Small-scale Curation, Sound, and Participation: The Heterogeneous Theatre Practices in the 21st-Century Taiwan
Betty Yi-Chun Chen
Inheriting multiple traditions, the modern theatre in Taiwan has been known for its heterogeneous explorations since its emergence, while the practitioners, especially in its pre-institutionalized phase, came together from diverse backgrounds and with different approaches to form a complex spectrum. Art and cultural institutions began to appear in the 1980s, including National Institute of the Art (now Taipei National University of the Arts) which was founded in 1982 and the opening of National Theater & Concert Hall (originally the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center) in1987, thus further benefiting the academic training and professional productions. Meanwhile, creations and critiques outside the institution continued to expand the possibilities of theatre. From the Little Theatre Movement to street activism, from performance to production process, the diverse practices individually and collectively deliberated on how theatre is related to the society, spectators, and its conventional definition as an art form. Through creation, performance, discourse, policies, and education, performing arts have gradually become a specialized discipline and a particular form of the public sphere1.  
As theatre has become specialized, the discourse and documentation work may limit the perspective within its fixed border. However, the public sphere known in today’s world is no longer homogenous and universal, while both “theatres” and “spectators” are identified as plural with their respective contexts rather than being an abstract homogenous entirety.2 This essay belongs to a series of studies which comprehensively investigate the National Culture and Arts Foundation’s database of modern theatre3. With the three keywords – small-scale curation, sound, and participation – as its point of departure, it mainly focuses on unconventional performances and non dialogue-based works4 to interpret its relation to modern theatre, especially its negotiation, extension, confrontation, or necessary addition.   
I see the conventional performance framework as a point of reference taken by these different practices in their dialogue with “modern theatre.” However, the key argument is beyond the change of form on a technical level (to reject a proscenium stage, for example) – since the “content-form” coordinates function better when analyzing the artwork itself rather than describing how these cases have created different “publics” (such as the relationship among different participators, or how to communicate and respond, etc.). If we turn to the aesthetic concepts (what is creation? what to thematize? how to present?), spectatorial relationship, production methods and other substantial issues in creation, we might be able to fully and comprehensively look at the practices and their contexts which can never be covered by the abstract term of “modern theatre,” thus identifying the true significance of the “changed form” and the alternate artistic pursuits. Therefore, the following discussion is more than an overall review but expected to extend the usual auteurist perspective. 
I.    Small-scale Curation 
With the structural transformation of the Taiwanese society in terms of its economic and industrial development, the Taiwanese theatre also saw a trend of “market demassification” after the year of 2000, marked by a reaching-out marketing strategy and general entertainment-based models5. Meanwhile, Taipei Fringe Festival has brought more theatre groups and urban spaces to our attention since its first edition in 2008. Generally speaking, the past two decades have rapidly changed the mechanism of live theatre in creation, production, and exchange, while small-scale curation is one of the iconic features with its diverse models which explore the greater possibilities beyond stage performances. Before I continue, I would like to explain that the “small-scale curation” here refers the programming of multiple smaller creations in one night or the given period of time, and the examples include Against-Again Apartment Showcase (2007- ) by Against-Again Troupe, Close to You Festival (2010-2022) by Flying Group Theatre, Just for You Project (2010- ) by Riverbed Theatre, etc. Small-scale proposals are a strategy to break away from the high expenses of venues and equipment, as they usually are in a conventional form, while its smaller scale in duration and size also motivates creators to explore and imagine the unusual6. Their more-than-a-decade runs is an active and reflective factor to change theatre in terms of creation and production.
15 years ago when Snow Huang, the director of Against-Again Troupe, could no longer afford the expensive venue fee and found no unused space available in the greater Taipei area to shelter the company, he decided to start Against-Again Apartment Showcase at his old narrow apartment.7 Every edition had a curator who invited different creators and presented their works in the same programme at the domestic space for less than 20 spectators. It was a practical choice at first, echoing the difficult situation (the lack of space) for artistic creation,8 but it certainly stimulated creators to further explore and transform the spectatorial relationship when the stage was gone and the distance between performers and viewers was significantly shortened. Such a “micro-macro theatre,” as Huang puts it to describe the intimacy of the space to heighten the sense, demands a different approach concerning the projection and perception of the ambience, while the material aspects such as smells, sounds and spatial relations become the main themes for the artworks which serve no acting or storytelling purposes. Even for some realistic scenes, such as the parents’ closed-door arguing overheard in the living room, the immigrant’s worker’s tiny room in the employee’s apartment, or the dispute between band members, it indeed offers a stronger and more straightforward physical experience. In 2016, Against-Again Apartment Showcase took a step away beyond Huang’s apartment and moved to different domestic spaces, the streets, or even away from Taipei to Yilan to become a platform where five independent works were presented in different locations and weeks. 

