Professional Storytelling (4)
The performance situation is largely common to these forms of storytelling. As a rule there is only 'one man and one mouth' yi ren yi kou, i.e. one single artist, a male (more rarely female) storyteller—the storyteller master shuoshu xiansheng or the storyteller artist shuoshu yiren. He sits at a table and spins his yarn, his only requisites being a small stick, the so-called 'wakening-rod' xingmu (in Yangzhou storytelling called 'talking stopper' zhiyu), a handkerchief and a fan. With a sharp tap on the table the storyteller catches the attention of his audience, before he embarks on his story, and during performance he uses it a few times to create tension. But it is never used as a clapper or drum. Pinghua and pingshu are quite different from the genres with a rhythmic beat, such as clappertales kuaiban and drumtales dagu. The handkerchief and fan are used for performance purpose beside their ordinary use. The telling is accompanied by acting and mime, though in the style of acting local traditions differ. Thus Suzhou pinghua is characterized by a relatively high degree of freedom in the movements of the performer and larger gestures, 'wide open door' da kai men, whereas Yangzhou pinghua is characterized by smaller gestures and does not allow the storyteller to leave the table, 'half open door' xiao kai men.
Next: The spoken language of storytelling