Huang Mei-shu

Directing A Suitcase

   The work of a director is at the same time a kind of  a translator's job.  A successful translator  has to thoroughly understand the original text and the language into which he is translating,  as well as  the cultural background. He has to be capable of using the languages in question. Of course, there exist essential differences  between directing and translating literature: the translation of a novel, a poem, or a dramatic work, for example, is  only from one language into another language – a fixed system of signs.  But if a dramatic work  is to be “translated” into a stage performance, a TV play, or a film,  it has to be realized by way of specific dramatic means , including actors, lighting, stage decoration, and sound effects. The actor, however,  usually is no passive “tool” (because he is  a living human being). This means, if the director “translates,”  he has to be aware  of diverse aspects.  Only thus can he realize the spirit  of the original dramatic work.  Furthermore his public is the audience, but he has know  what kind of audience he has got,  for the audience is an important part  of the theater:  without readers a literary work might be able to exist, but the theater cannot continue  to exist without an audience. 
   This is my idea regarding directing, and this is the principle  and the direction as well, according to which I have directed A Suitcase
   A Suitcase is the shortest play of Yao Yi-wei. It seems to be the simplest one, too.  The workers Lao-ta and Ah-san, who have had trouble with their boss, carry a suitcase and are looking for another job.  The suitcase of Ah-san is mistakenly taken for a missing suitcase in which some radio-active material had been kept. Because of this, Ah-san is hunted by the police  and several citizens.  The stubborn Ah-san becomes a victim ofhis suitcase  when he finally falls to his death. But I think this is one of the most interesting plays of Mr. Yao.  I remember when I read the play  for the first time three years ago, it reminded me strongly of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot   and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  I don't mean by this that this play holds the same rank as these famous texts of world drama.  Rather I want to say than Ah-san and Lao-ta show similarities with Vladimir and Estragon and with the tramps George and Lennie as well.
   In reality these three pairs in the said plays have their own past, present and future; they are absolutely different.  I only want to illustrate,  through these associations, the deep meaning  and the spirit of  the time in A Suitcase.
   Because of the difficulties of the play, lack of funds and of time and due to the care, the encouragement and the expectations  of many similar-minded friends regarding our attempt,  all the players  and co-workers have the feeling to shoulder a heavy burden.  But because the playwright  has worked closely together with us, we believe  that the performed  “translation”  will do the author justice.  Even though we have not been able to cope with all the difficulties, and though we could not reach  the level expected of us,  we are convinced not to have done a “sloppy job.”
   I hope that the performance will not disappoint the audience.
   Should we experience a total failure,  one should not judge the play  in terms of our production.  We hope, however,  that more and more lovers  of the theater  will give us criticism  and encouragement  and will work with us  so that we will find the courage to undertake new attempts.

Editorial note:  In 1977, the bilingual (English-Chinese) journal Street / Jietou published this article by the director, playwright and scholar Mei-shu HUANG on HUANG's staging of Yao Yi-wei's play "A Suitcase" ( 一口箱子 ,  Yikou xiangzi).

More on the Chinese playwright Yao Yi-wei ( 姚一葦):

Huang Mei-shu, “Yao Yi-wei: A Modern Chinese Playwright”, in: Tamkang Review # 9 / Winter 1978, pp.159-198.

See also:  Duan Xin (= Iris Tuan), “Contribution to Encyclopedia of Modern Drama—Comment on the plays  and biographies of the Three Taiwanese Playwrights—Yao, Yi-wei,  Hwang, Mei-shu, and Ma Sen,” in:
Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Grolier:    2005. 

Iris Tuan, "Contribution to The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama—Entries of  Hwang, Mei-shu, Ma Sen, and Yao, Yi-wei." In:  The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. 2 Volumes. Edited by Gabrielle H. Cody and Evert Sprinchorn. New York: Columbia University Press, Projected Publication in Spring 2007. ISBN: 978-0-231-14032-4. 

Yao Yi-wei's A Suitcase (一口箱子 ).  Book cover?


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