Against-Again Apartment Showcase (2009)  
As the Apartment Showcase responded to the “environmental theatre” widely discussed and practiced in the 1980s and 1990s, the creative efforts of all participating artist and curators (including Snow Huang, Po-Hsin Liu, Kappa Tseng, Tao Chiang, and Grass Wang) since the first edition have also opened up a multifaceted exploration in the aspects of object, sound, performance, and participation. Far before “work-in-progress” was adopted as a trendy word which attracted extensive attention and support, the Apartment Showcase offered a trial field with its unique nature to search for different media and artmaking means. As the artists mentioned above has continued their independent theatre practices with further explorations, the Apartment Showcase with its reflection on the Little Theatre Movement and underground culture also transformed the creators’ and spectators’ relationship with the artworks. When the immersive experience was not yet defined and designed as it is in today’s theatre, spectators walked into an unfamiliar apartment to become part of the performance.  The creative team packed into the apartment space for rehearsals and performances.  They had a life here together, and they invited the spectators to have some food with them and to talk about the work after the performance. By doing so, the explored themes and our daily world might meet each other, or even overlap.  
Unlike the underground spirit of the Apartment Showcase, the Close To You Festival by Flying Group Theatre opens up to the city to form a different spectatorial relationship. In every edition, the Close To You Festival would select three areas in Taipei and three spots in each area (usually business spaces such as café, galleries, or antique shops) for 9 twenty-minute performances. The spectators would be divided into three groups, following the planned route to walk through the streets and alleys. Its founding artist Pei-Yu Shih and her Flying Group Theatre visited a puppetry festival taking place in an old Dutch city in the 1990s and were deeply inspired by such a festival model still new to Taiwan which offered refined and intimate theatre experiences (as long as the space allowed, the twenty spectators for each performance can closely look at the details) interwoven with the urban life. There was no shared topics for the invited artists, and they could freely work on their pieces within the given framework and assigned space.   
The Close To You festival not only attempts to bring theatre closer to life, inviting non-theatre goers to catch a glance of it in various urban spaces, but is also expected to explore the possibilities of modern puppetry in Taiwan.9 The festival usually features three invited international shows and six domestic works by local artists and groups, accompanied by a workshop allowing creators to exchange experiences and ideas, while its small scale in duration and size is perfect for experimentation. More importantly, the Close To You festival intentionally gathers artists from different disciplines to artistically and practically expand the conventional definition of puppetry. With its emphasis on “details,” the potentiality of performance, object, and space are released, as seen in the live performance by River Lin, the interdisciplinary works by the Peking Opera actor Po-Ang Hsu and independent musician/singer Yujun Wang, and the experimental puppetry by Ken Ko projecting and juxtaposing the anatomical hand movements when manipulating the traditional glove puppets (also known as pòo-tē-hī). Similar to the Apartment Showcase, many experimental creations initially presented at the Close To You festival later became full-length works, such as The Greatest Thing Since The Bread by Jia-Huei Chen and Yan-Ting Tzeng, and Teatime with Me, Myself and I by Tung-Yen Chou. These two small-scale curations have fundamentally encouraged the emergence of a totally different theatre practice. 

The Finger Movement by Ken Ko, Carrie Ou, Danny Chiang, in Close To You 2011

The Greatest Thing Since The Bread by Jia-Huei Chen and Yan-Ting Tzeng, in Close To You 2012
As a spontaneous development, the Close To You Festival expanded its 9-piece programme to include port-to-port city tour, and it began to try new approaches in every edition, such as to work with local culture-and-history workers in city tours or to present children-friendly shows. Its production process demanded a negotiation and collaboration with non-theatre fields as it stepped into our daily life and business spaces, consequently nourishing a versatile team beyond conventional theatre-production training. Since 2010, the Close To You Festival had also witnessed the shifting of art-and-cultural map and the gentrification of certain areas in Taipei.  The three areas selected for the first festival (Kong Kuan, Shida, and Yong Kang) began to miss many interesting spaces they once had, while the rise of Daodacheng commercialized the historic area to make it more difficult to find performance spaces.  It was in 2018 that the Close To You Festival decided to change their approach and walked into the areas not typically known for arts and culture. Curated by Shu-Wen Yang, it also skipped the guided tour but further integrated the 9 selected pieces into the cultural and historical spirit of the areas. The change of approach also reflected the recent trends in performing arts to increase an awareness in local culture and history as well as to adopt a more comprehensive curatorial concept.  
