‧Date of Birth: July 1, 1956
‧Date of Death: June 12, 2022
‧Place of Birth: Yunlin County, Taiwan
‧Did You Know?
In his career in Taiwanese puppet theater, Vincent Huang took on more than 3,000 roles, sometimes jumping from a low-end male voice to a high-pitched female voice within seconds. The range and variation of the voices he performed earned Huang earned him a reputation among fans as "the man of many octaves."
Vincent Huang was born in the county of Yunlin in southern Taiwan. He was the child of a family well established in Taiwanese puppet theater, with his grandfather, Huang Hai-tai (黃海岱), a famous puppet master and the founder of the puppet theater troupe Wuzhouyuan and his father, Huang Chun-hsiung (黃俊雄), the creator of the popular TV puppet show "The Great Warrior of Yunzhou (雲州大儒俠)" in the 1970s.
Huang spent all of his childhood in theater classes before moving to Tainan for high school. Although his father expected Huang to follow in his footsteps and take over the family business, he never made any moves to compel or force him to do so, and so Huang tried his hand at a variety of different interests, including forming a band that specialized in Western music with his brother, Huang Chiang-hua (黃強華). However, he eventually felt that the environment in Taiwan was not suitable for a band like theirs, and so he ultimately decided it was time to return to the family business and start a career in puppet theater. Although Huang did not actively study the art when he was a child, the various skills of operating the puppets and doing voice work came to him almost naturally, having seen so much of them over the years. Before he officially took on voice performance, Huang once asked his seniors in the troupe to arrange an opportunity for him to perform publicly, but as soon as he took the stage, he completely lost his nerve and could only manage to get out about five lines before he couldn’t carry on. He was utterly humiliated. He had always thought performing couldn’t be that hard, but the moment he actually went on stage, he became profoundly aware of just how difficult it was, and as a result, he decided to adopt a much humbler attitude towards learning the art.
The dialogue in Taiwanese puppet theater is primarily in Taiwanese, demanding elegant, fluid pronunciation. The art is also characterized by a distinctive tradition of having one person handle all the voices, meaning all the characters, whether male or female, young or old, are voiced by the leader of the troupe, one person playing every role. All of these were a tremendous challenge for Huang, having grown up during a period when the Taiwanese language was being ruthlessly suppressed. As a result, his Taiwanese was not particularly fluent, but despite that, he still had to take on the voice acting task, putting him under some not insubstantial pressure. Huang once noted that the grammatical differences between Mandarin and Taiwanese were so big that it took him some two years of hard work to finally be able to speak Taiwanese fluidly and up to the standard of his father.
In the early days, the shows had to set scripts, and they were entirely passed down orally. Most of the performances were impromptu, and since there was no official written record, it was considered pretty good if the puppeteer could remember 70% or 80% of the performance after he’d finished. In the process of passing them along, though, a lot of things can be forgotten, fall out of memory, or generally be left behind, and so Vincent Huang took it upon himself to start producing scripts to better preserve the shows. He also spent many years studying the Taiwanese language used in traditional puppet theater, which is not quite the same as modern vernacular Taiwanese. Although it took a lot of effort, Huang’s efforts have ultimately proven successful, helping greatly in the more thorough preservation of this traditional art.
In 1996, Huang and his brother, Huang Chiang-hua, established Pili International Multimedia Co., Ltd. as a television puppetry enterprise to promote the Pili Puppetry Theatre they had created. Pili Puppetry is characterized by its fantastic sound and light effects, and in recent years, it has even begun to incorporate computer effects, animated backgrounds, and even live filming. The Huang family’s Taiwanese puppet theater has evolved from its early years as a traditional outdoor stage performance into a modern television show, and recently, even made it to the big screen in movie form. The film "Demigod: The Legend Begins," released by Pili, won numerous awards at the 2022 Taipei Film Awards, and Huang won the award for technical excellence for his vocal performance in the film.
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