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    AN INTRODUCTION TO TAINAN JEN THEATRE

  Tainan Jen Theatre was initiated by some Tainan-based theatre enthusiasts at Hwa Deng Arts Centre in 1987 under the name ‘Hwa Deng Theatre Troupe’, the first 'modern' theatre company (theatre company that produces western-style spoken drama rather than traditional Chinese musical theatre) to be established in Tainan after World WarII. In June1997, the name 'Hwa Deng’ was changed to the current one to mark the tenth anniversary of the troupe's birth, as well as to start a new stage of development. Ever since its establishment, Tainan Jen Theatre has worked hard to discover and breed local drama talents, so as to live up to the principles of what we call ‘theatrical localism’. In order to make theatre more accessible to the Tainanese, the troupe has utilised various dramatic forms to explore different local issues that may concern our audiences in their daily life. We even ask our actors to speak good Min-nan-yu, or Taiwanese (as opposed to Mandarin, the official language of Taiwan), in many of our productions, so that the local audiences can easily identify themselves with the characters and feel less intimidated by the language barrier.

  So far, nearly thirty plays have been created by Tainan Jen / Hwa Deng Theatre Troupe, and many of them produced. In 1991 and 1992, the troupe was invited by the National Theatre to present, respectively, Taiwanese Comic Dialogue(Tai Yu Xiang Sheng)-Ordinay Life and Take Me to See the Fish in the annual Festival for Experimental Theatre. To many people’s surprise, they were both sold out and well received. Meanwhile, the troupe was also included in a three-year (1991-1993) project, planned and conducted by the Council for Cultural Affairs in Taipei, entitled ‘The Project for the Development of Community Theatre’, and encouraged to promote the development of theatre at a local level. In those three years, The Baseball Dream of Youth, a play set in the peak period of baseball game, and The Phoenix Trees are in Blossom, a piece of family drama closely related to the modern history of Taiwan, which were all inspired by the memories shared by our local audiences. Since 1994, Tainan Jen Theatre has been involved in the annual Tainan Municipal Art Festival. Jian Yi Duan Li Shi De Giao Zong and Illio Formasa-The Beautiful Island, two assorted pieces of historic drama, were rather representative amongst our repertoire back to 1994 and 1995. In 1996, the troupe presented Journey of the Wind Birds, an environmental piece adapted form Liu Ke-hsiang’s novel and backed up by the exploration of the fusion of different tribes/communities, in the Art Festival at a time when the Chinese government decided to fire three missiles at the west coast of Taiwan. It inevitably struck a responsive chore upon the audience and won over their hearts, as they were reminded to look at their own cultural and political identities through this play. In 1997 and 1998, the troupe presented, sequentially, Listening to a Song, Variations of the River and Farewell to the Winter. Most of the plays are devised with an aim to reflect the history of Taiwan and how people's standard of value and view of life have been affected and changed by the alteration of their environment in modern times. In 2000, the troupe approached closer to be a professional theatre company by the production‘A year, Three Seasons ’cooperated with one of the most distinguished directors in Taiwan, Wang Chi-mei and one of the best stage designers in Taiwan, Lin Keh-hua. The troupe just completed its best performance in the end of 2002, a Greek tragedy in Taiwanese‘Antigone’which was appreciated by critic Lu Chien-Chon as ‘The most splendid Athenian drama produced by Taiwanese that I have ever seen ’.

  Over the last fifteen years, Tainan Jen Theatre has also hosted many theatre-related workshops and festivals to bring about the stable growth of drama and theatre in Tainan. The troupe has thus been approved by the Council for Cultural Affairs in Taipei to be one of Taiwan's ‘subsidized performance groups of great excellence’ since 1998. However, that does not stop the troupe's ambition to better itself. At this particular stage, the most important task for Tainan Jen Theatre to accomplish in the foreseeable future is transform itself, gradually, into a professional theatre company and make its service available to an even wider audience.
The troupe was approved again by the Council for Cultural Affairs to be one of Taiwan's‘subsidized performance groups of great excellence’for 2002.

Theatre-in-Education and Youth Theatre
  In order to further explore the possibilities of community-related theatre, Tainan Jen invited the Greenwich and Lewis ham’s Young Peoples Theatre (GYPT) to conduct an international project entitled ‘Greenside – Theatre for Interaction Workshop’ in Tainan in 1998. The very next year, Hsu Rye-fang, the artistic director of Tainan Jen, visited London at GYPT 's invitation and participated in the devising process of ‘Time and Tide Line’, a TIE programmed, as an actor-teacher. In the winter of 1999, Hsu organized her own TIE team and presented Tainan Jen's first official TIE programmed‘The Completion of the Mansion’. It has been toured to more than 10 local schools. From March to June of 2001, Hsu’s the 2nd TIE programmed‘Dream in the Wind’was toured to 11 schools for 23 performances. By the two programmers, Tainan Jen got a lot of exciting feedback from many teachers and students. In terms of the future development of TIE work, the troupe plans to produce at least one TIE programme every year, and to organize drama and theatre workshops for school teachers on a regular basis. The latest programme “Nuclear Family ” has been toured to 15 schools for 16 performances from March to June of 2002.

  Meanwhile, with an aim to encourage young people to participate in the theatre, Tainan Jen Theatre had recruited a group of young people, aged between 17 and 23, and organized its first youth theatre group in September 1999. The first youth group took part and enjoyed good time in the International Youth Theatre Festival, hosted by GYPT in the summer of 2000. The plan is now operating in accordance with the semester schedule of school, and will continue to infuse new blood into the group every six months.

 
       
     

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