Reads- 2024 NTT Summer Fun Time

Equipping Courage and Motivation as We Land: The Artistic Escapism to Alien Worlds

Tai-Jung Yu | Deputy Director of IATC, Taiwan Branch


Art is often seen as a pursuit of aesthetic enjoyment after basic survival needs are met, but this is not always the case. For instance, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis affecting economic worldwide, film markets in various countries showed consistent growth against the trend.

In times of adversity, borrowing from Andy Warhol's famous quotes, “art is anything you can get away with.” Even when faced with hunger, one must embark on a space journey of aesthetic exploration. We may need artistic escapism more than we realize.


Leaving the Surface: Traversing the Atmospheric Layer of Senses

The alien worlds created through stage arts and performance can offer a momentary sanctuary for the soul. However, these extraterrestrial realms often diverge greatly from one another; some may bear a resemblance to our own world, while others may whisk the audience away into Alice's rabbit hole, landing in a realm of fantasy and enchantment.

Formosa Circus Art's Circus Party draws inspiration from the film The Greatest Showman, portraying the life story of a renowned circus tycoon, while Hung Dance's Peter Pan derives from The Little White Bird, unfolding the tale of an imaginatively crafted eternal youth. Despite originating from vastly different narratives, both performances summon a diverse array of characters through their physical prowess. Within the continuously transforming stage space, they embark on a circus and dance journey that propels them higher and farther from the surface of the Earth.

Some of these alien worlds are designed to create specific sensory experiences, transmitting landing signals to us. NTT Artist-in-Residence YEH Ting-hao's Reverberation of Illusions utilizes audio analysis and algorithmic tools, collaborating with real-time generated experimental electronic music to drive a visual imagery transformation enveloping the entire space with surround sound, shaking consciousness with visual and auditory stimuli. You Are My Sunlight by the Sleep No Playground, on the other hand, is designed for shared moments between infants under 18 months old and their caregivers. On this little planet, whispers of poetry and nursery rhymes echo in ears, accompanied by art installations powered by green energy and overlaid with primary colors of light and shadow, revealing a secret corner where both kids and adults can relax their minds and bodies.


Continuing the Journey: Encounters Impossible between You and Me

In the interstellar voyage of performing arts, the encounters between characters often resemble improbable rendezvous between different worlds, where even two isolated islands can aspire to meet until the ocean runs dry, even if only for a fleeting moment. The musical Once, adapted from the eponymous film and recipient of numerous awards, unfolds the serendipitous yet profound, sweet, and poignant fate and emotions through music and songs, doubling the time of the original work. Another love story, Princess Kavalan & General Turtle by the FengShen Baobao Troupe, is based on the Taiwanese opera tunes from Yilan, depicting a forbidden love legend between the distant Yilan-Ebene and Turtle Island.

Some alien worlds are special because different “species” embark on an unusual journey together, and we become fellow travelers. Danish Teater Refleksion and Andy Manley's solo performance, Night Light, crafted for young audiences, employs delicate lighting, sound effects, and mechanical illusions to embark on an adventure with a night deity and a child who sneaks out of bed, redefining the night from a realm of fear and silence. The show premiered at the Edinburgh International Children's Festival in 2017 and received rave reviews. Similarly, playing with objects and a lively performance rhythm, the Théâtre des Enfants Terribles Hey! YOU tells the story of two familiar companions rediscovering each other. By dismantling the parts of a cello, the performance creates unexpected imagery, opening up our understanding and possibilities of the instrument.


Returning to Reality: The Most Familiar yet Unrecognizable World

Many times, travel is about coming back home. The journey to alien worlds affords us the chance to glance back at our own planet. Some onstage worlds stem from reality but might not be recognizable to individuals, and they may even confront the risk of vanishing. These represent the alien worlds within reality.

Don't Cry, Dancing Girls the Musical by VMTheatre Company, where the three siblings returning home are not only forced to confront their family's past but also the vanishing traditional funeral rites. The play resonates with themes of family, love, and self-discovery, as well as the lost sense of belonging and cultural memory experienced by islanders across generations to varying degrees. HaoxHsiaoTroupe's rap and R&B musical Tales of Success:the Return of a Prodigal Son similarly begins with generational friction triggered by returning home. Set in a lively and boisterous atmosphere, it delves into a wild fantasy interweaving political history, underworld influences, and temple culture through familial relationships, offering another approach to revisiting reality.

Another vantage point requires a time machine to take us to the future. Dimanche, co-created by Belgium's Focus Company and Chaliwaté Company, transports us to the endpoint of climate and ecological crises: extinction. The narrative oscillates between three scientists cataloging the last remnants of surviving species amidst global cataclysms and a family “enjoying” an increasingly scorching Sunday. Through objects, puppetry, physical theater, and video vocabulary, it invites us to witness that imminent moment that has yet to arrive. When will the familiar places we know become another alien world?

Life goes on, and the artistic escapism often proves to be fleeting. Yet perhaps, the interstellar journey to otherworldly realms can, amidst our escape from it all, endow us with a different perspective and attitude than before. When we return to the surface, when we land, may we find the courage and motivation to deal with reality once again.