This is the 15th year of the CKS Cultural Center's annual non-mainstream theater series and the line-up is as exciting as ever. The long-standing event has selected a wide spectrum of performances by groups from different
This year, under the new title "New Idea," (新點子) the series will present a performance of two English plays, original modern theater, a puppet show and a "zen pantomime."
PHOTO: VICO LEE, TAIPEITIMES
Theater-goers may not want to miss these latest works by groups which can all be described as the cream of the country's experimental theater crop.
Stalker Theatre Group (密獵者) will open the series tonight with Memories From Afar (遠方紀念日). Hong-hong (鴻鴻), the playwright and director of the show, has combined Harold Pinter's Celebration and Caryl Churchill's Far Away -- two English plays with contemporary themes from 2000.
Celebration, the first half of the show, presents the process in which marriage turns two people from lovers to strangers. The play opens in a fancy English restaurant where a young couple banters about each other's past and present infidelities, while at a nearby table, two couples celebrate one of their wedding anniversaries. As the alcohol works its magic, their true feelings toward each other come into the open.
In a strange transition the waitress in the restaurant becomes a much younger girl as the show moves on to the present time, in Far Away, in the second half. The endless conflicts around the world and people's increasing tolerance of inhumanity are discussed through the life of the girl and her aunt over several years.
"The two plays make a good combination because they are written in the same year  and both deal with `war,' in a way, and the issues particular to the present era. They are also of similar length. On the other hand, the two plays see things from different angles -- men's and women's. The audience may compare their differences when the two are placed together. Their different atmospheres [of the two split performances] will refresh the audience like taking hot and cold baths," said Hong-hong.
A theater major, Hong-hong has been working in experimental theater for a long time, though he's better-known for his award-winning poetry. After setting up Stalker Theatre Group in 1994, Hong-hong created several plays for the group.
In recent years he has ventured into movies. Love of Three Oranges and The Human Comedy, which he wrote and directed, were prize-winners in international film festivals.
Memories From Afar is one of Hong-hong's few attempts at directing a play he did not write and he tried to make as few alternations as possible to the original, for which he showed admiration at the rehearsal.
"Keeping to the original, and especially its social setting, allows the themes of the plays to be comprehended fully."
The only adjustment, he said, had been to replace the ubiquitous references to old English pop songs in Celebration with Chinese pop ballads. The Chinese songs, just as cheesy and melancholic, achieve the same effect as the original English ones.
Hong-hong has also used an imagery that is entirely his own -- shoes. Shoes are everywhere in Celebration, from being food on the table to providing the stage setting. The shoes are all from one recognizable brand, thus reminding one of product placement schemes. Hong-hong insisted on keeping the meaning of shoes secret.
"When its meaning is revealed at the ending, it's going to be the biggest surprise of the show," Hong-hong said.
Playbox Ensemble Theatre's (戲盒劇團) A Voyage to the Island -- a Solo Operetta (島語錄--一人輕歌劇), is a solo performance about the meaning of individual lives in the context of society. The Puppet & its Double Theater's (無獨有偶工作室) Little Little Boy (小小孩) is a puppet show adaptation of the story of Ming-Hwuan from the book Ren-tsi (人子) by Chinese scholar Lu Chiao (鹿橋) , whose works remained popular for decades in Taiwan. Wrapping up the series will be Shang Orientheatre's (上默劇) Shann-Zhai We All (善哉吾人).
Stalker Theatre Group's Memories From Afar is at 7:30pm tonight and tomorrow, and 2:30pm tomorrow and Sunday.
Playbox Ensemble Theatre will perform A Voyage to the Island -- a Solo Operetta at 7:30pm Oct. 16 through Oct. 18, and at 2:30pm Oct. 18 and Oct. 19.
The Puppet & its Double Theater's Little Little Boy is at 7:30pm Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, and at 2:30pm Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. Shang Orientheatre performs Shann-Zhai We All at 7:30pm Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, and at 2:30pm on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. All tickets are NT$400 and available at CKS Cultural Center
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