The closer distance conveys a sense of co-presence in the Apartment Showcase and brings details to our attention in the Close To You Festival, while in the Just for You Project by Riverbed Theatre, it challenges the “safe distance” in the usual spectatorial relationship to create different experiences. Riverbed Theatre is known for its dreamlike image to evoke viewers’ personal memories. However, as the theatre company grew, its larger productions could hardly maintain such a physical intimacy10, so they started the Just for You Project in 2011 with the idea to present “one work in one space for one spectator.” The first and second editions were organized as a theatre festival featuring four artists, who were asked to take the hotel room as the script and to use intimate spaces such as the bed or bathtub to develop a whole-body experience. As the viewer walks into an unknown hotel room for a performance, the unprecedented situation as it is naturally heightens the viewer’s perceptions and senses, while the performance “just for you and only you” demands more intense concentration from both the performer and viewer to open up themselves.     

Entrance (入口) by Craig Quintero, in The Just for You Project (2012)
While the Just for You Project creates a strong impact on the viewer with its surrealistic scenarios, it also obscures the border with reality: from the anonymous letter sent to the viewer one week before the performance of Room 206 (2011) by Joyce Ho to the old man (passenger or resident?) walking around the ah-bú-liâu market in Tainan, where Just for You: as we are (2016) was taking place, who suddenly spoke to the viewer, there is no sure boundary to define a performance and such an unusual experience becomes part of the viewer’s daily reality.  
In 2013, the Just for You Project stepped into the realm of visual arts as it was presented at the art gallery and biennial – it was about the same period of time that contemporary art institutions showed a growing interest in curating live performances.  In 2016, it expanded the reach to the streets and alleys, business hotel, and art museum, but the core concept to perform “just for you and only you” always remained. When today’s theatre is more familiar with immersive theatre and experiences, a look back at the development of Just for You may bring interesting thoughts: the project started at the private hotel room has had its specific artistic purpose since the very beginning, which is to create based on the texture of the space, unlike the later immersive experiences which tend to functionally renovate the space to fit it into their narratives. The refined and solid inner strength and inward pursuit of Rivebed Theatre also make their productions distinguished from others. When the immersive trend began to offer special experiences in enclosed spaces or rooms, Riverbed Theatre brought their works outside the hotel. The creative process of the Just for You project indicates a direct or indirect dialogue between artmaking and other disciplines, while the existing knowledge of the viewer should also be a concern, since the viewers in recent years are more excited to experience the unknown, especially compared to the viewers in 2011 who were often confused and self-conscious without knowing what to do. Recently, the Just for You Project changed its mission from a platform for multiple performances to a single work commissioned by the art festival or art museum, and the recognition of its special “form” soon caught the attention of both curators and viewers. How it can further create unexpected effect on the individual viewer, to step into their lives, should be the new challenges for the project. 
The three small-scale curating projects, significant as they are, leave the stage and step into the non-theatre spaces. The production process demands more direct communications with disciplines beyond art and theatre, and it consequently develops different collaborative models and production approaches. To organize a different “publicness” suggests that the production team should have different abilities. Apart from the challenges in terms of necessary negotiations, compromises and supports, it also requires different rehearsals and preparations for such a close-distance performance or intensive schedule – and it definitely takes different approaches in promotion, marketing, and curatorial narrative too. The three curating projects have inspired and influenced each other while they collectively expand the possibilities of theatre performance. What should also be noted is how small-scale curation, in the cases of the abovementioned projects, has found a production model to nourish and support itself – which was extremely crucial when the resources were still limited and there was no support from large-scale venues and festivals – to continue to learn, explore and exchange ideas as well as to meet and organize different audience groups.  A decade later, with greater possibilities of performance have been developed and experimented in these small-scale projects, a group of professional workers nourished from these experiences thus emerge to expand their influence on creation and production.   
II.    Sound
The real question is not the technical decisions of proscenium stage or not, while leaving the theatre building is just one critical approach among many. If the entry point of the Just for You Project is to offer experiences which challenge the default “safe spectatorial distance” in theatre, the following unconventional practices – either on stage or into the city – focus on sound and hearing to further extend or criticize contemporary life experiences and the theatrical representation of it. The musician R. Murray Schafer proposes in his iconic The Tuning of the World that the absence of hearing is a rift from the environment and the self.11 Following his concept, I would like to explain how the following creative projects adopt different creation and production methods, media, and narratives to point at the rifts and their attempt at reconnection. Therefore, the “sound” in my argument has a broader definition which also includes speech. Only when we avoid placing “sound” in opposition to verbal communication can we really pay attention to how these practices deal with sound in a specific and nuanced way to reflect on specific situations and to expand the function of “modern theatre” as an institutional regime.12  
The first example is Love Song 2010 by Ming-Chen Lee and his Style Lab in 2014. It begins with a love song of the decade that Lo TaYou refuses to write – after his Love Song 1980, Love Song 1990, and Love Song 2000 –, followed by performers showing various sonic situations (radio time signal, service-selling trucks, public speech competition in Mandarin, news report, TV drama series, commercials, Karaoke, police announcement, etc.), playing a game-like mission, and trying to “make some sounds” with different combinations (finished or unfinished songs with an incomplete melody on piano, five smashed guitars). Later in a moment between noises and silence, the loud Flag Anthem suddenly begins to sound from the two large speakers unnoticed before, rendering a personal and collective sense of loss and unease, which perfectly describes a mental state without established characters and plots.   
