Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

The Black-Bearded Bible Man

Monday, November 24th, 2008

A major production of an opera five years in the making is happening this week in Taipei.  The Black Bearded Bible Man is a bilingual English-Taiwanese production chronicling the life of the Reverend George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901), a Canadian missionary and one of the best-known foreigners in Taiwan’s history.

Mackay was responsible for founding Oxford College (now Aletheia University) in Tām-súi (Danshui), named after his home in Oxford County, modern-day Ontario.  The Mackay Memorial Hospital, reputedly one of the best in Taipei, is the successor institution to one started by Mackay, who started his ministry by pulling teeth and preaching in towns in the north of Taiwan.

The Canadian of Scottish extraction was a fiery character, dedicated to his cause and seemingly caring little for what others thought of him – something exemplified by his marriage to a local woman, Tuiⁿ Chhang-miâ (known as Minnie), which shocked both the Taiwanese community and the folks back home in Canada.

The part of Mackay is being played by Thomas Meglioranza, who is writing about the preparations (and experiences singing in a new language – Taiwanese) on his blog. The opera is running from 27th-30th November at the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center in Taipei.

Theatre in translation: A-beng does the Bard

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

ShakespeareAn article in the magazine New Taiwan (新台灣) reports the localisation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by a theatre troupe in Tainan. This is notable for two points – the first is that the language being used is ‘street’ Taiwanese, not Mandarin and not formal Taiwanese (which only a few academics and poets are intimate with nowadays) – this is a progression from the practice of interpreting Shakespeare in language equivalent to 17th century English.


Quick loose translation:

Apart from the benefits of using everyday Taiwanese to represent a more heartfelt and moving drama, director Lu Peh-chhun believes that the cadences and vocabulary of Taiwanese offer a greater range than Mandarin, enabling a more exquisite rendering of Shakespeare’s works of art.

The second point of interest is that the names of the characters and the locales have also been adapted to be more familiar to local audiences. Actors from Malaysia (where Penang Hokkien, a close relative of Taiwanese is spoken) are appearing alongside Taiwanese thespians – for more details see the article entitled The Little Theatre Boldly Bringing Taiwanese Shakespeare to Life (Mandarin Chinese).