using sticks. They would pant and chant their way up the mountain under a sky that had still not seen the light of day. They would shout along the way, and the pigs in the slaughter house at the foot of the mountain would call out in response.

With the school in such desperate straits food was pretty poor, and Wu often didn't eat right, just stealing a couple of small steamed bread rolls and eating them at night under his blanket. "Just think, even a child felt that those steamed rolls were small, so you can just imagine how small they really were."

Learning it all wrong:

Later on the school was taken over by the government and life improved considerably. But still the teachers couldn't keep up with the times. Some of them looked at the larger picture and told the students, "don't worry, there are a billion compatriots in the mainland, so never fear there will be no one to watch us." But even more teachers couldn't help but sigh, "Peking Opera's days are numbered!" Even before graduation, many planned to change professions.

Wu, who had been outstanding in school, often had teachers sigh to him, "If this were the mainland there would be good instructors willing to take you." Wu would rise in the middle of the night to practice on his own. "But I was really practicing blind at that time. I was trying to just pick up difficult techniques on my own. I didn't realize that real skill took discipline, and ended up learning things all the wrong way." He regrets that there was no person from the previous generation with a lifetime of accumulated experience to pass along this refined and profound art to him. Even with a lifetime of blind training he would be unable to surpass his predecessors.

Although he had no famous instructors, the teachers at the school all took good care of him. When he graduated from school he was given special permission to go on to further study at the Chinese Culture University. Later, because of an introduction from a teacher at the university, he entered the "Cloud Gate Dance Theater," thus leaping from ancient to modern in a single stride, and meanwhile earning a pair of creative wings.

Walking out of the past:

After entering Cloud Gate, for the first class, everyone changed into their ballet tights. They waited a long time and only Wu hadn't shown up. Only after being prodded did he come out--having never before dressed this way, he was so embarrassed his face and neck were red. "Being in Cloud Gate was my greatest honor and also the beginning of the broadening of my perspective," states Wu.

Each week they discussed creative themes, and attended classes in literature and music, and practiced calligraphy to understand "restful quiet." They discussed what their own culture is and went down to the countryside to take in folk activities. "In my eight years in opera school I could count on one hand the number of times I went out. We had no classes that involved different perspectives. It was like the first time you learn to swim--strange and frightening at first, but later it is a feeling of complete freedom."

Besides learning creativity, the people at Cloud Gate also had firm ideas. When Taiwan left the United Nations, they proudly showed their vitality before foreigners, which was quite different than the low-key powerlessness displayed by the opera school.

It was during this period at Cloud Gate that Wu met his wife Lin Hsiu-wei. The two often jogged to the public cemetery at Liuchangli in the early morning, and practiced their steps in front of the graves of famous people. Those were the happiest days for Wu Hsing-kuo.

Return to the opera:

After he completed his military service, a teacher from the Chinese Culture University presented him with an opportunity to go to the United States to continue study, but in his heart he wanted to stay at Cloud Gate. Nevertheless, after the renowned Peking Opera performer Chou Cheng-jung declared, "go ask Wu Hsing-kuo if he is willing to study with me," the 26-year old Wu returned to the Peking Opera stage.

At the ceremony to pay his respects to his teacher, the sacred image of the great teacher Tang Ming-huang was placed front and center, and members of the older generation of Peking Opera stood on all sides as Wu kneeled alone in the center. Lin Huai-min, the only outsider invited to the ceremony, originally did not think there would be any conflict between Wu's going to his teacher and dance. But when he saw the rigorous and severe atmosphere, and saw Wu knock his head to the floor, he thought to himself, "this person will never come back."

Devoting himself fully to Peking Opera, Wu has taken a leading role and moreover has won the Armed Forces Arts Competition Award for best male lead three years continuously. It's only that in a military opera troupe, the bosses are all military men rotated every two years. There are also some military training classes, and militarized regulations like punching a time card four times per day. During rehearsals sometimes people would come wearing their leather military boots, too lazy to even change into soft shoes. Each time a public performance was about to begin he would get sick to his stomach or get the flu, though the doctor always said there was nothing wrong. "He has always been someone who tortures himself. He wants to learn and wants to do things but could not break out of the status quo. Once he just sat staring blankly for a whole day and said to me quite seriously that he wanted to become a taxi driver," says his wife Lin Hsiu-wei.