The choice of materials shed some light on how Ming-Chen Lee and his team express an anti-theatrical attitude against the conventional dramatical dialogue and characterization developed from academic training.13 During rehearsals, the creator asked performers to bring their preprepared performance materials, from which he gleaned each individual’s life and daily speech to present an alternative way of speaking on stage (different from the usual tone which is often criticized as “translationese”) and to challenge the limited and stereotypical characterization, both in appearance and personality, in mainstream theatre. In other words, such a sensitivity to the expression of sound accentuates the rift between academic/institutionalized theatre training (from representation to education) and live/life experiences, while the rift has become the motivation for creative experimentation and exploration. Meanwhile, the apparently funny scenes in Love Song 2010, such as to report one’s daily life like a news anchor (emotionally neutral, with a formal speaking voice, appropriate emphasis, and modest manner) or a teenage girl throwing herself into different scenarios but loses all her tricks when her parents again and again break the illusions by rushing her out of the room to the dining table, present ridiculous repetitions which highlight the fact that the narrative justified by institutionalized theatre is simply pretentious, while those far from becoming a story turn the myths of conventional theatre representation into jokes.  
Taking place in the same summer with Love Song 2010 after the Sunflower Occupation Movement, A Revolution Unarmed by Against Again Troupe explores sound to create a different dialogue with the visuality-based theatre representation.  The production is the final work of the serial Der Ring des Nibelungen curated by Hung-Hung. As a response to the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, the ten co-creators decide to collaborate “without a director” and “bring the backstage onstage”14 with an attempt to experiment the possibilities of “sound theatre.” The Foursquare Building in Huashan Park turns into the occupation site, before it soon submerges the Universe-like darkness, while the steel-bar structure of the building further accentuates the imagery of Apocalypse ruins in the later half. Through monologues, noises, and radio programs, it gives a brief description of the original plot, which is juxtaposed with contemporary scenarios (“Brynhild has just driven a dump truck into Valhalla”15); but its core concept relies on what the materiality of sounds (industrial noises, punk, protest, heavy metal, classical music, and human voices), objects, videos, and performance convey to the audience.   

A Revolution Unarmed by Against Again Troupe (2014)
When there is a curatorial mission to create a dialogue between the contemporary society and The Ring (the classics modernized has always been an important genre in the so-called “modern theatre”), what alternative approach can be proposed and imagined beside “conversing” the original characters and scenes to their contemporary counterpart? During the performance of A Revolution Unarmed, the heterogenous media such as the resonance of words, tear of puppets, zoomed-in image, and emotionally arousing sound-field create an impact on viewers’ senses with each’s inherent function. By doing so, in a revolutionary or rebellious gesture, the creative team responds to the original creation by Wagner with its dialectical Hero-versus-Anti-hero argument. The emphasis on materiality and senses challenges the conventional theatre practice and receptions that often expects a division of expertise to serve either the concept of the artwork or the will of the director, and thus develops a different relationship between theatre and live scenes.16
While the live presence of sound in A Revolution Unarmed connects the mythical world of the original text and contemporary situations, Daily Exercise: Vanishing Movements, which Snow Huang started in the Apartment Showcase in 2016, employs sound to evoke concrete scenarios and memories, bringing “city” to the attention of our viewing. In this performance without actors, each viewer walks around Ximending from a cheap hotel room to a restaurant by themselves, before the creator guide them into the Lions’ Plaza Commercial Building where go upstairs to an abandoned room in the top floor. Throughout the tour, the participant would listen to several fictional stories from a 1990s cassette player, and the four tapes include a detective’s recording, a tarot game, an informer, and a pure soundscape (an old-fashioned teashop Karaoke, bowling stadium, radio, straight flute, etc.). The sound offers an intimacy which is abstract as it is direct, brining viewers to these particular scenes but also allowing them to project personal experiences.  
What the viewer hears from the cassettes, stories and/or soundscape, sometimes correspond to what they see in the streets, while sometimes not. The fragmented and senseless story of the detective points to some ambiguous traces, followed by other narrators who also break down a clear linear reality in their enigmatic language to interpret the Tarot cards, the description of a dream, and how the informer hears a scene taking place miles away or even from the past (the viewers walk around the busy business area of Ximending and hear the informant telling about the fire years ago as if it were happening now). In a performance built on no established character but a different possibility in viewing and thinking, the use of sound is no longer a witness pointing to the facts. Instead, collecting soundscape and nuanced perceptions of space become an important task in the creation. The world which the artist attempts to explore is beyond the realm of the map. Through a fictional alienation, Daily Exercise welcomes the metaphorical sphere to create a flow between the present and past, offering a temporal perception of the juxtaposed past and future to transform the viewer’s relationship to the city.
