Paying NT$600 to spend 45 minutes in a hotel room with one or more strangers could be the start of an erotic fantasy for some — or it could just be time for the Riverbed Theatre’s (河床劇團) second annual Just for You Festival.
Just 112 people will have a chance to get up close and personal with theater next month as the company performs four plays, seven times a day over four days, all for just one person at a time.
It’s an amazing undertaking and last year’s shows provoked an extraordinary outpouring from audience members, who found the one-on-one experience exhilarating, terrifyingly intimate and thought provoking — as did the actors and directors.
Craig Quintero, Riverbed’s artistic director, said last year that he couldn’t wait to do it again and he hoped to find a venue as good as Taipei’s Hotel Eight Zone (八方美學商旅). The hotel was apparently undeterred by last year’s festival and offered its second-floor rooms again for the sets.
This year Quintero has a new cast of collaborators for directors, whose varied backgrounds will make for widely disparate plays: dancer/choreographer Chou Shu-yi (周書毅), artist Yen Yi-tzu (顏亦慈) and actor/scenic designer Li Jain-lung (李建隆).
“I like their work, that they want to experiment, need to experiment,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
Twenty years ago Li was in Quintero’s first play in Taiwan, staged at the Chinese Culture University, for which Li won best actor. Quintero said it was great to be able to collaborate with him all these years later.
“That’s what’s great about the Taiwan art scene, people leave, people come back,” Quintero said.
Yen has also collaborated with Riverbed before, helping with the set for its 2006 production about Albert Einstein, while Quintero met Chou in Avignon, France, in 2010 during an annual arts festival there. The two hit it off: He said he called Chou about working on the Just For You Festival and Chou said, “Great, let’s do it,” even though it’s far from his normal metier.
WHAT: Just For You Festival
WHEN: July 12 to July 15, shows run in intervals starting from 3pm.
WHERE: Hotel Eight Zone (八方美學商旅), 8, Jinshan S Rd, Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市金山南路一段8號)
ADMISSION: NT$600; tickets will be sold this Sunday, June 24, from 12pm to 3pm at the Taipeier Cafe (台北人咖啡), 6, Anhe Rd, Sec 1, Taipei (台北市安和路一段6號) behind the Eslite Bookstore. For more information, call 0928-277-001
For both Li and Yen, the time they spent away from Taiwan has influenced their plays.
Li spent six years in Japan studying scenic design and Japanese culture will be a major focus of his play, Geisha in the Room (梔子花與馬). Li said the play, which has three actors, will incorporate some traditional elements of a geisha’s life and performances — a tea ceremony, a flower arranging ceremony, a scent ceremony — as well as images from the Tang dynasty-era Dunhuang (敦煌) murals in China. The geisha will interact with the audience member through the ceremonies, including making an individual flower arrangement for each person.
While Li has incorporated the culture of his foreign stay into his play, Yen has focused on the sense of alienation she felt during the years she lived abroad as a student for her production, Witness (外人).
“I used to study in the Netherlands. I spent five years there, but I felt alone in public spaces … understanding situations in my own way. I lived in my own world. Dutch is very difficult, so even with my Dutch friends there was still a separateness sometimes,” she said.
That idea of a barrier to greater intimacy, of wanting to be involved, be inside, but blocked from doing so — whether by language or something else — will be a problem facing her audiences, because there will be a transparency separating them from the two performers.