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The 7th Taishin Arts Award Performing Art Nominee

Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group(SWSG): Listen to Me, Please!

Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group's (SWSG) play "Listen to Me, Please!" debuted at the Taipei Crown Arts Center on December 20, 2008. Chief creative artist Ying-Chuan WEI incorporates modern literature, especially from female artists and writers in her work. Here she discusses her creative process.

My first idea for Listen to Me, Please! is to tell a soap story about love. I am used to brewing theatrical forms in the very beginning, as, to me, form means content. I decided to use rhymed lines and paper puppets. Based on the puppet image, a lover's metaphor, I extended the 2D quality into piling layers to present human mentality, and even used mirrors on stage to reflect the deepest layers of the characters' true selves. This concept got developed further when I laid bare the space behind the mirror, which was also the space for the play-within-the-play. Here the use of metaphorical layers is a perfect form to manifest the complexity of the human mind, as well as, to make connections between fantasy and reality. The stiff physical movements follow the same "form = content" logic. 

I use different processes while working on various pieces, with the final work being the result of the process itself. The Listen to Me, Please! script is completely original. I can't quite figure out whether visual or aural ideas came up first for this work. Just one day the image of a puppet speaking stupidly in rhyme occurred to me. That's it.

Each of the various forms implies a unique working process, a demand of specific performing style and an appeal to visual/audio experience. The only thing that's "typical" to all my works is that I always call the process "an end in an emergency" that happens at the last minute before the curtain rises. (HAHA!)

I love to probe various topics, which however can't be directly addressed in the theatre. The results of the research have to be transformed/translated into theatrical language in order to make a real play, otherwise a conference or a presentation would be more satisfying. Theatre is a 3D space allowing for simultaneous visual and aural perception; the rhythm and tempo could convey more than reasoning, and a well-made rhythm (audio) can even help to intensify the impressions by images (visual). That's why I took the aural advantages of the Chinese language and used lots of rhyming rules to compose lines.

I get my ideas from various sources: daily life, my friends' stories, TV shows, childhood memories, Shakespeare's plays, the books I've read and some movies. The show is not the result of a single inspiration. Actually, I made the show just to participate in a theater festival.

Though our Taishin-nominated work seems to be a hilarious tragicomedy, the show is practiced with very complicated cues. To the actors it is especially challenging as they need to memorize and speak long condensed, rhyming lines fluently in a rhythmic, cadenced way. They must move with puppet-like rigidity while expressing themselves emotionally. Also the most demanding part, the actors have to switch between two selves as speaking in dialogue and in overtones. The quick shifts could drive an actor crazy. It happened once that an actor forgot his lines while shifting between the two selves, and he finally found lines to jump in, but these lines were supposed to be spoken five minutes later.

-----As told to Susan Kendzulak


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