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Voices of Taiwanese Women: Three Contemporary Plays

Weinstein Voices of Taiwanese Women cover
John B. Weinstein, ed.
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This anthology features three new translations representing an aspect of modern Asian drama as yet unavailable to readers in English: the community-based theaters of Taiwan, working in Chinese languages beyond Mandarin. Community theater (shequ juchang) contrasts with the more mainstream theater that has emerged in Taiwan from the 1980s onward—a theater dominated by male playwrights, centered in the capital city of Taipei, and, despite its roots as an experimental “Little Theater Movement,” increasingly commercial and professionalized. Community theater, conversely, maintains the more fluid line between professional and amateur that initially characterized contemporary Taiwan theater; it exists primarily outside of the capital, in regional cities like Tainan; and the driving forces, artistically and administratively, are women. The content of the plays in this anthology reflects that particular gendering of the community theater. Stories of women dominate in Wang Chi-Mei’s One Year, Three Seasons and Peng Ya-Ling’s We Are Here. Hsu Rey-Fang’s The Phoenix Trees Are in Blossom also has significant female roles, both fictional and historical.To connect with the local communities, these playwrights seek stories from within those communities, and then contextualize those stories within the larger historical narratives of Taiwan, itself already a “local” element within the broader Chinese culture. Through these dual foci of gender and locality, stories of the women of Taiwan emerge as meaningful elements of Taiwan’s modern history. These plays go beyond the walls of the theater spaces to educate the local, national, and—through translation—international communities about those significant, but often hidden, stories. Well-researched by the playwrights through texts and interviews, these plays can serve as primary documents for courses in Taiwan history and culture, and comparative women’s and gender studies, in addition to literature and drama courses. | 256 pp


  • "This work presents material that is little-known outside of Taiwan. Weinstein's Introduction provides fresh insight into the development of what he calls "community theater" in Taiwan, the important roles played by women playwrights and directors in this history, and the challenges of translating the original multilingual texts into English. The introduction effectively situates the three plays in historical context. It expounds on the concept of "community theater" to help the reader understand the important social and cultural work that local theater troupes—especially those that are avant garde and semi-professional— have done in Taiwan since the late 1980s and early 1990s. ... The translations are accurate and polished. The language is fluid, colloquial, and lively. The lines and scenes have a good rhythm and pace. Overall, the translators have accomplished their professed goal of rendering these plays engaging and performable in English." —Tze-lan Sang, Professor of Chinese Literature, Michigan State University
  • "Voices of Taiwanese Women both stands on its own as a collection of compelling texts and offers a timely contribution to the growing field of translated drama from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. In highlighting the Taiwanese theater’s pervasive concern with history, memory, and local culture and its commitment to giving voice to marginalized populations, the volume challenges readers and audiences to engage deeply with what may be an unfamiliar context. Its commitment to performability paradoxically calls attention to gaps in understanding between the plays and the average English-speaking theater-goer, but with these superbly translated texts and on-point explanatory material, any director or dramaturg will be well equipped to begin bridging the divide." — Tarryn Li-Min Chun, University of Notre Dame (see full text in CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature)





  • John B. WEINSTEIN is Assistant Professor at Bard College at Simon's Rock. He teaches courses in Chinese language, Asian studies, Asian and Western theatre, women's studies, and queer studies. His primary area of research is modern Chinese theatre and performance, with publications focusing on Republican period comic drama and contemporary Taiwan theatre. 


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