The discussion above focuses on the materiality of sound, whereas the intangible nature of sound is entirely immaterial. With its transient presence, sound thus becomes the carrier of temporal perceptions, the slice of our existence. The Sewing of Time, presented at the Songyan Creative Lab exhibition “Metamorphosis of Time” in 2018 by Yin-Cheng Cheng from Approaching Theatre, sound artists Zhongqi Xie and Yu-De Lin, and lâm-kuán17 performer Jia-Chi Chen, is such an artwork that directly addresses the relationship between hearing and contemporary situations. The four performers in plain dress sit in a row on a bare stage, and each has their own instruments. Like live broadcasting, they start with the lâm-kuán tune The Sewing of Time, followed by conversation and singing of Yin-Cheng Cheng and Jia-Chi Chen to explain the different temporal senses of rhythm and speed between lâm-kuán and the Western classical music. Later, they are joined by live electric sound and text reading to tell how time has been standardized through the modernization process, where the society also marches toward “a homogenous uniformity.”18     
Through a state of mind where time is forgotten in music, the compelling sound of the mechanical clock ticking, the provocative dictatorship-embodied militarist speech broadcasted from the plaza speakers, and the following noises “dancing in the air like glass fragments. The viewer/audience carefully feels these different presences of sound in order, while the various languages and tunes accumulate to overwhelm the lâm-kuán music played on a pipa. Perhaps the ear is “forever, irreversibly gone,” but we can still see how Yin-Cheng Cheng plays with the strings in the traditional “pull, push, sink, and beat” techniques and renders the tempo on the lâm-kuán breathes: “Summer is the blooming season for lotus, pomegranate, and apricot. Followed by hibiscus, yellow chrysanthemum, tea olives and orchard in autumn. Alas, that winter brings an end to the life of the land. What we see is a world of frost and snow,” as she sings. Finally, we hear the time signal broadcasted again which brings the performance to the end. 
The initial version of The Sewing of Time was a play-reading presented at Read For You III: Stories of Three Cities by Body Phase Studio in 2014, which somehow explains why it focuses on the sound without much visual expressions.19 Interesting, its divergence from the conventional stage performance which expects dramatic scenes in turn highlights the modern life marked by standardized time, which has become the default setting of our life, whereas the either serene or turbulent moments are more like sounds – they at times overwhelm and at times quietly pass by. As the informative language in the work has fulfilled its necessary function to “translate,” it simultaneously points to the habitual perceptions, which is usually shut down in our contemporary world, to perceptively explore the issues of colonization and modernity.   
Compared to Love Song 2010 and A Revolution Unarmed which both feature a strong contrast between the silent darkness and overwhelming noises on stage, thus allowing the viewer/audience to “hear,” the plain everydayness in The Sewing of Time and Daily Exercise stays close to life and opens up another path to activate one’s hearing.  Hearing involves making sounds and hearing sounds, suggesting how a subject is related to its surroundings. Even if they are disconnected, it still reveals the traces which used to be there. The four works all employ sound in their respective ways to render a complex and overlapped temporal experience to redefine the function of theatre.  
III.    Participation
The sound-based practice mentioned above, as other theatre works, depends on a concentrated viewing in theatre, while they adopt different languages as the text (through collecting, fictional writing and sampling to highlight the poetic and musical nature in non-literary texts) to organize a communication model for the performance, and thus evokes the ”internal” perceptions and memories to create a more direct relationship with the “external” structure, eventually revealing the interlinked relationship between the internal and the external which can be tangibly felt. In her studies of the socialized creative approaches and media, the performance scholar Shannon Jackson proposes that our response to the artwork is decided by our knowledge of the two following aspects: 1. What an art form is assumed to be, 2. What the general social function of artistic practices is. Specifically speaking, the “relational practice” concerning interpersonal relationship or social contexts would have different significance in theatre and visual arts, as the practice may be addressing different expectations in the fields respectively. To challenge the tradition of certain medium, it often demands the learning of a different skill.20 The aspects such as the audience’s position or social contexts which are usually defined as “parergon” have become the “ergon” itself in these interdisciplinary practices. In other words, the switch of skills between different creative approaches and disciplines is interlinked with the transition of aesthetic category, and it is in their collaboration that different senses of “presence” and “participation” are established. Therefore, the end of essay will touch upon several “participatory-theatre” projects and its dialogue with institutionalized theatre from this particular perspective.   
