Theatre of Our Time
In the 1960s, new forms of theatre have been explored in the US and Europe, including collective improvisational theatre, community theatre, political theatre, educational theatre, and cross-disciplinary theatre, thereby making great impact on how people think about modern theatre and how to put it into practice. Due to the efforts of modern theatre-makers, major Western theatrical concepts, such as the works of Dario Fo (1926-), the "Poor Theatre" by Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999) or the "Theatre of the Oppressed" by Augusto Boal (1931-2009), were introduced into Taiwan, exposed among more and more local audience groups.
However, everything that was once deemed as "modern" seems somewhat distant from us now.
Since the 21st century, the number of theatre troupes has skyrocketed, theatre productions flourished, and theatrical concepts and techniques, greatly different from one another, have blossomed. With the advancement of technology, the division of labor in theatrical production has undergone reformation, theatre elements, techniques, and aesthetics have faced constant renewal, and even our notions of "theatre" have been challenged.
Ever since the end of 19th century, traditional Asian theatre has endured wave after wave of invasions from Western theatre. The oppression brought on by the dominant Western culture is no less vicious than any political colonialism in the past. Not limited by region borders, struggles between the periphery and the center have been taking place nonstop everywhere. After several rounds of contestations, the "modernity" of traditional theatre finally arose out of the negotiations between "protection of tradition" and "transitional innovation." When theatre-makers are facing modern audiences and performing for them, however, whether they are to "protect" or "innovate," "re-making of tradition" becomes a process that is destined to be questioned and reconstructed repeatedly. Then there are collaborations between countries, between different traditions, and between the traditional and the modern, which are all stimulating their own imaginations and creating new practices.
The situation in China is quite unique. Since the Chinese economic reform, economy has risen sharply, bringing about rapid changes in material consumption, causing changes in people's perceptions, views and national self-confidence, and bringing tremendous impact on theatre production as well. With the "rise of China," set construction and theatre forms have undergone significant innovation and the Chinese diaspora all over the world involved in theatre have responded to this change.
At the same time, however, the "globalized" society is experiencing various "great declines" in economy, politics, belief, and value system, etc. The era we are now living in has brought us a collective sense of disappointment and even frustration. How has this changed our mentality and cultivated the zeitgeist of the "contemporary" theatre?
The word "contemporary," compared with "ancient" and "modern," proactively describes the era we are living in. As time moves on and creative works are continually being produced, the demarcation of "the contemporary" should be constantly re-considered and adjusted. With this awareness in mind, we want to probe into the following questions: after riding through an array of political, aesthetic, and philosophical trends, what characteristics does "the Theatre of Our Time" have that embody the zeitgeist and aesthetics of this current era? Moreover, does it honor the spiritual values and ideals in this consumerist and materialist world, and if so, how?
This is an age when people cannot look away from their phones even while walking and driving, when watching video clips that go over movies in a few minutes is more popular than watching the movies themselves, and when people turn to cloned pets and possibly cloned lovers for companionship. In a world like this, are theatre and drama going to be the same as they once were?