Drummers of U-Theatre

Ruo-yu Liu, artistic director of U-Theatre

Introduction to the Director

Ruo-yu Liu graduated from the Division of Chinese Theatre, Department of Theatre Arts, Chinese Culture University. In 1984, she obtained the master's degree of Theatre Arts of New York University. She is the founder of U-Theatre and now serves as an artistic director.

Ruo-yu Liu became famous since university for the drama of "He Zhu Xin Pei". She was the hottest actress of Lan Ling Theatre Workshop and received the Golden Bell Award for the children's program she hosted. With future brilliantly waiting for her, she resolutely decided to pursue her study in America. She met Mr. Grotowski who exerted a great influence on her and made her to decide to return to Taiwan to establish Environmental Theater, bring about the training method for actors of Poor Theatre to Taiwan, and established "Laoquanshan Theatre" in Muzha, Taipei.

 

Representative Work

1997 《Sound of the Ocean》
2002 《Meeting with Bodhisattva》
2003 《The Dandelion Sword》
2006 《River Journey》
2009 《The Mountain Dawn》、《Mandala》
2011 《Blooming Enlightenment》
2016 《Lover》


Interview with Ruo-yu Liu

Q1:
Will you be interested in establishing a performing artistic group in our school Fuhsing?
A1:
There are two possibilities. One is to offer classes as a student club, but this does not pass down the heritage of performing artists. The other possibility is to provide solid training programs for young performers. This will encompass percussion practice, composition of Chinese and Western music, martial art, dancing and meditation. All the training helps students to be a proud member of the performing group. There will be a performance each semester to share the achievements and demonstrate professionalism.
訪問 訪問
Q2:
You mentioned in your book that “Find the timing to leave the stage when on stage.” Under what circumstances did you come up with this comprehension?
A2:
Kitsch is a definitely no-no for any serious performers. Do everything just right. Some people go for extra miles to appeal to the public and attract eyeballs. This is not necessary. Doing it right is what art and aesthetics are about. There is no need to add redundant elements in the performance.
訪問 訪問
Q3:
What do you think is the toughest challenge for “Cloud-on-the-feet Trekking project”? What is the driving force for you?
A3:
Cloud-on-the-feet Trekking project is here for the long run. One step at a time and we will eventually get there. The focus is always on the next step. Let go of any negative thoughts on how tired it is. Just keep going. Focus on the steps and we will finally reach the destination. This is the most difficult but also the easiest way to accomplish our goals.
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Q4:
How much training is required to achieve the perfection and professionalism of U-Theatre?
A4:
There are three technical aspects: musical classes that cover the techniques in musical instruments, singing and music theory; martial art classes such as Tai Chi, dance and gymnastics and meditation for Sacred Dance and Objective Drama. All the elements are complementary of each other. Postures are the foundation of the training. For example, we cannot fall asleep in meditation. Our backs should be kept up and straight so that we don’t feel tired either mentally or physically. Rather, we feel energized.
訪問 訪問
Q5:
What did you do to advocate your belief and attract followers when you founded U-Theatre?
A5:
We have a special training technique. Other people may also offer martial arts but we are unique in how we meditate. The Cloud-on-the-feet Trekking project of U-Theatre can calm our minds. It guides the young people to seek inward. If you pay attention to the tasks at hand, you will notice that our thoughts are either stuck in the past or chasing the future, but never spared for the moment.
訪問 訪問
Q6:
What is the most difficult challenge in the integration of Eastern traditions and Western cultures in the musical “Lover”?
A6
“Lover” is centered on the works of the Berlin composer Christian Jost. The accomplishment on our part is to augment the music with visual expressions such as Chinese drums, martial art or natural elements. Of course, this is through Objective Drama and Sacred Dance. We are Asians after all. If you are free inside, your presence is yours. It will be a contemporary work.
訪問 訪問
Q7:
What supports you to fight for U-Theatre through thick and thin?
A7:
Just do it regardless how difficult it is. Come to terms with changes. When I studied overseas, my teacher taught me to accept, listen and focus. Complaints will only make learning even harder. Let things go and let it go. At this juncture, solutions will spring to mind. This is how I persist.
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Q8:
Why did you choose to set up U-Theatre’s training grounds in Jinguashi? What do you see here?
A8:
We saw a cove left behind by gold diggers at the peak of Jinguashi. It is a valley with a natural quarry. There is a beautiful stone wall inside. I felt that U-Theatre needed a bold and confident venue, similar to Boulbon Quarry in Avignon where we successfully performed our international debut.
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Q9:
What do you think is U-Theatre’s biggest contribution to the cultural development in Taiwan up to date?
A9: Taipei Jingwen High School is our educational platform. Of course, we also perform internationally as a national brand and “soft power” for Taiwan. We bring a calming atmosphere to the society, pass the heritage by educating the young and present our art to the international community. These are our contributions.
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Documentary Director-Shiao-yun Kuo

Introduction to the Director

After graduation from university, Kuo worked as a freelance film director. In 1988, together with the founders of "Fullview Film Studio", she explored how to make a documentary. She has long been engaged in documentary filmmaking, planning, and teaching. She prefers the documentaries with characters as the themes. And she has directed a dozen of such documentaries.

