Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 13 News List

U-Theater tells it on the mountain

After nearly two years of restoration, U-Theater's mountain retreat and theater will be officially opened during a four-day run of performances

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

U-Theater's renovated mountain base represents a new beginning for the troupe. The group is also opening up its facilities to other companies.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF U-THEATER

U-Theater is having a party this weekend to kick off a weeklong celebration of its return to its mountain home in Muzha. A four-day long party to be exact, that began last night and runs to Sunday evening. Not only does it want its Taipei fans to help it celebrate, the company has invited some Aboriginal musicians from Hualien and musicians from Burkina Faso as well.

U-Theater founder Liu Ruo-yu (劉若瑀) decided to call this four-day party The Door, because she wanted it to be more than just another music and drumming festival, she wanted it to symbolize a new beginning for the troupe.

More importantly, said Ken Kuo (郭耿甫), the company's manager, The Door is taken from the Chinese term yumen, which is a kind of ceremony, a tradition, whereby family members get together to party and to resolve any disagreements or feuds so that they can work together in the future.

Just like the Aborigines have a harvest festival every August to celebrate their hard work, he said, a yumen celebrates the completion of project but also celebrates the future.

So when Liu was thinking of a name for this weekend's project, Kuo said, she wanted it to be something more than a U-Theater performance, or a variety show with several guest artists. She wanted it to be a fusion of people, tradition and music.

The Door also represents the opening of the company's Laoquanshan (老泉山) home to other companies, which is another new direction that Liu wants to encourage because she feels the venue beneficial to performers and audience alike.

The Laoquanshan complex is key to the spirit of the U-Theater and the daily life of its 17 members. Their training base, rehearsal space and theater space are there, plus lots of clean mountain air. When they are not on the road, the company members usually start the day by walking up the mountain, before beginning their daily regime of drumming, taichi, meditation and martial arts training.

For your information:

WHAT: U-Theater, The DoorWHERE: U-Theater Mountain Theater (優人劇場山上劇場), located at 30, Ln 26, Laoquan St, Muzha, Taipei (台北市老泉街26巷30號)WHEN: Tonight at 7:30pm, tomorrow and Sunday at 5:30pmTICKETS: NT$600 and NT$900, available online at www.artsticket.com.tw or by calling 02-29388138


But the mountainside complex had suffered over the years from its exposure to the elements, especially typhoons. Two years ago the company embarked on a rebuilding program, which they thought would take just a year. Construction problems, bad weather and bureaucratic red tape, however, conspired to keep them away much longer.

They have been working out of a city government-provided building on Muxin Road in Muzha, which has been convenient, and which they will continue to use for workshops and smaller performances. It will also serve as the headquarters for the U-Theater Foundation. But Loguanshan will always be the center of U-Theater's world.

As for this weekend's shows, the program will include excerpts from U-Theater's longer works (Sound of the Ocean, Meeting with Vajrasattva and others), some new pieces, a performance by the Aboriginal group and a performance by the leading members of the Ballet National du Burkina.

U-Theater met the Burkina troupe when they were taking part in a national festival in Burkina Faso in March. It was the company's second trip to the African nation, both of which were sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company members enjoyed meeting and working with the Burkina group so much that Liu decided to ask them to come to Taipei.

In addition to this weekend's shows, the Burkina Faso performers will be offering evening workshops at U-Theater's center on Muxin Road.

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