Masters and Disciples (15)
Training of the children of the family was the same as for the apprentice from outside, called ’oral transmission and teaching from the heart’ kou chuan xin shou. At first the child was supposed to attend the performances of his father/master, waiting upon him and absorbing the whole atmosphere of the art. Later he would not only attend the performances, but actively try to learn by heart his first story. In the beginning he would only learn a few sentences to retell, but little by little he would have to remember longer and longer passages. Together with the words he would also imitate the gestures and mime of his master. Every day the disciple would go with his master to the storytellers' house and listen to the public performance. Upon returning the master would teach him a passage, which he had to learn for the next day. When left alone he would try to reactivate the master's words in his mind, memorize and rehearse the words and gestures, called 'stage work' taigong. The next day he would have to 'return the text' huanshu, i.e. retell the passage for his master to correct and not infrequently give him a spank, if unsatisfactory.
When the child or youngster had mastered an episode the length of an ordinary session of storytelling (about 2-3 hours), he would go on to study the repertoire of a whole cyclus, corresponding to several months of daily storytelling sessions. This was practised by attending his master's daily performances, striving to catch the ’story line’ shu luzi, and remember as much as possible of the wordings from the day's performance.
A disciple from outside the family had free board and lodging in the home of his master. He served his master and took part in all kinds of household chores. When he had arrived at a certain level and learned the basic repertoire, he might sometimes step in for his master and appear in public. When his contract was out or his master deemed it appropriate, he would make his formal debut and start his own career, called ’to cross the sea’ guo hai.Next: Written librettos for storytelling