The phone rang one morning with a wonderful proposition: my talent agent Terry had been contacted about booking a performing troupe for a series of children’s performances in Taipei. Was I interested? Yes! Soon an ensemble of performers - colleagues I had enjoyed working with on numerous occasions - was ready to begin rehearsal. Our show included juggling, magic, mime, tap dance, clowning, and hambone (body percussion).
We were sponsored by a wealthy philanthropic Taiwanese family to perform for children for whom life was not easy. They included orphans and children with mental, visual, or physical disabilities. These children were living in institutions because having a child with such challenges would cause their families to lose face in society. These performances would bring a lot of joy into their difficult lives.
We were celebrities, invited to perform and talk about our upcoming shows on local television and radio. We performed ten shows in five days, each time to delighted and enthusiastic audiences, with crowds of excited kids waiting for us after the show for photos and autographs.
And when the six of us were out and about - having lunch, exploring the nightlife, shopping - there were endless opportunities for spontaneous on-the-spot theatre: mime (the universal language), hat tricks, juggling with whatever objects were at hand…. We were ambassadors of fun!
Taipei was undergoing huge development and transformation (we heard stories of simple farmers becoming millionaires overnight from selling their farm plots in town to developers). Our new high-rise hotel was just steps away from many traditional night markets with endless choices of exotic street food, caged animals, cheap clothing and household wares of every description, and peaceful incense-burning Buddhist temples. We took every opportunity to explore. The amazing Palace Museum filled with Chinese treasures left a lasting impression - especially the exhibit of exquisite miniature scenes carved into peach seeds and olive pits. And an overnight trip to hot springs to the south was a great chance to experience the countryside and rural life of Taiwan.
It was an unforgettable gift to share our talents and culture with the welcoming, generous Taiwanese of all ages, and to have the chance to learn about their traditions, food, language, and culture.