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Appendix B - How Scenes Open and Conclude

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2023

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Summary

Stage entry is a focus in several lectures. Entry depends substantially on the stature, status, and role type of the character involved. Generally, characters enter in the upper corner of stage left and exit stage right.

Most major characters announce their arrival from the wings, in coordination with percussion patterns that signal the performance is officially beginning. This is called “setting up the frame” (da jiazi 搭架子). The still unseen actor, if playing a role of sufficient stature, gets the attention of the audience by a cough or an ejaculation such as “a-ha” or “e-he,” conveying through inflection information about the character's status, mood, and situation. Characters of lesser stature use fewer and simpler ways to draw attention to themselves. The term “setting up the frame” also applies to other offstage vocalization, such as a servant answering without coming onstage or even a dog barking.

Upon first entry, major characters strike a pose [Appendix D] at the jiulongkou 九 龍口, a spot upstage right. Kunqu poses are by and large more restrained than those in other genres, such as jing ju [Appendix J]. Subsequent to the opening pose, actors may execute several elements of a scene opening which are called “scene-hanging” (diaochang 吊場):

  • 1. Entrance lines ( yinzi 引子), a character's first words, can be sung, recited, or delivered in a mixture of the two. If sung, they are typically sung in free meter [Appendix C], unaccompanied.

  • 2. Stage-setting poems (zuochang shi 坐場詩 or dingchangshi 定場詩), typically four lines recited while sitting down, often reflect on the situation at hand.

  • 3. Self-introductions (zibao jiamen 自報家門) tell the audience the character's name, where they are from, and their position.

At the conclusion of scenes, codas are sung in either the northern- or southernstyle melodies [Appendix C]. The southern melody coda is literally the “tail sound” (weisheng 尾聲), while the northern equivalent is called “the tail ending” (shawei 煞尾). In some scenes, characters also recite exit poems before leaving the stage. Sung entrance lines and codas described are not considered qupai [see Appendix C], but are functionally a specialized category thereof.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

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