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Out-of-box Taipei Fringe Festival sees possibilities

By Psyche Cho
Staff Reporter

A stage photo of The Wrinkly Collars‘ Good Night, Beast!, which is scheduled to stage September 2 to 6 during the Taipei Fringe Festival. (Photo courtesy of Taipei Cultural Foundation)Ignore all the serious screening criteria and relocate art into everyday venues. That's the spirit of Taipei Fringe Festival—openness, freedom and new expressions of creativity—welcome both budding artists and veterans.

Young and vital, the 5-year-old Taipei Fringe Festival will provide up to 500 shows presented by 120 groups in 30 venues virtually around every corner in the capital city from September 1 to 16.  

Local troupe Yubon Shih Yeh will open the festival September 1 with their new comedy production "Yu Bon Family". Hilarious plots derived from funny memories and stories of family members in daily life are woven throughout the 80-minute show.

Yubon Shih Yeh was founded in August 2008 as a comedy group known for its Japanese Manzai style. Manzai is a traditional style of stand-up comedy in Japanese culture which usually involves two performers – a straight man and a funny man – trading jokes constantly.

Performosa's "The Mother Hen Next Door.A Tribute," a theater on a much more serious theme, will be staged from September 14 and will close the festival on September 16 in Guling St. Theatre.

As its title suggests the geographic shape of China, creators and performers Hung Chit Wah (Hong Kong) and Hung Pei-ching examine the complex across the Taiwan Strait through major historical events like the 228 Incident from each cultural perspective.

In a limbo station, a mother lingers and waits for her son who has gone missing during the democratic uprising, and a reporter who pursues the truth. Two lingering spirits struggle with their hate, regret and forgiveness on the pathway to their future lives.

The work is among the most anticipated of the lot, as it won the highest accolades in the Taipei Fringe Festival 2010. It is also recommended by the festival host to participate in Macau Fringe this year.

"Extend international exchanges will bring more outstanding programs to the world," pointed out Taipei Fringe Curator Besty Lan.

Another two winning groups in the 2011 Taipei Fringe are also back with new productions. Theatre troupe StyleLab will present 'Not Universal Comedy' this year, the content of which is still confidential to arouse curiosity among its fans. 

The Roaring will stage "Dumb Lover" from September 3 to 11 at A House café. When love lives only in memory, all you can do is wait patiently, which seems to be one of the hardest things in the world.

"Dumb Lover" develops the plot through a blind date. A man sitting in a coffee shop waits for his date, but he never knows what is waiting for him at an unknown time and space—something related to the safety of the planet.

Holding to the belief that theater is an amusement, The Roaring frequently infuses elements of action films and anime into its creations. Most of its shows feature black humor through common themes.   

Festival within the festival

The 2012 Taipei Fringe Festival is also encouraging curators to plan series programs, allowing the festival to accommodate greater performance possibilities.

'Punch Me Tonight! -- Sando's Variety Show and Campfire' is a series taking talk show with a centerpiece that combines four teams to stage performances full of amusement, weirdness, music, poetry, sketches and awkwardness, from September 2 to 15.

'Sando's Variety Show,' brought forth by Kiwi comedian Nic Sando, features some of the most amusing acts. Hailing from New Zealand, Sando is good at blending improv, sketches and stand-up into something bizarre, joyful and uniquely his own.

'Taipei Improv' features no script presented by some of the best improv actors in Taipei such as Ben Gagnon, Ed Eibel, Colin Norman, Nic Sando, Sheli Squire and Brandon Thompson. They are from the Guts Improv Theatre, which was founded in 2004 as the first improv troupe in Taiwan, aiming to make improvisational theatre happen in Taiwan through workshops and live performances.

Stand-up Party and Double Happiness Door, both from the only comedy club in Taiwan, Live Comedy Club Taipei, will each stage an Intelligent and humorous performance. They cover talk show selections, short theaters and new plots. The overall 90-minute show will surely crack you up on the rooftop of Taipei Artists Village.

Live Comedy Club Taipei was established in 2007, and is dedicated to presenting audiences a wide variety of comedy shows including stand-up, live acts, skits, improv, singing and talking, and all kinds of hilarious elements.

International programs

In the category of international programs, the Taipei Fringe this year turns its attention to groups based in eastern Asia.

StepOut from Macau will bring "LOVE/HOME/BARBIE" from September 3 to 5 at Representation Theatre. A girl plays with a Barbie doll, creating for herself an imaginary world. She is having fun inventing a character, but the unreal creation would bring an unexpected outcome for her.

StepOut was founded in June 2001 as neither a theatrical or dance company. They are dedicated to breaking boundaries through creative theatrical works which often show our concern for humanity and society. They are also devoted to promoting theater production, preaching the importance of art education and enhancing exchanges with other countries.

Hong Kong troupe Bon Production's "Single and Available" is a monolog. Performer Bonnie Chan acts out a woman's search for her own identity in Hong Kong, a city with gender stereotypes, in this solo performance.

With a drama education background, Chan has accumulated rich experience through performing in overseas theatre festivals and participating in several international theater seminars and workshops.

Malaysian director Beck Lim and the Beck Theatre will invite audiences to jointly perform "Zombies Attack Taipei" at the Treasure Hill Artist Village September 15 and 16.

The background involves a kind of super virus cultivated in a secret laboratory which spreads accidentally, and people who become Zombies after being infected with the virus begin to attack Taipei. Director Beck Lim is especially good at portraying the absurdity of life through a humorous approach. He is partial to depicting the plights that people may face in their lives, and through which uncertainty between one's life and self is generated.

The Fringe Festival now serves as a platform for alternative, non-mainstream and experimental performances. As a way to encourage budding groups, this year the festival continues the Fringe Stars program by adding another award, the Crowd Pleaser award. The program enables the visibility of the works and helps to promote local productions. Information on programs is available on www.taipeifringe.org