A new Taiwan-Thailand drama school collaboration is as delectable as pineapple tarts
ONE OF the joys of attending a student theatre work – when it’s not the typical graduation project for which many of the aspiring artists have to do what their professors prescribe to get good grades –is that we can feel the energy, creativity and artistic freedom. Of course, we don’t usually know what we’re going to get when it’s a new work, but that’s part of the excitement too.
Taipei National University of the Arts’ (TNUA) School of Theatre Arts and Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Dramatic Arts have been members of the Asia Pacific Bond of Theatre Schools (APB) for almost a decade – their respective country’s sole representative.
Three playlets by Taiwanese and Thai students made for an entertaining and insightful evening./Photo: Chatchadaphan Sangangam
At last year’s APB festival, their students got along well and consequently their professors paid visits to each other’s campus and the two institutions finally signed an MoU. And so this year on their way to the APB festival in Yogyakarta, the Taiwanese theatre students made a week-long stopover in Thailand capital to create a new work “Level with Me” with their Thai friends. Last Wednesday and Thursday at Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts, the audience was treated to the result, along with the former’s “Being, Beside a Burning Sun” and the latter’s “Pathway in the Darkness” – the same triple bill they presented yesterday in Indonesia.
“Being, Beside a Burning Sun”: Photo/ Chatchadaphan Sangangam
Staged by TNUA student Chiu-Jung Chen, “Being” started with an audience participation part in which an actor came up to the audience stand and asked a few audiences about Taiwan. Juxtaposing this with songs and physical movements, the piece turned from light-hearted to solemn, with props used as symbols to express their thoughts, subtly yet effectively, on Taiwan’s relationship with not only “the burning sun” across the sea but also the world. A devised theatre performance in which all the actors seemed to have a similar amount of input, “Pathway” reminded us what else was happening when 12 boys and their football coach were being rescued from a Chiang Rai cave. For example, a Northeastern Thai luk thung dancer lost her soldier husband in one of the daily bombings in Southern Thailand. As a satirical drama, it was both hilarious and poignant, although they forgot to mention how much of Thai taxpayers’ money was spent on this global mission.
“Pathway in the Darkness”: Photo/ Chatchadaphan Sangangam
The format, with both spoken English words and physical movements, of the evening’s highlight “Level with Me”, allowed the students to voice their opinions on various contemporary conflicts and issues in their countries and a few members of the audience did so too. With only seven days of rehearsal, the students formed a strong ensemble and when each had a moment to shine, individual characters came out. And that’s thanks of course to their three advisers, theatre directing professors Ling-Ling Chen, Zu-Ling Hong and Bhanbhassa Dhubthien.
“Level with Me” : Photo/ Chatchadaphan Sangangam
The afternoon before the show I found myself facing many problems at work yet for almost 90 minutes, this triple bill made me completely forget them. It wasn’t pure escapism though – otherwise I would have watched a Hollywood film instead. Rather, it was an opportunity to see and hear what our young people, the next generation of professional artists, are concerned with and how they’re using what they’ve been studying to express these thoughts. And of course for this Taiwan-Thailand collaboration, it proves that both of our countries have a lot in common as well as many differences and that the ongoing artistic and cultural exchanges and collaborations should persist, notwithstanding the political and diplomatic counterparts.
And this is despite the fact that one grumpy old critic wondered if it were possible for the international festival audience to see a performance from Taiwan without a China reference, and one from Thailand without traditional dance and rituals.
NEXT STOP, TAIPEI
"Level with Me” will be part of the annual Kuandu Arts Festival, performing at TNUA’s Experimental Theatre on October 11 and 12 at 8pm.
It’s in Chinese and Thai, with English surtitles.
Tickets are NTD 600 (Bt 635). For more details and reservation, visit www.Kdaf.tnua.edu.tw.