As if the Kuandu Arts Festival (關渡藝術節) at the Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學) currently underway (see Taipei Times Oct. 4, 2012) is not providing enough choice for cultural mavens, October will also see the third iteration of the Huashan Living Arts Festival (華山藝術生活節), with its vast array of local theater, music, visual arts and cinema taking place at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914) starting tomorrow and running through until Nov. 4.
The event features over 500 performances, screenings, seminars and workshops and in its first two editions attracted close to 200,000 visitors. It has already established itself as a major event on Taipei’s increasingly crowded arts calendar, and is an important showcase for artists striving for wider audience recognition.
“People have become familiar with the quality of the programs we include in the festival,” Lin Pei-rung (林佩蓉) of the Performing Arts Alliance (表演藝術聯盟) told the Taipei Times. “In making its selection, we are very mindful of market appeal.” She added that inclusion in the festival program might be construed as an endorsement, encouraging audiences to take a risk on a program that they might not otherwise consider.
Promoting new artists and helping emerging artists establish themselves is a major goal of the festival. The major performances are divided into two sections with slightly different emphasis. Center Stage provides a platform for new productions of shows that have already made an impact, putting their market viability to the test.
The group Ping Fong Acting Troupe (屏風表演班), for example, will be re-staging its highly popular Can Three Make It (三人行不行), which mixes social comedy with technical skill, as three performers take on 18 roles to explore the various absurdities of urban life in Taiwan. They have signed up for 30 performances, a very long run for a production in Taiwan, but according to organizers, almost 90 percent of tickets for this production have been sold.
Other groups such as Huang Junxiong Puppet Troupe (黃俊雄布袋戲子團), Paperwindmill Theater (紙風車劇團), Mobius Strip Theater (莫比斯圓環創作公社) and Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group (莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團) all have strong fan support, but the Living Arts Festival gives them an opportunity to boost their mainstream visibility.
New Edge Stage
The second category is New Edge Stage, which provides an opportunity for less well-known groups to gain a degree of audience recognition outside the restrictive field of experimental theater. The category is headlined by Off Performance Workshop (外表坊), the experimental arm of Performance Workshop Theater (表演工作坊), arguably Taiwan’s boldest and most respected theater company. There is also a new production by Puppet and Its Double Theater (無獨有偶工作室劇團), a group that has done much to extend the appeal of puppet theater, along with productions by The Party Theater Group (同黨劇團), Short One Player Theater (三缺一劇團) and Fantasy Theater (狂想劇場).
In addition to these ticketed performances, a huge program of free outdoor events has been scheduled starting tomorrow and taking place every Saturday and Sunday from 2:30pm while the festival lasts.
The opening festival, one of the highlights, kicks off tomorrow at 2pm with performances by Shu-Yi Dancers Company, a parade featuring the Sibongie African Drumming and Dance Crew and New Image Theater Group, a host of other outdoor shows and finishing with an outdoor screening of the Taiwanese film Prima Donna.
As with the Kuandu Arts Festival, this is a huge event with programs reaching out to people with diverse artistic tastes. Signing up for a specialist workshop in improvisational dance or Taiwanese opera is one option, or you might just pick up tickets to check out a show, or even simply show up at Huashan and see what’s happening during the weekend.
Extensive information in Chinese and English is available at the festival Web site located at 2012hlaf.mottimes.com.