Slow suicide:

Faced with the impression that most people have that Peking Opera is pampered and protected, Wu says in a slightly exasperated way, "It's true, Peking Opera really is protected--but at what cost?" His unhappy belief is that attaching Peking Opera to the military to entertain the troops is not protection but is a form of slow suicide. He says angrily, "Get this straight. It is not a thing, it is culture passed along by our ancestors!" You can understand why he is called "the Little Cannon" in opera circles.

These past few years Wu has been playing tragic figures on stage, even Macbeth or Hamlet. Wu especially likes the historical personage Chuyuan: "He is not one of those who killed himself in a huff after being chased out, but threw himself in the river only after seven or eight years of effort proved worthless."

A contemporary Peking Opera legend:

From opera school to Cloud Gate and then back to traditional opera, Wu's transformations have been great. His organizing of the Contemporary Legend Theater is a legend in itself. Wang An-chi, chairman of the Department of Chinese at National Tsing Hua University, says that to be sure Mainland Chinese Peking Opera is awesome and eye-catching. But Peking Opera in Taiwan has already gone from being an antique to being an art form about which the new generation and all arts workers are concerned. Exploring a new style, Contemporary Legend is another dramatic creation.

After seeing a performance by the Central Peking Opera Company, Wu returned home and practiced hard for several days. As for the accomplishments in terms of adaptations of scripts in the mainland, which have been hailed by Taiwan companies and audiences, these have all been developed in the mainland in the last forty years, "so it's their local culture."

Nevertheless, Wu believes that this is change that still bears the burden of tradition. Today, the problem faced on both sides of the Taiwan Straits is the loss of the young audience, mainly because of an inability to meet the needs of the times. Thus he has boldly adopted a modernized Chinese Opera which is closer to daily life and includes modern theatrical dance and lighting. "I don't see myself as making some kind of revolution in Peking Opera. On the contrary, it's only because I know it is good that I know that I am using it as the foundation to create."

In contrast to the white haired elderly audiences at the performances of the Central Opera Company, Contemporary Legend has been quite successful at attracting a younger audience. Lin Hsiu-wei states that after the curtain call following one performance, a group of girl students ran backstage and began to squeal and cry as soon as they saw Wu Hsing- kuo. Understanding the situation, Lin diplomatically stepped to one side.

Ever since Wu crossed over to making the film Temptation of a Monk, many people from the world of film have appeared in the staff for this year's new Contemporary Legend performance of Medea. For example, Yeh Chin-tien, who has been nominated for a Golden Horse Award for best designer, did the costume design for Medea. "This is a lively and open era. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing that can't be done," says Wu, his thinking and self confidence shining through. This alone makes him different from the typical Peking Opera performer.

[Picture Caption]

p.13

Wu Hsing-kuo has crossed over to movies, and now the costumes for his new performance of Medea have been done by talents from the world of film. ( photo by Huang Chen-yang)

p.14

Though life was hard in opera school, the charismatic Wu was able to stand out. (photo courtesy of Wu Hsing-kuo)

p.15

From Peking Opera, the most conservative art form, to modern dance, one of the most experimental, Wu's travels in drama have not only been broad, they enabled him to meet his wife Lin Hsiu-wei. (Sinorama file photo)

p.16

The Contemporary Legend Theater has broken the old mold of Peking Opera and created a new form of Chinese performance. (Sinorama file photo)

p.17

What's the dividing line behind traditional and modern? Wu Hsing-kuo has leapt out of Peking Opera to film commercials in the latest fashions. For him, today there are no limits to what he can do. (photo courtesy of Wu Hsing-kuo)

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