The sounds, sights and smells of nature have always been a key element to attending a performance by U-Theatre (優人神鼓) at their mountain home on Laoquanshan (老泉山) in Muzha (木柵), Taipei.
Same goes for the hike up the path from the road to the complex. The path is steep, winding and not well lit, which makes flashlights a must for coming back down. What is needed going up, however, is the mantra: “It’s not much farther, we can sit down once there [pause to grab a view breaths while pretending to admire the view] and the show will be more than worth it.”
Since Zen practice and awareness are central tenets of the almost ascetic drumming group, which is famous for its meditation-based movements and long walks around Taiwan and in other countries, encouraging audience members to focus “in the moment” as they huff and puff up the path is all part of the experience.
Photo courtesy of U-Theatre
However, this year the troupe is giving people something else to focus on besides pain and shortness of breath.
On the way up to watch Sound of Light (感光。優), the audience will see the illustrations from the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, a sequence of 10 poems and pictures depicting the stages of Zen practice.
They tell of a man who goes looking for his ox, his struggles to tame it (and thereby himself ) and his eventual return home a changed person.
Photo courtesy of U-Theatre
The illustrations will be specially lit, and there will be a real ox, company founder and artistic director Liu Ruo-yu (劉若瑀) said.
The actual 50-minute show itself, divided into four segments, will also incorporate more lighting elements than usual, she said, adding that the goal was to get the audience to “feel the light” as they hear (and feel) the drumming.
The main themes for the music and choreography were also derived from the Ten Ox Herding Pictures.
The show is being coproduced by the Coretronic Culture and Arts Foundation, which was founded last year to encourage light-related research and artistic creations using light and shadows.
As with all their Laoquanshan shows, the troupe is encouraging its audience to use public transportation instead of driving up the mountain. It has arranged for shuttle buses from the Taipei Zoo MRT Station (捷運動物園站) exit 2; look for a staff member wearing a U-Theatre T-shirt or holding a placard. The shuttles will return to the MRT station after the show.
WHAT: U-Theatre, Sound of Light (感光。優)
WHEN: Thursday to Sept. 18 at 7:30pm
WHERE: U-Theatre Mountain Theater (優人劇場山上劇場), 30, Ln 26, Laoquan St, Taipei City (台北市老泉街26巷30號)
ADMISSION: NT$900, the only seats left are for Thursday
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