Taking measure

A woman examines her life in contemporary puppet performance ‘The Measure’

By Tang Hsiang-yi  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Mar 22, 2014 - Page 12

A woman in her thirties comes home from work. She finds a flyer in her mailbox saying that she has been awarded an apartment, which will be built based on her needs.

Two surveyors show up with rulers, asking about the woman’s future plans, relationship with her mother, and whether she wants a single or a double bed and space for children — questions that will determine the design of the new apartment.

The woman and the surveyors are the main characters in The Measure (測量), a new production by Flying Group Theatre (飛人集社劇團) that deals with personal issues from a female perspective.

“The offer of a free apartment prompts the woman to examine her life, to face the questions that she may have skipped in the past,” the troupe’s founder and artistic director Shih Pei-yu (石佩玉) told the Taipei Times last week.

In the play, the woman has a puppet that resembles her in appearance. When she doesn’t know the answer to surveyors’ questions, she asks the puppet to reply, as if it were her inner self. In one act, the woman tells the surveyors that she can’t picture how she will look in the future. So the surveyors bring a box of masks and the woman has her puppet wear those faces.

“In this case, puppets and masks create an image that is harder for real human actors to interpret on their own,” Shih said.

In another act, as the woman imagines how life would turn out if she had a child, a plastic doll appears and they launch into a simulation of life with kids.

Shih says the surveyors’ questions represent the boundaries within which an ideal life can be built. Although the so-called ideal life could be another form of confinement, many of her friends are office workers like the female protagonist and do appreciate the idea of having a dream home. That’s why the play is left open-ended, she said.

Shih says her intent is to encourage viewers to examine their lives. She’s ready to do some self-examination too, Shih adds, quoting a Confucius saying that indicates a person should have no doubts by age 40 (四十而不惑).

“It’s not about searching for something I want, but to clear my doubts in order to confirm [the direction of my future],” Shih said.

As much as The Measure may seem didactic, Shih says she intentionally kept the dialogue light-hearted.