Friday, August 13, 2010

Local theatrical productions at Taipei Arts Festival spiced with humor, romance, sadness

By Nancy T. Lu

Allow Taiwan’s very own performing talents to entertain you at the ongoing 2010 Taipei Arts Festival.

Roll in the aisle with laughter when the Four Chairs Theatre stages “Waiting for What!?” at the Nanhai Gallery in Taipei at 7:45 p.m. on August 12 to 15. Panda twosome Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan decide on a prison break while waiting for their favorite steamed dumplings at the zoo. The zookeeper is after all without weapon. The pandas seem to be bolder than humanity trapped at the workplace and in a stifling living environment. This outstanding program of the Taipei Fringe Festival 2009 deserves a look.

Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group has also been invited to bring back “Michael Jackson” at the Zhongshan Hall in Taipei on August 19 to 21. Performances start at 7:45 p.m. except for the matinee show on August 22. The late pop icon’s hit songs “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous” get a Taiwanese interpretation in this comeback production. Revisit the past and refresh your memories. Each scene’s link to Taiwan’s history is remarkable.

The Slow Island Theatre Group’s “Mint, Rosemary and the Flower With No Name” likewise drew special notice at the Taipei Fringe Festival. As a result, it has been picked for inclusion also in the ongoing Taipei Arts Festival. Love relationships in the story are not just between woman and man but also between woman and woman. The performances will take place at the Zongshan Hall in Taipei on August 27, 28 and 29.

"Timeless Love – Concert of Dichterliebe & Nanguan” on September 3, 4 and 5 at the Zhongshan Hall in Taipei will have conductor Chien Wen-pin playing the piano for a change and will have nanguan performing artist Wang Xin-Xin and tenor Tilman Lichdi blend music from East and West in an unprecedented experimental performance. Although this is the only concert program at this year’s Taipei Arts Festival, it gets a theatrical treatment, pointed out Victoria Wen-yi Wang, executive director of the Taipei Arts Festival.

“The Impossible Times – Taiwan Musical Trilogy” turns to an important page in history at 7:45 p.m. on September 10, 11 and 12 at the National Theater. There will be matinee performances at 2:45 p.m. on the second and the third day. Chiang Wei-shui’s heroic leadership in the colonial resistance movement in the history of Taiwan merits focus in an original production of the All Music Theatre Company with Mel Chung-heng Yang as artistic director. Yin Cheng-yang gets cast in the leading role in the tale about the life of Chiang.

Modern theater makes creative use of media as seen in The Puppet & Its Double Theater’s “The Cutter of Happiness” at 7:45 p.m. on September 9, 10 and 11 as well as at 2:45 p.m. on September 11 and 12 at the Experimental Theater of the National CKS Cultural Center in Taipei. Hence, actors and puppets come together to narrate the story of the paper-cutting grandma capable of scissoring tears and sadness and the little boy who does not heed his grandma’s urging to stay indoor when it rains.

The festival now on its 12th year will wind up on September 12. For tickets, go to or call tel. (02)3393-9888.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rare theatrical experiences sum up exciting offerings by masters at Taipei Arts Festival

By Nancy T. Lu

Theater productions by three masters, namely Robert Lepage’s “Lipsynch,” Heiner Goebbels’ “Stifters Dinge,” and Romeo Castellucci’s “Hey Girl!” promise to take the public down an exceptionally exciting road in performing arts during the 2010 Taipei Arts Festival from August 3 to September 12.

The festival being presented by the Taipei City Government through the Taipei Cultural Affairs Department and the Taipei Culture Foundation will feature nine programs, including three important works by internationally acclaimed masters and six local productions by outstanding talents and groups in Taiwan.

“Hey Girl!” -- the talk of the Avignon Festival in 2007 – opens the Taipei Arts Festival now on its 12th year. The Taipei crowd, in fact, is being treated to a cutting-edge and hallucinatory experience made possible by Italian director Castellucci’s remarkably rich artistic vision.

Stopped by the red traffic light one day, Castellucci found himself overwhelmed by the sight of blooming Italian girls aged 16 to 18 walking by and he went on to use this inspiring encounter to create a successful production in celebration of women immortalized in history and literature because of their great love, courage and power, said Victoria Wen-yi Wang, executive director of the Taipei Arts Festival for the third consecutive year.

The 4D theater of Castellucci’s making visually excites no end starting with the opening scene which depicts the birth of a woman, according to Wang. A female form breaks free from a resin layer and dramatically steps out to face life. She next emerges in t-shirt and denim. The image of Chanel No. 5 perfume announces her maturity.

In seeking to dedicate his production to the future of the adolescent girls who stopped him in his track, Castellucci resurrected three easily recognizable figures. Juliet from Shakespeare’s love tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” Joan of Arc known as famous maiden from New Orleans and Queen Elizabeth who guided England to dominate the world as a maritime power all help tell the lifetime story of a woman and ultimately the tale of humanity, explained Wang. The crucifix appears as a symbol of Christianity and sacrifice. The sword suggests courage.

Forty male performers recruited locally serve as a reminder that men still dominate society.

“Hey Girl!” is a 75-minute production being staged at 7:45 p.m. from August 5 to 8 at the Taipei Brewery at 85 Bade Road, Sec. 2, in Taipei. Matinee shows on August 7 and 8 start at 2:45 p.m.

Castellucci is also showing his installation art inspired by the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant from August 3 to 29 at the Central Hall 6 at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. Admission is free.

The artist reflects on the question: “What is going to happen to nature and what is going to happen to human beings if people stop thinking?” Visitors enter a dark room and see through a crack on the wall a forest behind the house.

Are you ready for a marathon performance lasting eight and a half hours, including breaks and intermissions? Robert Lepage’s “Lipsynch” will have nine actors reprise over 10 roles and bring to life a total of nine stories over a 70-year period. English, German, French and Spanish languages are used in this evolving production. Voices, whether it be jazz singing, radio broadcasting, taping, or lipsynching, get introduced as scene after scene unfolds in the exploration of sound by the director from Quebec.

“Lipsynch” will be staged in its entirety starting at 1 p.m. on August 21, 22 and 28 at the Metropolitan Hall in Taipei. Part 1 will be presented at 7:45 p.m. on August 24, Part 2 at 7: 45 p.m. on August 25 and Part 3 at 7:45 p.m. on August 26.

Meanwhile German director and composer Heiner Goebbels proposes to combine music, theater and installation art to create a theatrical experience without actors. In fact, “Stifters Dinge” is described as “a composition written for pianos without pianists.” It is also “a performance without performers.” Pianos play by themselves. A song by a Papua New Guinea aborigine will be heard.

This intermission-free 70-minute program with English handouts and French subtitles will be shown at the Taipei Brewery where seats are limited to 200 at 7:45 p.m. on August 11 to 14. There will be matinee performances at 4:45 p.m. on August 12 and 13 as well as at 2:45 p.m. on August 14 and 15.