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2022 New Culture Movement | New drama in Taiwan: A battle of cultures

During the 1920s, intellectuals in Taiwan came to be influenced by a global trend for national self-determination. In 1921, the Taiwan Culture Association was set up to demand equal political participation from the colonial government by running newspapers, giving speeches, setting up news reading groups, staging dramas, and screening films, which ignited a wave of new cultural movements in Taiwan.


During its 2022 New Culture Movement month, the Taiwan New Cultural Movement Memorial Museum rolled out an event series called “New drama in Taiwan: A battle of the cultures (新劇登臺.文化大拚場)”. The “new drama” in the Chinese title 新劇登臺 (xin ju deng tai) refers to stage plays well known to all in modern times, while in Taiwan the phrase 登臺 (deng tai) has the dual meaning of performing on stage and landing (in an airplane). As a key organization in the promotion of the New Culture Movement, the Taiwan Culture Association used new drama as a way of promoting its ideas, adding new ideas to screenplays and focusing performances on current affairs. This type of performance was known as “cultural drama”.


This year’s events focused on the theme of New Drama & Cultural Drama. Through static exhibitions, audience-friendly music concerts and market fairs, in-depth forums and lively podcasts, the public is invited to learn about the historical context behind the spread of new drama to Taiwan 100 years ago, the interaction between cultural movements and traditional operas, and the impact of the theater as a new performance environment on drama-watching culture.


New Drama Movement Wave During the Japanese Colonial Era

The forms of stage plays we are familiar with today were known as “new drama” in Taiwan 100 years ago. The new drama (cultural drama) performed by members of the Taiwan Culture Association conveyed ideas of social reform through extensive spoken dialogue. The special exhibition “New Era Takes Stage: New Drama Movement Wave During the Japanese Occupation Period (新時代大登臺—日治時期新劇運動浪潮)” used reproductions of stage spaces and situational performances to show how members of the Taiwan Culture Association performed and promoted new drama and depict the historical appearance of new drama in Taiwanese society during the Japanese colonial era. The exhibition showed the mutual influence and competitive relationship between old drama (traditional opera) and new drama during the Japanese colonial era and examined at depth the ideological trajectory of members of literary associations and the subsequent directions of development for new drama.


Concerts, Fairs, Podcasts, and Forums

Dadaocheng is where the first theaters emerged in Taiwan and one of the birthplaces of new drama. To reproduce the atmosphere from 100 years ago, the Island Music Concert and Market Fair (本島音樂會市集) will be held at Yongle Plaza (永樂廣場) in Dadaocheng (大稻埕) on October 15th. A professional dance troupe will lead a retro dancing session, using music and dance to travel back to Dadaocheng’s golden age 100 years ago. A new drama will also be staged to enable the public to experience its charms first hand, learn about the rivalry between traditional opera and new drama, and witness exciting interactions in spontaneous intellectual one-upmanship between new drama performers and the Japanese police.


On October 15 and 16, Lan-Yang Taiwanese Opera Company will be invited to perform Tsiúnn Ūi-súi at Dadaocheng Theater (大稻埕戲苑). The play is being staged as a Taiwanese opera, interpreting the extraordinary life of Chiang Wei-shui through the design aesthetics of traditional opera and modern theater. The stage will be used as a storytelling medium to enable the audience to experience the cultural significance of various modes of performance—new drama versus cultural drama, and traditional opera versus modern technique.


The podcast Speakers’ Conference (有聊者大會) will look back at the birth of new drama in Taiwan 100 years ago and how members of the intelligentsia adopted it as a tool to convey their ideas, igniting a battle between new and old cultures through the sparring of new cultural trends and traditional ideas. The Cultural Diagnosis (文化問.診) Forum will bring together experts and scholars to explore the trajectory of new drama and cultural drama during the Japanese colonial period, the hopes harbored by the literati when they wrote screenplays, and the actual audience and influence of new and old drama at that time.


Centennial review: Museum publication records

Last year marked the centenary of the establishment of the Taiwan Culture Association, and public and private museums and private foundations throughout Taiwan held commemorative events. As Taiwan’s only institution centered on the new cultural movement, the Taiwan New Cultural Movement Memorial Museum’s publication Call For New focused on the centenary, with interviews, reviews, and discussion of the context and significance of various commemorative events held over the past year. It also suggested future outlooks for the ongoing Taiwan New Culture Movement in this year, the first year after the Taiwan Culture Association’s centenary.


Facebook event fan page: https://zh-tw.facebook.com/TNCMMM/