Ruminations on death and birth

Fresh from a score of performances at the OFF d’Avignon festival, Riverbed Theatre will perform its latest work at the Taipei Artist Village next weekend

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 12

Trying to describe a Riverbed Theatre (河床劇團) performance is like trying to hold a large soap bubble in your hands for more than a few seconds. Just when you think you have a firm grasp on the matter, it slips away — or bursts — reminding you that what you thought you had was just an illusion.

That could be because the troupe has always treated life — and its performances — as a series of illusions, which are revealed and then disappear, usually through a combination of floor traps and sliding doors or windows.

The company returns to the Taipei Artist Village next weekend with reves de riz (摘花-亞維儂版), a collaboration with the Gang-a-tsui Theater (江之翠南管劇場), a nanguan (南管) ensemble, which they premiered at the OFF d’Avignon festival in July.

Reves de riz is the second collaboration between the two Taipei-based troupes, whose first joint venture was Mixed Blood (摘花), performed at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in 2013.

The new show was inspired by a time-lapse video, A Little Death, created by British artist Sam Taylor Wood in 2002 that showed the accelerated decay of a rabbit, posed like a subject in the still life painting genre favored by generations of painting instructors.

Riverbed cofounder and artistic director Craig Quintero is quoted in the performance notes as saying the show is a meditation on the liminal balance between birth and death.

Asked by the Taipei Times for a short, pithy quote to sum up the production, Quintero said: “The show is a great opportunity for the audience to experience both Riverbed’s surrealist aesthetic and the precision and beauty of traditional nanguan music and dance. It’s a chance to see the sculptural beauty of traditional arts in a completely new light.”

Quintero, who used to teach at Shih Chien University and is now an associate professor of theater and dance at Grinnel College in Iowa, is back in Taipei on a sabbatical after being named the college’s Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar for this academic year and receiving a Fulbright Scholar award.

He and the Riverbed team will return to the Experimental Theater in November with Dreaming David Lynch.