Written by Jasmine Yu-Hsing Chen. In Taiwan, outdoor Taiwanese opera performances next to temples have been essential to Taiwanese religious traditions for decades. Most troupes adhere to the etiquette of performing “classical plays for matinees and opeilas for evening performances.” Unlike performances in the afternoon, which are mostly classical repertoires based on books and legends, evening performances are always energetic. With the accompaniment of an electronic piano and jazz drums, the actors on stage sing pop songs and dress in shining sequin robes, fancy suits, or colourful Japanese costumes. This hybrid performance style has been called “opeila” (oo-phiat-a), which is phonetically adapted from the Japanese pronunciation of “opera” (o-pe-ra オペラ) in Taiwanese. This unique subgenre of Taiwanese opera has livened memories in numerous Taiwanese people and is one of the most concrete testimonies of vital Taiwanese culture.
Innovating Tradition: The Interdisciplinary Practice of “Bodehi” Glove Puppetry Theatre in Taiwan
Written by Chih-Ching Chester Tsai. Bodehi, Budaixi, or literal translation cloth sack theatre (布袋戲), is a form of traditional puppetry theatre in Taiwan. It was brought to Taiwan by early immigrants from southeast provinces of China during the Qing Dynasty. It has since developed into a unique form of theatre infused with local style and would later grow into one of the unofficial symbols of Taiwanese culture.
Taiwanese Theatre as a Keyword: Publications in 2022
Written by Yuning Liu. “Taiwanese drama/theatre/performance” as a keyword is unfortunately not a prevalent term in Anglophonic academic circles. However, 2022 can indeed be considered a fruitful year in Taiwan’s play translation and theatre research. In this article, I review the research focusing on Taiwanese drama/theatre/performance published in 2022. As a theatre scholar, my goal is not only to raise awareness of Taiwanese theatre studies but, more importantly, to consider how to take Taiwanese theatre research beyond the framework of regional theatrical studies and find more possibilities for dialogue with global audiences and theatre studies scholars.
The Intercultural Resonance between Taiwan and Q: A Night at the Kabuki (2022)
Written by An-Ru Chu. In the second half of 2022, when Taiwan was gradually relieved from the waves of omicron subvariant-induced outbreak, the country experienced an unprecedentedly large quantity of theatrical productions and cultural events since many of them should have been presented earlier but rescheduled because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a Japanese staged play, Q: A Night at the Kabuki, broke National Theatre (NT) box office record in Taipei. NT sold 12,000 tickets in merely twenty minutes for the first time in thirty-five years. When applauding the artistic achievement of the play per se, most posts also mentioned the following two aspects: first, the strong emotions evoked by seeing one of the leading actresses, Takako Matsu, in person, which echoes how the show had extensively grabbed the media’s attention since last May.
2022 Taiwan Theatre Report: Coronavirus, Chaos, Challenges, and Changes
Written by Yi-Ping Wu. How would people of the future think of the theatre of Taiwan in 2022? A year haunted by the Coronavirus pandemic? A year in which the international situation was overshadowed by the Russian-Ukranian war? What are some lessons we learned in the past year? Undeniably, 2022 was a rapidly changing and challenging year for the Taiwanese. As to the field of theatre, 2022, in my perspective, could be recognised as the year of “change” due to the following characteristics.
Artists and the Unruly Bodies: Performances in 1980s Taiwan
Written by Chee-Hann Wu. 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM). Founded in 1983, the museum has witnessed the vicissitudes of Taiwanese society and its democratisation since the 1980s. The Wild Eighties: Dawn of a Transdisciplinary Taiwan, the first curated exhibition celebrating the Museum’s 40th anniversary, reconfigures the socio-political environment of the 1980s in conversation with the cultural scenes. Opening in December 2022, 25 years after the lifting of martial law, The Wild Eighties shows how the political transition inspired artists and creators to experiment with new forms of artistic expression grounded in rebellion and revolution and reimagined the meaning and relationship between art and society.
Tminun: Weaving from My Heart as an Indigenous Male
By Peydang Siyu (Chu, Hao-jie); translated by Huang, Hsing-hua. I am a member of the Truku people; the twelfth officially recognised Indigenous nation in Taiwan. We believe in our ancestors’ spirits (utux rudan) and adhere to their teachings (gaya) throughout our entire lives. Cloth weaving (tminun), similar to facial tattooing (ptasan), is a significant part of Truku culture, and many of our customs are related to it. For example, there is a strict gender division of labour in traditional Truku society, with men hunting and women weaving. Men were prohibited from learning how to weave or even touching the tools. As a male, it wasn’t until 2018 did I dare to learn it. But once I began, I never stopped. It was definitely a dream-come-true journey that I would forever remember.
Weave for an Identity: Learning Indigenous Weaving as a Han Person
Written by Nai-Wen Chang. It all started from my experience representing Taiwan at an international youth forum in 2010. A section required every participant to introduce one’s country, offering a chance to engage in cultural interactions. It was our turn to present after India, Russia, Germany, the United States, and China. Everything went smoothly until an Indian participant in a dazzling sari raised a question. The Indian representative, out of pure curiosity, asked, “What does your traditional dress look like?” A moment of embarrassed silence filled the air. My senior, the eldest of us, eventually replied, “We don’t wear traditional dress much, but we do have cheongsams.” A Chinese participant immediately countered, “Cheongsam is Chinese dress, not Taiwanese.”
Her journey to the Best Actor award: Taiwanese Opera performer Chen Ya-Lan made the history
Written by Jasmine Yu-Hsing Chen. October 22, 2022, outside the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwanese Opera performer Chen Ya-Lan (陳亞蘭) astonished audience members on the red carpet for the 57th Golden Bell Awards (GBA). This annual award honours excellence in television and radio programs created in Taiwan. As a female performer, Chen broke records with her Best Leading Actor Award nomination.
What Are Taiwanese Comics?
Written by Adina Zemanek. It can be argued that the above are examples of creativity driven by state-led ideological aspirations, which cannot find a wide readership in Taiwan. However, they are intensively promoted to international audiences and may shape their perception of Taiwanese comics. At the same time, the number of such works and the state-encouraged discussions may ultimately lead to a shift in local audiences’ expectations.
Serendipity: Matsu Islands, Taiwan & Me
Written by Tammy Yu-Ting Hsieh. It was not until 1949 that the concept of “Matsu” was first established. Before the civil war in China, this group of islands were mostly the seasonal resting stops of fishermen from the south-east shore of China. Residents on the archipelago can clearly see the outline of Fujian, whereas “Taiwan” was an island they hardly knew nor had any relationship with. But suddenly, in 1949, Kuomintang armies arrived at Matsu Islands, and in no time, Matsu became the frontline of the Republic of China, aiming cannons at the opposite bank, a place they used to call “home.” To put it romantically, serendipity is how the “Taiwan-Penghu-Kinmen-Matsu Community” came to be today. And I tend to think that serendipity also guided me, a descendant of Minnan and Hakka from Taoyuan City, to embark on this back-and-forth journey to Matsu since 2020.
Two Young Indigenous Scholars are Promoting Indigenous artists – in Taiwan and Beyond.
Written by Fanny Caron. Lin and Ismahasan’s academic disciplines and the career path they have chosen to highlight a change in Taiwan Indigenous studies on an international level. These choices enable them to play a part in shifting the discourse on Indigenous Peoples from “objects” of study to active “subjects” of their own (counter-) narrative, supporting their affirmation of Indigeneity and tribal sovereignty.