If only every Monday started off with a visit from an ambassador and a mischievous, diamond-haired monkey, the week’s launch might not seem so daunting. That’s how the week started off for students at Beijing BISS International School (BISS) on Monday, January 14, as both the Thailand ambassador to China and a Thai puppet troupe from the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre of Thailand visited for a special performance. Thai Ambassador Wiboon Khusakul kicked off the event with a presentation about Thailand’s history and culture, then quizzed the students on what they had learned.
After students had answered questions about Thailand’s number of provinces (77), rules of Muay Thai boxing (no hits with the head), and the country’s prime minister (Yingluck Shinawatra, also the country’s first female prime minister), the puppet troupe took to the stage.
The performance featured two puppets, each operated by three puppeteers. The puppeteers are integral parts of the performance, not only moving the parts of the puppets, but moving themselves in carefully choreographed moves. The diamond-haired monkey is Hanuman, the impish monkey king, wooing and ultimately winning the heart of Princess Benjakai.
Halfway through the performance, puppeteers took the puppets through the audience to interact with the students. Princess Benjakai was all manners and grace, saying hello and patting students’ heads. Hanman, however, was all mischief, searching students for valuables, roughhousing, and trying to kiss various students and staff. Students greeted Hanuman and Princess Benjakai with delight and were scrambling for better positions to see or photograph them and their puppeteers.
The performance was capped by a special guest flown in from the US – Michael Jackson. Operated by three men in jumpsuits and baseball caps, the miniature King of Pop performed all his classic moves, including the moonwalk. After the performance, students got their photos taken with the puppets and the puppeteers.
The puppet troupe performed the program later that evening at an event titled “An Evening with the Thai Ambassador.” You can see China Daily’s video of Hanuman and Princess Benjakai here and video of Michael Jackson here.
Photos by Ellis Friedman