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Q&A with Taiwanese Opera Director and Taiwan Academy Director

US-China Today sits down with Shun Chui Fung, Taiwanese Opera director, and Bill Su-pao Chang, director of the Taiwan Academy, during a recent Los Angeles performance. This peace was written by Ziying Li.

November 19, 2015

Audiences in Los Angeles recently had the opportunity to experience the artistry of Ming Hwa Yuan (明華園), one of the most famous and representative Taiwanese opera or Gezaixi (歌仔戲) groups. Established in 1929, Ming Hwa Yuan features avant-garde performances that mix traditional heritage and modern technique. Its distinct blend of music, theatre, martial arts, dancing, and traditional art forms has become a hallmark of Taiwanese opera. To mark the 105th National Day of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Ming Hwa Yuan toured the United States with a combination opera:  “Hero Beauty,” (英雄.佳人) directed by the famed director and “first actor” of Taiwanese opera, Shun Chui Fung (孫翠鳳). In an effort to learn about the performance and Taiwan’s contemporary approach to cultivating soft power in America, US-China Today interviewed Shun Chui Fung and Bill Su-pao Chang, director of the Taiwan Academy, an organization that enhances cultural exchange between Taiwan and the international community.


Interview with Shun Chui Fung

Is there a particular subject or theme you focus on in the opera “Hero Beauty”? What can you tell our readers about this production?

There are two parts in this opera, which are completely different from each other. The first part is called “Lovebird’s Spears” (鴛鴦槍), it’s a romantic comedy in which you can feel the loveliness, kindness, and liveliness of the Taiwanese. Many representative characters of Gezaixi are shown in the play, including a clown, men played by women, and women played by men. Cross-gender acting is one of the most prominent elements in Gezaixi, and of course one of the audience’s favorite parts. Therefore, in “Lovebird’s Spears,” we have the cross-gender castings and a cute clown to bring joy to the audience and to celebrate National Day.

The second play, “General of the Empire” (護國將軍),is a war play that demonstrates the traditional martial arts of Gezaixi. You can see the professionals somersault and use stair-like weapons, which are specifically designed by Ming Hwa Yuan. While stairs were used as climbing tools in the past, we use them as weapons to defeat the enemies in the play. Therefore, we show a heroic general who protects his country and sees the enemy’s strategies wisely. We want to make everybody happy by seeing the opera as a whole.

What do you hope to bring to audiences with this performance?

Overseas Taiwanese have not had the opportunity to see traditional Taiwanese opera for many years. Through the first play that we are going to perform, they would definitely find that the opera they had seen growing up has now become an internationally known art. They will be proud of the improvements of Gezaixi and, of course, their homeland. Audiences will also see our advanced martial arts in the second play, and we’re more than happy to show them the great progress in our martial skills.