Self Re-Quests (逆旅), a script written by Zan Jae (詹傑), was originally intended as a play for reading on the page, not watching onstage.
The highly literary work won the Taiwan Literature Golden Canon Award, but made only a quiet one-off appearance at National Central University last year.
Despite the play’s bookish ambitions, the Creative Society (創作社劇團) believes it has a story worth seeing, too.
In a professionally-staged revival, Self Re-quests will be at Shuiyuan Theatre from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. The production boasts theater veteran Hsu Yen-ling (徐堰鈴) at the helm, and actresses Grace Lu (呂曼茵), Hsieh Chiung-hsuan (謝瓊煖), and Winnie Chang (張詩盈) as the three female leads.
The story is inspired by the real-life story of Taiwanese female communist Hsieh Hsueh-hung (謝雪紅), a leader during the 228 Incident. Hsieh later fled to China to join the Mao Zedong (毛澤東) regime, was tossed away afterwards and died in disillusion in old age.
Onstage, the character of Hsieh is portrayed by three actresses who sometimes appear at the same time, to mirror the character’s complexity.
Hsieh is controversial in Taiwan, but the play is decidedly not political; playwright Zan has a mightier ambition. “This play is about the soul-searching journeys of three women — and possibly, of everyone,” Zan told the Taipei Times.
The play weaves the stories of three women from three generations. A daughter picks up an annotated copy of Hsieh’s memoir to explore the life of her mother, who in turns seeks inspiration by reading Hsieh’s book. “This story is about the decisions we make and how we come to peace with them,” he said.