Prototype Paradise’s Night Market Theatre (2014) is a project organized by the British artist Joshua Sofaer, Yu-Ying Kung and Chin Jia-Iuan Chin. Featuring eight performers, the team rented a stall and truck at Tzuchiang Night Market in Hualien, where passengers could freely order a less than five-minute performance from the menu, including personal stories, games, or interactive experiences – mostly under NTD 50, except for a few risky ones which might cost as much as NTD 500 or even NTD 1000. As a “cross” between Taipei and Hualien, between professional theatre and non-theatre organization, the performance taking place at a night market, where the public enjoyed their life, and adopting a night-market business approach to proceed naturally encouraged a myriad of discussions concerning social engagement and relational arts, or even the cultural environment of Hualien.21

Prototype Paradise’s Night Market Theatre (2014)
“Participation” can mean different things, but I would argue that the core concept of “participation” practiced in Night Market Theatre is more about the transition of artistic disciplines which includes our daily behaviors and social structure as a main creative concept, rather than the spectatorial interaction functioning in the performance. With the idea of “pay-and-order” as its performance framework, for example, it thus creates a dialogue between the different mechanisms of night-market consuming behavior and conventional theatre performance. However, even though it is described by Chin Jia-Iuan as “a noncreator-centric aesthetic form,” 22 the project artistically and conceptually justified by the night-market scenario still depends on its creators to produce content. Traveling Around Taipei with Garbage Trucks in the following year is another small-scale interactive performance taking place in a familiar everyday scene (garbage gathering),23 while the “story bus” program thematizes the life of garbage collectors who tell their stories to the viewers during the ride. In this case, the creators’ job is to collect stories, study the context, and develop a relationship with the “non-professionals.” 
Compared to Prototype Paradise who engages with the pre-existing social structure to directly interact with passengers, Co-coism chose an opposite direction in their founding project Tomorrow Inn in 2016, where participators were requested to make reservation first before experiencing the work in the most private space. The project includes two parts: in “Knock, Nod, Nap,” the two participators would spend 120 munities with each other in a symmetrical loft; while in “SHOWer,” the participator would stay in a shower room alone, completely surrounded by mirrors and accompanied by pages of Peter Handke’s script. The door to the shower room is not full-length, thus showing one’s shanks to the passerby. There is a button outside the shower room, and if the passerby pushes the button, random music would be played inside the room. The mutual viewing and safe distance between people as well as the gap between self-image and self-projection are personal perceptions and imaginations defined as the “parergon” by conventional theatre, but they have become the “ergon” in this work. 

Tomorrow Inn by Co-coism (2016)
Between Meals in the same year also required reservation in advance. The participator comes here to make a meal for someone who cannot be here, and they are asked to share the memories of their relationship and a message to the absentee through voice recording and written notes, while the meal and stories are for the next participation to savor. As a participatory practice, Between Meals highlights immaterial feelings (such as memories and emotions) in a materialized form and creates a similar tête-à-tête communication. Unlike a usual theatre performance which sees each viewer as an abstract entity, the participatory project by Co-coism turns to focus on one’s feelings and experiences. With their respective academic training in directing and theatre-making, its three main members – Hung Chien-Han, Chang Kang-Hua, and Huang Ding-Yun – plays with the mechanism in a production that rejects representational content provided by creators and thus create a dialogue with conventional theatre in its aspects of spectatorial relationship and emotional projection. 
What connects the increasingly diverse projects of Co-coism is how they design a scenario or mechanism to bring out a communication which is hardly held in conventional theatre. Such a communication/experience model developed from their creative experiments have rapidly attracted institutions from different disciplines.  With commissions and invitations, their participatory projects take place in the art museum, theatre festival, and even escape game, while the collaboration with these different disciplines in turn influence other practitioners’ and viewers’ knowledge of theatre. Take YOU CAN SLEEP HERE for example: exploring the same subject of “sleeping,” the project is created within the framework of the community art of MOCA Taipei to conduct a field research on sleep-friendly spaces (where one can spend a night) around the museum’s neighborhood, while an awareness of the everyday politics extends the artistic creation to our real life beyond the performance, and the contemplative viewing in theatre steps into the untouched realm to form a different publicness. It is a continuous development toward borderless disciplines, but at its different stages, it has also offered different levels of understanding of viewing and communication within theatre (it also explains why I choose the earlier projects by Co-coism rather than their recent commissions as case studies here).    
