- My Daughter’s Wedding
What kind of intercultural theatre is produced when Shakespeare’s England meets Hakka culture? Taiwan’s first Hakka musical, My Daughter’s Wedding (2007), adapted from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, adopted the style of the Broadway musical, a genre that has grown in popularity in many areas of Northeast Asia in recent years. The production showed that local artists have gone from importing touring musicals from the West to producing local versions of Western hits with good levels of expertise in dance, music, and design, and so on to creating new musicals with local content. The production dealt with gender, power struggles, and marriage anxiety in the context of modern Taiwan and its Hakka traditions.
The script (written by Lin Chien-hua, Wang Yu-Hui, and Huang Wu-shan) was mainly in Mandarin, but mixed with Hakka, Taiwanese, and English. Linguistically it was meant to appeal to the educated audience on the island, where Mandarin is the official tongue but the other languages are readily recognized. In ethnicity, Hakka people are more indigenous than Mandarin speakers; the latter are the majority in population and the mainstream in culture. The production was directed by David Jiang from Hong Kong and sponsored by the Council for Hakka Affairs with a budget of approximately $600,000. David Jiang understands both Eastern and Western theatre and excels in directing Shakespeare’s plays by intercultural theatre and Chinese stylization. The council saw this play as a step to renovate traditional Hakka drama, which originated from Jiang-Hsi Province in China and has been imported to Taiwan since 1949, and which has lost audience, by transforming it into a Hakka musical. Hakka performances were traditionally used for celebration, worship, and entertainment in this agricultural society. Hakka tea-picking dramas were presented by one actor with two actresses and dealt with selling tea. This genre later developed into Hakka opera, which, like other xiqu, includes singing, dialogue, mime, and martial arts in stories of history and family morality. But Hakka opera has languished in recent years.
The new work reflected how Chinese artists are seeking to find an innovative intercultural style under the impact of globalization and Westernization to revive local interest. The production was welcomed by most reviewers and the “buzz” in the blogosphere indicated that its efforts to draw youthful audiences toward aspects of traditional Hakka culture were successful. The set (designed by Lu Ping) included a family house full of Hakka characteristics mixed with the Chinese Ming-nan architectural style. The eaves of the house were ornate, showing the family’s high status. Hakka symbols such as blue clothes (Fig. 1), symbolic of the common Hakka work ethic, and characteristic tung blossom designs were appropriated. Hakka blue shirts and pants (with costume design by Lin Ching-Ju) became a symbol of the wife’s eventual acceptance of and integration into her traditional role: women of her husband’s family helped the Katharina character, Li Jun, change from modern [End Page 573] clothes and don this traditional garb. Elements of a traditional wedding ceremony were present. But the new was also evident. There were motorcycles onstage, dancers in sleeveless T-shirts and pants, internet cafés, and modern wedding practices, too.
The play, for audiences, signaled modernity in that it presented Hakka elements in Broadway musical style. The script eliminated the frame story and smoothed over the misogynist tones in Shakespeare’s play, successfully transforming the material into a traditional Hakka setting and attracting a large audience.
My Daughter’s Wedding was mounted by Taipei National University of the Arts, and cast and personnel were drawn from the Departments of Theater Arts and Dance. By shifting the theme from “taming of a shrew” in Shakespeare’s play to “marrying off the daughters” as the title indicated, the musical decreased the uncomfortable problem of sexism of the original.
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