Prophet was originally a play written by Taiwanese avant-garde artist Huang Hua-Chen and one of the first programs performed by Theatre Quarterly at Tien Educational Center in 1965. It represented the beginning of experimental play writing in postwar Taiwan. Huang depicts a married couple going to see a stage show, but the only things on the stage are the movement of light/shadows and screen, coupled with the sound of rope pulleys, while the male and female lead sit in the audience talking. They start by discussing the banalities of daily life in a whisper, but this gradually devolves into complaining and arguing. As a professional copyist, the husband believes he’s played the role of mentor since the May Fourth Movement in China and defends himself, saying he could not realize the movement’s ideals due to a lack of resources. His character showcases the psychological disorder of modernist intellectuals. The structure for this performance and the scenes depicted suggest that Huang’s original intention was to break with the traditional theatre model. However, this approach was rejected by the director at that time, Yao-Chi Chen, who cancelled the mechanical movement on the stage and returned the actors to the stage.
The video Hua Shan Qiang (2013) uses Chinese funeral ritual papiermâché offerings to allude to the fracture in Taiwan’s history and social sentiment caused by colonization. I’m interested in how this ritual tells stories, the ways in which the form and meaning of this ceremonial culture have changed since its arrival in Taiwan, and the potential narrative within this process.
It is no exaggeration to say that Prophet has never been “properly” performed so I invited the original performers Chuang Ling and Liu Yin- Shang to return to the stage in 2016 to perform the “absence” originally intended. Their performance was documented and made into a film also titled Prophet which seeks to not only re-understand, 50 years later, the narrative arrangements made by Huang beyond the story, but also attempts to interpret the absence in it.