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Taiwanese Theatre Revisited: an analysis on (dis)Alienated sexuality and cultural memory

With Ms Chia-Hsin Chou (Trinity College, Dublin)

Series:  London Taiwan Seminar|

Date: Thursday 1 February 2007, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)

Abstract

Michal Foucault, in The History of Sexuality (1978), proposes the notion of "bio-history," arguing the materiality of the context as it emerges, where "meaning" and identity is produced by a performative reappearance. Taking Foucault's concept as the point of departure, this paper re-visits the complicated history of the little theatre movement with a focus on sexuality in Taiwan's post-Martial Law context. This paper pays special attention to Tien Ch'i-yuan's (1964-1996) major theatrical productions in order to explore the multi-layered relations of sexuality to cultural memory upon performing representation.

Tien Ch'i-yuan, dying of AIDS, was acclaimed as one of the most rebellious and talented theatre directors in Taiwan. Co-founding Critical Point Theatre Phenomenon, he directed a number of theatrical productions, such as White Water (1993), Mary Mullen (1995) and Sweet Family (1996), which set a representative model of what a political queer theatre can be in Taiwan and People's Republic. In search for a theatrical utopia, Tien delved into the social cruelty of human relations. He transformed literal inspirations, political taboos and intellectual imaginary into a series of minimal and sensual images, of silence and spoken words, and of corporeal bodies on stage. Those productions often indexed his controversial homosexual persona and radical activist values. With an in-depth performance analysis, this paper argues that Tien's dramaturgic aesthetics as a powerful political gesture to provoke social anxiety on (dis)alienated homosexuality to narrate a kind of cultural memory in the margin, where alternative meaning and identity could possibly reemerge.

About the speaker

Ms Chia-Hsin Chou is a PhD Candidate at Samuel Beckett Center, School of Drama, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Her PhD thesis explores the body of the national image on the contemporary Chinese stage in relation to gender politics. She has taught undergraduate drama courses in University of Washington (Seattle) and Trinity College Dublin. Chia-Hsin is also a performer, trained in dance movement, Hatha yoga and Grotowski meta-theatre techniques. Her performance works and workshops have appeared in the U.S., Taiwan, and Dublin. She is currently working on a yearly letter-performance project in collaboration with an emerging artist in Beijing.

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