Four Taiwanese directors are each given thirty minutes to collaborate with three novelists and a poet to produce a script that is then performed at Taipei's National Theater. Can you hear the artistic egos clashing?
"Sure," said Hong Hong (鴻鴻) one of the four directors who is worked with poet A-mang (阿芒) on his thirty-minute part. "Our attitudes and thinking are very different towards theater," he said. "[But] we try to be polite."
The four directors are bringing their individual artistic sensibilities of realist, symbolic and post-modern theater to the stage to create a play that is based on the inventive wanderings of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. The work combines dance, opera, dialogue and video projection into a visual feast that moves beyond the bounds of language and into the imaginary
Through a series of meetings, e-mail conversations and discussions at rehearsals, the directors fused their separate scripts into a two-hour, one-act play. The script, like the novel, takes the form of a series of discussions, diversions, digressions and arguments between the explorer Marco Polo and the emperor Kublai Kahn.
Chen Li-hua (陳立華) and writer Hao Yu-shiang (郝譽翔) wrote most of the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn with Wei Ying-chuan (魏瑛娟) and writer Tsai Yi-jun (蔡逸君) creating the work's visual structure. Miguel Li (黎煥雄) and writer Cheng Ying-shu (成英姝) infuse the play with its fictitious cities and Hong Hong and A-mang use historic and contemporary cities to examine conflict.
Having four burgeoning directors collaborate on a play was the idea of the CKS Cultural Center as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations. This is fitting, really, because the four directors have also worked in the theater for the past twenty years.
What: IN-visible Cities (看不見的城市)
Where: National Theater, Taipei
When: Today and tomorrow at 7:30pm and tomorrow and Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets: NT$400 to NT$1,500 and are available through NTCH ticket outlets or from www.artsticket.com.tw
"In Taiwan, we have some [big-name] directors like Stan Lai (賴聲川). But those directors that are around 40-year-old are not so recognizable to popular audiences. So this [is] a chance to see who can attract the audience," said Hong Hong.
Instead of using the places found in the novel, the playwrights are using cities both imagined and real and the conflicts to investigate what it means to live in a particular culture.
The play variously features Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn discussing life in Taipei, two soldiers meeting on the eve of the fall of Troy where they imagine what life is like beyond the walls and the destruction of a palace.
There will also be a hostage situation similar to that which occurred five years ago in Moscow when Chechen rebels took some 400 people hostage, a flourish that will force audiences to confront the memories contained in cities both east and west.
In addition to gaining experience working together and feeding off the creativity of other directors, the collaboration also gives the theater professionals the chance to work with actors that they've never worked before in an environment that is typically reserved for bigger names.
"I think this project is very crazy — its not 10 minutes theme or simple — we are doing one play so it is very dangerous adventure. It might be a disaster or it might be a very interesting experience," he said.