In the previously mentioned examples, the artists no longer place themselves (or their worldview) under the spotlight but in turn take the same position with the participators. In MASINGKIAY (2017),24 participation functions differently when the artist Fangas Nayaw creates an indigenous “gathering space” on the second floor at Museum of National Taipei University of Education during the one-month exhibition.  Without the usual symbols of indigenous representation (such as traditional costumes and totems, while all the performers instead are unified in white shirts, Khaki Pants and blue-and-white flip flops25), the gathering space is defined by its “lifeness,” ranging from everyday objects that describe the tribal life (Paolyta-B, Taiwan Beer, Golong Milk, cable-drum tables, etc.) to its durational nature (everyone was assigned a daily eight-hour shift, while the opening weekend featured a non-stop 24-hour event). An ornamented Western dining table and the installations of piled bottles/packs of drinks mentioned above are placed within the bright white cube to create a dialectical relationship with the live “tribal activities.” The participator was asked to write down a brief self-introduction and their stereotyped ideas about the indigenous peoples on a piece of paper before going upstairs, where they could stay as long as they liked, have conversations with the hosts at the “gathering space” or join in group activities such as the ritualistic people-lifting or singing. The hosts and guests could drink and eat together at their tables, while the mixed drinks offered depended on their interaction and relationship. Although the hosts (performers) and guests (participators) spend more time with each other and have more interactions than the usual cases, the friendship developed from such a host-guest relationship is as sincere as it is tensed, partly because they made stereotypes a topic of the conversation but mostly due to the unavoidable distance which is explicitly felt.  
In this communicative scenario with unsettling factors such as alcohol and at-will duration, participation – as a challenge to the institutionalized theatre – becomes a direct response to how the indigenous people has always been viewed, from the everyday structural discrimination to their representation in theatre or national ceremonies. Instead of conventional representational approaches, such as epic stories of the ancestral land or re-creation of song-and-dance rituals, the artist makes use of its participatory form for the participators to physically experience the changing status of interpersonal relationship (with risks to be taken) and to reflect on their self-position, thus highlighting the immaterial aspect beyond the grasp of a representational theatre to get closer to the tribal context.    
In the Taiwanese society where theatre does not belong to the life of the majority, the abovementioned cases, with their various steps into our living spaces, offer different approaches to break through the confinement of institutionalized theatre and to extend the reach toward a wider and more diverse public. Meanwhile, the expansion of artistic subject has also attracted practitioners of different backgrounds to pluralize the publicness made possible by theatre. In recent years, art and cultural institutions are motivated by such artistic projects which go beyond the bordered disciplines to support the development of new cultural practices and audience-reach. The inauguration of the National Performing Arts Center, which includes the existing National Theater & Concert Hall and the newly opened National Taichung Theater and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying), the development of local art festivals and institutionalized promotional platforms all have helped extend the possibilities of these artistic practices and push forward the social engagement.  However, as stated in my essay, these practices are developed and realized within a specific relational context. If one just borrows the form without an awareness of the context and negotiation at stakes, it will necessarily weaken the effectiveness of the creative means.
The decade of diverse artistic experiments and developments has broadened the horizon of what a performance beyond the institutionalized theatre can be – a significant change as noticed in related discourse and criticism from the internal perspective to its position to the external world. The cases mentioned in my essay feature a collaborative relationship with visual arts and other disciplines while they are also interlinked with more typical stage performances. In their continuous dialogue, the artists have explored different communication models. As a representational mechanism, the often abstract and homogenous vision of modern theatre results in a gap between the artwork and experiences. However, the heterogenous practices listed here employ different aesthetic disciplines, production models, and spectatorial relationships to reexamine these gaps from different perspectives. Meanwhile, through perceptions and experiences, it has developed concrete connections and organized a different publicness which evoke a deeper level of meanings in practice. 
[1] The concept of the public sphere is mentioned here to emphasize how strangers might be connected, or even form an organization, by shared interests or co-inhabited space. See The Fall of Public Man by Richard Sennett and “Publics and Counterpublics” by Michael Warner.  
[2] See Simon Sheikh: “In the Place of the Public Sphere? Or, the World in Fragments” (2004).  The full article can be read on https://transversal.at/transversal/0605/sheikh/en
[3] Launched by NCAF in 2020, its Online Grant Portfolio Archive—Contemporary Theater focuses on contemporary theatre and includes different categories such as “Our Sponsored Projects,” “A Chronicle of Modern Theatre in Taiwan,” and “Research Papers” to promote relate studies and facilitate knowledge sharing. See its website for more information: https://archive.ncafroc.org.tw/moderndrama
[4] Due to limitation of my geographical coverage and the materials obtained, the cases discussed in this essay mostly took place in Taipei and its neighboring area. Examples from other regions can be found in South View (http://southview.tnc.gov.tw/article_critics.php?id=139); Yang Mei-Ying, “From an Impossible Solution to Creating Possibilities of Space – A Sketch on Recent Environmental Theatre in Taiwan” (https://talks.taishinart.org.tw/juries/ymy/2016110102); Chin Jia-Iuan Chin, “Night Market Theatre and Night Walks: Making Theatre in the Margin” (http://academic.tnua.edu.tw/upload/files/33-5.pdf), etc. 
