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Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land

TIME
2019/12/26-28(Thu. – Sat.)7:30PM
2019/12/28-29(Sat. – Sun.)2:30PM

VENUE
National Theater

Contemporary Masterpiece of Chinese Theatre

When our team tried to pick the Mandarin title for this work, the cast protested to the director, “The title makes no sense grammatically.”

Premiered in 1986, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, a piece that unveils the social issues of its time, is a collage built through disruption. Containing self-built new linguistic creations, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land bloomed in Taiwan like an extraordinary flower. The latest contemporary fashion and ancient costumes, current events and the classics, tragedy and comedy, and mirth and silent tears are revealed, juxtaposed on the stage.

Through seven revival performances in Taiwan and oversea tours, a well-acclaimed film, thousands of unofficial performances and pirated DVDs circulated throughout China, official performances over the past ten years, and eighty professional performances in English

at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, numerous audiences have experienced the magic of Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land. As a result, their perspectives on theatre, arts, and life have been changed. An unusual enfant bred in a ‘grammatically nonsensical’ era, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land reached maturity not too long ago. Nevertheless, it is already regarded as an immortal masterpiece of the Chinese theatre of this century.

Synopsis

Two troupes accidentally reserve the same rehearsal slot at the same venue. One will perform Secret Love, a tragedy in the latest fashion. The other will perform In Peach Blossom Land in ancient costume. Nobody knows how the mix-up in scheduling occurred and the administrator of the venue is nowhere to be found. Secret Love is a theatrical piece about an old gentleman lying on his deathbed in a hospital who recalls his romance in Shanghai in 1948. As for In Peach Blossom Land, it revealed that the reason why the fisherman in The Peach Blossom Spring, written by Yuanming Tao, rowed his boat upstream is because his wife committed adultery. Both troupes are in a hurry to rehearse; they don’t want to give up the stage to the other. So they wrestle for the use of stage. The audience is forced to watch parts of Secret Love in one moment, and parts of In Peach Blossom Land the next. Neither of the shows are able to fully complete their rehearsals. At the end, the two troupes come to an agreement to share the stage. Each stays on its assigned side in order to complete their rehearsal. However, the two shows mysteriously blend together. Eventually, Secret Love comes to a close with the end originally designed for In Peach Blossom Land; while In Peach Blossom Land ends with the epilogue designed for Secret Love

Director’s Words

On a cool early spring night this past March, a large crowd waited outside a movie theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a screening of my film THE PEACH BLOSSOM LAND. They were people who could not get in, and they doubled the number of those inside. After the screening, I entertained questions, and I’m still surprised that after over 30 years, even in a different culture, the work does not seem to have aged, nor have the emotions lost their potency. In a way, the relevance has shifted subtly, but it seems remarkable to me that the work has defied time and maintained its emotional appeal after being far removed from the very topical issues and specific historical moment when the work was first performed in 1986.

I have personally directed 14 versions of SECRET LOVE IN PEACH BLOSSOM LAND, including the film version, Taiwanese Opera and Yue Opera versions, a Cantonese version, and English versions at Stanford and Ashland. I have heard that there are over 10,000 other versions that have been performed that I do not know about. I am also informed that this number is in fact closer to reality than some incredulous exaggeration, which it sounds like. As the lens of history moves far beyond the events of 1986, the time where Taiwan and China were reestablishing communications amongst the people after almost 4 decades of barrier, it seems that themes in the play have emerged, like colors permeating through pigment over time, that go far beyond that specific historical context. The actor Huang Lei, who has been performing in the play since 2006, once said, “SECRET LOVE is about regret, PEACH BLOSSOM LAND is about impermanence.” Perhaps these two themes do actually transcend time, and combined within the structure of the work, bounce off each other and resonate in new ways to new audiences.

It is also surprising to me that the structure of the play has stood the test of time, and in fact, while being so successful, has not found any copiers. Again, I think back to the origins of the idea of putting two different plays together on stage, each vying for rehearsal time. I think back to my Greek and Roman theater seminar at Berkeley with Dunbar Ogden, who stimulated my thoughts with exploration of the Satyr Play, which is performed after a trilogy of Greek tragedies, and is a comedy. I think back to my own study of the Japanese Noh theater, and it’s insertion of the comic Kyogen between the two acts of the serious Noh.

I think back to my own thoughts, enduring the much too early death of a high school classmate from a ridiculous accident, where I reflected on the absurdity of life, and how similar, in fact exactly alike, is the human face when expressing extreme emotions of pain and pleasure.

I guess these are not fanciful or faddish thoughts, but thoughts built on deep sentiments from the human reservoir, and represent profound archetypes of the human experience. Perhaps that is the foundation of the structure of the play: an exploration, through two theater groups who are searching to perform, of the expansiveness and extremes of human experience, and their sameness.

I welcome the actor Chiu Che to this celebratory production, which commenced performance in 2016 and has been to many places, including the Adelaide, Australia OzAsia Festival. I also welcome back Hsiao Ai, who in her own right claimed the role of Yun with her own signature performance in the 1999 production. I am honored that we are performing back in the National Theater, where once Bridget Lin graced the stage in 1991 in this play, and where the Minghuayuan Taiwanese Opera Troupe romped around in the 2006 production. It’s good to be home.

Stan Lai (Lai Sheng-Chuan)

Performance Workshop

Leading troupe in the world of Chinese theatre.

Performance Workshop was founded in the living room of the house of Stan Lai and Nai-Chu Ding at Yangmingshan on November 17, 1984. In an era during which theatrical performances were scarce and there were hardly any theatre troupes in Taiwan, this new star with unlimited potential showcased its brilliant creativity in bursts of productivity, producing several works which greatly impacted Taiwan’s modern theatre and also gave birth to several new theatrical troupes.

In the last three decades, Performance Workshop, a troupe based in Taiwan and comprised of highly-acclaimed theatrical workers, devoted its energy to bringing new concepts into Chinese theatre. At the same time it breathed new life into the withering realm of traditional theatrical arts. It successfully blended the fine arts and modern mass culture into one, and invited numerous patrons to re-visit the theatres in Taiwan and many Chinese-speaking areas. During this period, Performance Workshop continually received rave reviews from international media sources. It is generally acknowledged as one of the foremost contemporary theatrical troupes in Chinese-speaking regions.


Organizer: National Theater & Concert Hall

Production and Performance: Performance Workshop

Approx. 170 minutes including intermission.

The program is subject to change.


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