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September 30, 2011

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Cross-Strait family drama stirs nostalgia

STAN Lai's drama "The Village" is a laughter-and-tears melodrama about refugees in Taiwan from the Chinese Civil War.

The play to be staged in Shanghai in December tells the story of three generations of the families of Kuomintang soldiers who fled the Chinese mainland after their defeat in 1949. They lived in what were known as "veterans' villages" of refugees and their dependents.

The three families in the play live in the No. 1 Village in Chiayi County and come to realize that what they thought would be temporary refuge had become permanent.

It stars big names in Taiwan television and theater and two-thirds of the cast of 25 grew up in veterans' villages, so it's especially poignant.

These villages occupy a special place in the history of Taiwan. Few are left now; most have been erased in slum clearance and for new development.

The play is on a China tour and this will be the third time it has been staged in Shanghai.

It is a collaboration between US-born, Taiwan-based director Stan Lai, one of the most influential and innovative directors in Chinese theater, and Wang Wei-chung, a prolific TV "super producer" in Taiwan.

For every four or five people in Taiwan, at least one has had some association with veterans' villages and there is a significant group of creative people in Taiwan who trace their roots back to these communities.

They have been active in preserving and recording the vanishing culture of the veterans' villages. Producer Wang is one of them.

"The veterans' villages may be gone, but they are certainly not forgotten, because they represent an important history of more than 50 years, two generations and as many as 700,000 villagers in Taiwan," says producer Ding Nai-chu, who is also Lai's wife.

Based in Taiwan, the couple founded the Performance Workshop in 1984, featuring a veritable Who's Who of talent from stage, screen and television.

Director Lai has created some of the most memorable works of the contemporary Chinese stage, as well as bold new genres and staging innovations. He is especially famous for "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land" (1986).

The debut of "The Village" in 2008 was unexpectedly and hugely successful both in Taiwan and on the mainland.

Producer Ding called the success on the Chinese mainland "a rare feat for a stage drama and a testament to the production's star power but probably more of a testament to the lingering nostalgia for the dilapidated yet vibrant communities that did so much to shape modern Taiwan."

"The Village" stars some of the biggest names in Taiwan television and theater, such as cross-talk artist Feng Yi-gang and Hu Ting-ting. The cast of 25 also includes some new faces, including Taiwan Golden Bell award winner Fan Rui-jun.

"Since two-thirds of the actors grew up in veterans' villages, we can feel such true emotions on the stage," says Ding.

Date: December 2-4, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 280-880 yuan (not confirmed yet)

Tel: 962-388


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