[5] Examples include Popcorn Theatre by Godot Theatre Company, musicals by Studio M, and the subgroup "The Ex-Rebel Lads” of Against-Again Troupe which has its eye on the subculture. 
[6] It should be noted that small-scale curation, with a different need of manpower, is not always low-budget as expected, and the limited audience seats make it more difficult, if not impossible, to balance the cost. 
[7] Yiru Wang, “Come to the Apartment for Some Revolutionary Micro-theatre Experiences!” China Times, June 25, 2009. See Against-Again Troupe’s blog for the full article :“https://against-again.blogspot.com/2009/07/09625.html?fbclid=IwAR22pCTv6ljWRmHmkaypgzDbjmVGagMk2Q7eBAZJ9EeTT1KURyTqGV0sqmk” 
[8] To solve the problem of inefficient spaces at that time, the Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs started the project “Art-Renewed Space,” allowing Taipei-based theatre companies to apply for some unused spaces, but it was only limited to Taipei City and the policy was still in its initial stage. 
[9] See my interview with Pei-Yu Shih, Culture Express, Oct. 2013, issue 161. More information can be found on the official website of Close To You Festival: http://www.closetoyoufestival.com/
[10]Quoted from an interview with Craig Quintero, the director of Riverbed Theatre. See Ya-Chun Chin, “Just for You by Riverbed Theatre: The All of It is Just for You,” ARTouch (https://artouch.com/view/content-2152.html). 
[11] Quoted from Chin-Hui Laila Fan, “Soundscape: the Most Quiet Environmental Movement” (https://scimonth.blogspot.com/2018/04/blog-post_60.html?fbclid=IwAR1Ov0-UkWt8YwKDnkZ9yRqhemPD0NeruhEPrgXqtfZ0MI6_cH2SAenpmjU). 
[12] It refers to existing imagination and definition, including themes, expressions, education, work methods, organizational structures, and conventional analyses.   
[13] Similar awareness and problematique stimulate the writing of different Taiwanese contemporary plays. With these examples, I would like to point out how the creative process negotiates the definition of “theatre” rather than rejecting it as a fixed form. See Tsai Yu-chen, “The Storyteller: Chien Li-Ying and her words,” Sleep in Spring: Plays by Li-Ying Chien I.
[14] Quoted from the artist interview in the program brochure.  
[15] It connects the ending episode of The Ring where the valkyrie Brynhild accuses the gods of Valhalla and a real-life incident of a driver, Cheng Te-Cheng, who drove a 35-ton dump truck into the President’s Office in the early morning on January 25th, 2014.  
[16] It reminds me of the words by composer and director Heiner Goebbels that “…in my work the drama shifts from the representation of a dramatic conflict, which is being acted out on stage (normally by settling a psychological dispute between protagonists), towards a drama of perception, which occurs for the spectator: emerging from what you see and hear, what is being triggered by and experienced in the act of watching, what you do with the seen and heard. The first question of an actor who works with me, is therefore not: ‘Where do I come from?’ or ‘Who am I?’, but: ‘What has to happen on stage, so that the questions one has towards the text, the piece, the work, can actually reach the audience to be received with interest and perhaps answered?’” Quoted from Heiner Goebbels, Aesthetics of Absence, chp. 13. 
[17] Translator’s note: a traditional musical form known for its elegance and slow tempo, which is also spelled as “nanguan” (the Southern Tune).
[18] This and the following quotes are from the performance text, which includes the music and script of The Sewing of Time, Treaty of Shimonoseki, When the Siren Sounds: The Everyday Life in Japanese-Occupied Taiwan by Lu Shao-Li, and The Ethics in Words by Yi Xing. 
[19] The 13rd Taishin Arts Award nominated the abovementioned Love Sone 2010 and A Revolution Unarmed in 2014, and the grand prize was awarded to Altering Nativism: Sound Cultures in Post-War Taiwan by TheCube Project Space, demonstrating the mutual influence between artistic practice and criticism. The awards, critiques, discourses and experiments from different disciplines have motivated theatre artists to actively include “sound” in their exploration.  Nomination list and reasons can be found in https://talks.taishinart.org.tw/award/bulletin/2015031202
[20] Shannon Jackson, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, 15-19 & 27-28. 
[21] See footnote 3, Chin Jia-Iuan.
[22] Ibid., 26.
[23] Translator’s note: People would gather at certain locations to throw the trash to the garbage-collecting truck. 
[24] I also participated in the creative process as the dramaturg.
[25] Translator’s note: an iconic local Taiwanese symbol across all ethnicities.  

*Translator: Siraya Pai