Ruizendaal emphasized the interactive aspect of the production as something quite distinct from what Taiyuan had done in the past.
“We have done thousands of shows in Taiwan and abroad as well, but there was so much about Taiwan that we still didn’t know. There are an amazing number of stories out there. But the idea of going to study these stories ourselves and then performing it was not nearly as interesting as going to the tribe and asking them for the story, writing it into a simple play and giving it back to them, so that they could do the performance with their own people… We are just in a producing role, but at the same time, we also learn an amazing amount about Taiwan.”
This style of production, with Taiyuan providing support for aboriginal communities, has generated considerable interest. The project, titled Taiwan’s Disappeared! Touch Taiwan Shadow Puppet Tour (台灣不見了！Touch Taiwan光影課程巡迴計畫),is supported by the Council of Indigenous Peoples (原住民委員會), and now in its second year, is reaching deeper into Taiwan’s aboriginal community.
On the face of it, the productions are simple enough. The requirements are a projector, a screen, a couple of set designers, directors and administration staff from Taiyuan, and most importantly, the willingness of the communities to participate and delve into their own heritage. “This is a really valuable opportunity for the children,” Su said. “The children have a chance to participate in a theatrical enterprise and also become more familiar with their own culture. There is really not enough opportunity in the regular curriculum for this.”
A projector and screen are left with each school or community that participates in the project with the hope that similar projects can continue, driven from within the community itself. For Taiyuan, it is an opportunity to discover new riches in Taiwan. “The main thing for ourselves is visiting all these places and working together with the communities at this super grassroots level. You discover the amazing richness of aboriginal culture in Taiwan, which is mostly hidden from view for people living in the big cities.”