 

Representative Work

1. 1998 "Both Children and Work"
2. 2004 "Taste of Plum"
3. 2006 "Rock the Boat"
4. 2007~2012 She finished the trilogy of domestic violence from the perspectives of three roles, that is, mother, father, and son.
5. 2013 "School on the Road"
6. 2015 "Youth against the Current",  "Three Short Films about Uneasy Life"

 

Interview with Shiao-yun Kuo

Q1:
As a director, what did you try to convey with “School on the Road”?
A1:

U-Theatre helps the students who have made mistakes at a young age to cleanse and nourish their minds through percussion practice. U-Theatre teaches the techniques they have honed for years to disadvantaged children free of charge. This was the main reason why we made this film. The other reason is that we believe arts can change and transform people.

訪問 訪問
Q2:
Why did you use young drummers as the theme for your documentary?
A2:
U-Theatre initiated Drumming School on the Road, a program for Children in 2011. We thought a documentary on the process could make more people aware of the transforming power of art. The initial focus was on percussion practice and Cloud-on-the-feet Trekking project. However, we found the children very interesting so they became the leading characters. We also incorporated how their family life was and what their parents thought about them into the film.
訪問 訪問
Q3:
Did the finalized documentary “School on the Road” the same as the initial concept?
A3:
Yes. We have to figure out the motif of the documentary before we go about it. Otherwise, we will often get lost in the filming process. The documentary records the live moments, instead of presenting what is scripted. Children are the centerpiece of the work. The initial idea was to tell the stories of these children in the context of their family life. The finalized documentary was consistent with my original idea.
訪問 訪問
Q4:
Most of your works are about female issues or successful women. Are you trying to express your respect for women’s rights?
A4:
This is actually serendipity. I never restrict myself to the issues related to women. I did intend to tell the stories of the people who live on the fringe of the society. I wanted to present their life and experience. Sometimes it was by chance that the relevant issues emerged after we zoomed in on women, families and disadvantaged groups. What I really care about is the issues concerning family and youngsters.
訪問 訪問
Q5:
When you took on the director’s helm, did you start out by focusing on the issues associated with family, women and the young people?
A5:
Not in the beginning. I started with a concern for social issues. This gradually developed into women’s issues. The women I capture are not well-off. The youngsters I look at are from poor families. I focus on family issues but zoom in on impoverished families.
訪問 訪問
Q6:
What did you try to convey to the lost youth in the documentary “School on the Road”?
A6:
It was simply about their life. It was about the transforming power of art. We may want to give them a bit more tolerance and seek to understand what has made them. With a little bit of empathy, we will realize that academic achievements are not everything. We will find that our world becomes bigger and wider.
訪問 訪問
Q7:
Your movies tell the true stories in life. How did you overcome the communication difficulty?
A7:
We need to spend time and talk with them before they open up about their family mishaps and emotional struggles. Sometimes we squat on the roadside with them and watch them smoke and chat. It takes one to two months for us to befriend with them. After they have established trust in use, they would start to say what they feel.
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Q8:
What is the biggest difference between documentaries and movies?
A8:
Movies requires scripts. Documentaries film the true stories and events. You would not have known what would happen to the children enrolled in “School on the Road”. This keeps up your curiosity to complete the journey.
訪問 訪問
Q9:
We noticed that “School on the Road” is not widely available. Would it be possible for us to show it in our campus?
A9:
This is not up to me as the copyright belongs to U-Theatre. As far as I know, U-Theatre has plans to publish it in CD-ROM and sell it on the shelf. If you would like to arrange an open viewing, your school may contact U-Theatre or me for rentals.
訪問 訪問

 

Conclusions


Conclusions with Ruo-yu Liu

After my interview with Ms. Ruo-yu Liu, Art Director of U-Theatre, I found that she answers questions in a way very different from other performing artists. She took at a look at all the questions first before a series of answers. She in fact taught us something by fielding our questions or even by throwing our questions back at us. This prompted us to think over our questions and the answers we really wanted. We could not just wait for the answers. Rather, we had to deliberate on these questions so that she could consolidate the answers for us. Ruo-yu Liu is a truly special artist!

 

Conclusion with Shiao-yun Kuo

We interviewed Director Shiao-yun Kuo as we would like to find out her motivations and thoughts about the documentary “School on the Road”. She shared with us her concepts for the documentary, the subsequent developments of the life for the children in the film and the challenges in the documentary filming process. I realized that the love for art can transform people. When there is a will, there is a way. No matter what difficulties are ahead, we can achieve success if we try out best.

Photo credit: Thunder King of Drums