Peking opera star retraces Taiwan history in solo show

Taipei-Peking opera actress Wei Hai-min (???) will star in a solo show in April that looks back on Taiwan's recent history and has been crafted with videos and photos by prominent artists in their respective fields, the organizers said Monday.

In "A Thousand Stages, Yet I Have Not Quite Lived," Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen (???) combines Wei's performance and works by her fellow National Award for Arts winners -- video artist Chen Chieh-jen (???) and photographer Chang Chao-tang (???).

"It's a show that's going back in time, but it's very much about the present and also about the future," said Ong, who is in Taipei in quarantine, via a live video link during a press conference held by the National Theater and Concert Hall, which commissioned the play.

"The artist can be a lens through which we look at a country, a people and a special time," said Ong, who said his job is to "capture a life in 90 minutes."

The director said he put together six of Wei's iconic roles, historical pictures taken by Chang, and videos shot by Chen of places in Taiwan that were significant in Wei's career, such as Kaohsiung, where she studied in a military art school, to take the audience on a "very special journey" they can relate to.

He also spoke about the impact of the ongoing COVID-19, which led to a postponement of the production's originally scheduled premiere a year ago.

While the pandemic has led artists to focus more on local material, Ong said he believed the play built on stories about Wei and Taiwan's history "can still be international."

Meanwhile, according to Wei, "Ong's documentary theater format brought in history, things about this land, memories and emotions."

"It has been a process that I had not been through," she said. "It is easy to play a role for an actor, but it's scary to play oneself."

Wei, whose stage career has lasted more than five decades, will portray two classic Peking opera roles and four from more modern productions that incorporate Peking opera as an element, including Medea from the Greek tragedy and Orlando from Virginia Woolf's novel, while also telling her own life story as herself.

According to Chen, who joined the press conference via a video link from South Korea, the videos he shot are aimed at reflecting Wei's personality, which he described as "naive, but having been through a lot."

Chen is in South Korea for an upcoming exhibition of his work.

The production will first appear at the National Theater in Taipei with four performances from April 9-11, and an additional performance will take place at the Hsinchu County Performance Hall on April 17.

Wei will perform in Chinese, accompanied by live scores played by the National Symphony Orchestra, with English subtitles available.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel