A schoolteacher living with a ghost, an American expat and an office worker who turns into a frog — these are among the seven stories told in Ah! Taipei People (啊！台北人), which runs through Sunday at Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914). (Sunday’s performance is sold out.)
The play, which premiered last night, pays tribute to Taipei People (台北人), a collection of short stories published in 1971 by novelist Kenneth Pai (白先勇). Each tale is a vignette about a person who moved to Taiwan from China following the Chinese Civil War.
Ah! Taipei People borrows the format of Pai’s novel, but with a modernized twist. In the play, seven characters, who represent a cross-section of life in the capital, tell their stories through a series of monologues and brief encounters with one another. Many of Ah! Taipei People’s characters are transplants to the city, including an Aboriginal teacher who grew up in Hualien and an American expat.
Director Hsieh Meng-tsung (謝孟璁) wrote the script using interviews with cast members, who range from a 15-year-old high school student to a housewife in her 50s. All of the characters’ backgrounds are autobiographical.
Holly, the American, talks about cultural differences she has observed. The story of A-lei (阿類), the Aboriginal woman, veers into the paranormal.
“She tried to find an apartment and strange things kept happening to her. Finally she found a place, but it turned out to be haunted,” says producer Chen Kuan-yu (陳冠妤). “So she figured that living with other people has its own problems, but at least with a ghost you get into less arguments.”
Other stories present situations that almost everyone can relate to. Mr Lin (林先生), a stifled office worker, dreams that he is the proverbial frog sitting in a pot of heating water. Another story about a high school sophomore uses the format of the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber to narrate how a socially awkward boy feels the most comfortable in the company of his female friends.
If the production is able to secure funds, Chen says the crew will take it to Taichung and Kaohsiung, where the director will also collaborate with local performers to create performances unique to each city.