Lin Hsin-yi (林欣怡) couldn’t believe what she was reading: the police in China had caught a woman carrying around dead babies in a suitcase.
At first disgusted, Lin, who read the newspaper article while traveling in China, began to ponder the symbolic relationship between a woman and the secrets her suitcase might contain. It’s an idea that evolved into her play Women With Suitcases (拎著提箱的女人), one of two performances that will open the 2008 Taiwan Women Theater Festival beginning this weekend and running to June 1 at Taipei’s Guling Street Theater (牯嶺街小劇場).
Held once every four years, the event includes a film screening, workshops and conference.
Though Lin’s play contains no dead babies, the relation between a playwright’s direct experience and the creation of a work is a trope common to feminist theater.
The second play of the double bill is Bu Fen (不分), a witty take on a marginalized subculture within Taiwan’s lesbian community.
“Everyone is familiar with ‘butch’ and ‘fem.’ ‘Bufen’ is a term that refers to a person who is neither butch nor fem. It means no distinction,” said festival producer Betsy Lan (藍貝芝), in an explanation of the play’s title.
Three women — butch, feminine and bufen — appear on a radio show called Lady Love to discuss their experiences as lesbians. Using examples drawn from real life, playwright Tu Hsih-hue (杜思慧) investigates how people are expected to label themselves and how bufens are marginalized because of their refusal to do so.
“I anticipate the show [will] do really well because, in terms of the gender movement or lesbian culture, there are still a lot of distinctions or labels or identity politics,” Lan said.
What: 2008 Taiwan Women Theater Festival
Where: Guling Street Theater (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei City (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號)
When: Women With Suitcases and Bu Fen, tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm; Between and Family Hold Back, May 22 to May 25; The Enemy Within and My Angel Friends, May 29 to June 1
Tickets: NT$500 for two shows performed on the same day, through NTCH ticketing or by contacting Betsy at 0935-546-501
On the Net: blog.roodo.com/womenfest2008
A New Year’s party finds three lonely middle-class characters discussing their lives and aspirations in Tsai Meng-fen’s (蔡孟芬) Between (可以不存在), the first in a double bill opening the festival’s second week.
Tsai infuses the play with the mundane details of daily life, using the dialogue to reveal how fear of the unknown makes people powerless.
On the same night, British performance artist Helen Paris satirizes the behavior of the white middle classes in the highly anticipated Family Hold Back. Paris uses British table manners and etiquette as a pretext to air the perversities of the English dinner table, where rituals are strictly observed and no one is supposed to mention politics.
The third and final week of the festival moves inward with The Enemy Within (我的敵人), a modern dance performance with Wei Chin-ju (魏沁如) and respected stage actress Hsu Yen-ling (徐堰鈴) that explores internal spaces through movement.
Zhang Chia-rong (張嘉容) did extensive research before sitting down to write My Angel Friends (我的天使朋友), a play that uses the interior musings of four characters to examine the nature of depression.
Detailed information about the conference and film screening can be found at blog.roodo.com/womenfest2008.