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A Theater Museum on Wheels

By Leo Maliksi

The cast of Kingdom of Desire inside one of the train cabins.

By the end of March 2017, passengers of Taipei’s MRT red line will ride a train whose sides are painted with scenes from twelve famous productions of the Contemporary Legend Theater.

Founded by Wu Hsing-kuo in 1986, the professional theater group has produced Chinese adaptations of Shakespearean plays and works of other western writers.

In 1986, CLT staged the Kingdom of Desire adapted from Macbeth; in 1990, it staged Revenge of the Prince, an adaptation of Hamlet; and in 1993, it presented an adaptation of Medea.

 1. One train of Taipei MRT's red line will have its sides decorated with images of productions of Contemporary Legend Theater. (by LRM)

Thirty years ago, Wu Hsing-kuo and Wei Hai-ming, keenly aware of the decline of traditional Chinese Opera, began thinking seriously about how to integrate traditional Chinese Opera with modern theatre.

They succeeded in fusing the singing, acting, dialogue, and acrobatic fighting of traditional Chinese Opera with Western canons, and presented performances in theatre forms. Since its founding, the CLT has been invited to perform in such venues as Royal National Theatre, UK; Festival d'Avignon, France; Asian Performing Arts Festival, Japan; 40th Anniversary of Odin Theatre, Denmark; and Lincoln Center Festival, USA.

In recognition of its contribution to the world of culture, and in celebration of CLT’s 30th foundation anniversary, the Taipei City Government Department of Culture launched the “Theater Museum on Wheels” at the Beitou MRT Depot.

 4. Wu Hsing-kuo, left, and his wife (right) Lin Hsiu Wei, producer and administrator of CLT, during the launch of Theater Museum on Wheels.

“Culture is for everyone,” said Lin Hsiu Wei, producer and administrator of CLT, “and what better vehicle is there to share and transmit the artistic treasure of theater than the everyday medium of an MRT train.”