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Stage Designer | Austin Wang

  • Date:2022-05-30
Stage Designer | Austin Wang.jpg

Chinese Name: 王孟超
Date of Birth: 1957
Place of Birth: Keelung, Taiwan
Did You Know?
Stage designer Austin Wang has been deeply involved in theater in Taiwan for many years and has accumulated a large amount of experience with stage design for shows spanning traditional and modern, drama and dance, using precise techniques to create flexible performance spaces and help the essential elements of creators’ work shine at their brightest. In 2014, Wang was awarded the 18th National Award for Arts.

When Austin Wang took the Joint College Entrance Examination in 1975, he unexpectedly found himself earning admission to the Department of Theatre Arts at Chinese Culture University. As this had not been by his own choice, the next year, he transferred to the Department of English Literature at Fu Jen Catholic University, but there he met a group of foreign teachers who loved theater and inspired him with a similar love. In 1979, he took part in the production of the stage play "Yu Gong Moves the Mountains (愚公移山)" written by Chi Wei-jan (紀蔚然) (who would go on to be a winner of the 17th National Award for Arts), marking his first experience with stage design, along with performing the role of the titular Yu Gong. The show was invited to be put on for the inaugural Taipei Arts Festival.

In 1982, he worked in the international affairs group of New Aspect Creatives, where his work mainly involved communicating with foreign performance agencies and art groups. The following year, Wang was part of the production of the stage play "Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream (遊園驚夢)," adapted from Pai Hsien-yung (白先勇)'s novel of the same name. He was the general manager of the team and had many interactions with stage designer Nie Kuang-yan (聶光炎), who he admired for his modesty and low-key attitude.

While working with New Aspect, Wang learned about Cloud Gate Theater and became interested in their work. In 1983, he left New Aspect to get involved with the stage techniques class held as part of the 3rd Cloud Gate Experimental Theater. On the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Lin Hwai-Min (林懷民) launched the stage play "Dream of the Red Mansions (紅樓夢)," inviting Chinese-American master designer Lee Ming Cho (李名覺) to do the stage design. Wang worked with Lee as his interpreter during the production, taking part in the production and the discussions between these two masters, finding tremendous inspiration in the show design and techniques used. In 1984, Wang went to the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts to pursue a Master's degree in lighting and stage design. After graduation, he entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York City as a stage design assistant.

He returned to Taiwan in 1987 and began teaching in the technical training class of the Cloud Gate Experimental Theater. In the same year, the National Theater was completed and opened, and Wang joined as a full-time stage supervisor and produced many works himself. This period coincided with a wave of new modern dance and drama performance groups being launched as non-profit organizations, and so Wang began taking on work in stage and lighting design for groups like Lanlin Theatre Troupe (蘭陵劇坊), Henry Yu Dance Company (游好彥舞團), Contemporary Legend Theatre (當代傳奇劇坊), Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre (太古踏舞團), and artists like Tao Fu-lan (陶馥蘭) and Luo Man-fei (羅曼菲). In 1992, Austin Wang left the National Theatre and took on work as a production manager and technical consultant for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre. His famous works with them included "Songs of the Wanderers (流浪者之歌)" (1994), "Moon Water (水月)" (1998), and "Cursive II (行草貳)" (2003).

In 1997, Wang and a group of veteran theatre directors, theatre scholars, art administrators, and media workers established the Creative Society theatre troupe (創作社), joining forces to explore new approaches to theatrical aesthetics and forms. Their works included 1997's "The Machong Game (夜夜夜麻)," 2005's "Your Madness, Mr. Shakespeare—from Tragedies, 100% Concentrated (瘋狂場景)," and 2009's "He is my Wife, He is my Mother (少年金釵男孟母).” Wang's stage design work has been prolific and diverse. He has served as a stage designer for opera works, integrating stage design into the works of Contemporary Legend Theatre and the Peking and Henan Opera works of GuoGuang Opera Company. In recent years, he has also actively worked with young creators and participated in more experimental small-scale performances, such as 2013’s "Self Re-Quests (逆旅)."

In 2002, Wang resigned from his full-time job at Cloud Gate and established Austin @ Plan B Studio (王孟超筆圖工作室), serving as a full-time stage designer. He is currently the CEO of the Taipei Performing Arts Center. Over the years, Austin Wang has received many awards, including the Belvedere International Achievement Awards in Warsaw at the Presidential Residence in Warsaw, Poland, in 2003 and the 18th National Award for Arts in 2014. The National Culture and Arts Foundation has said that "Austin Wang started his theatre career with Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and has accumulated a wealth of stage design works across traditional and modern, drama and dance types. He employs precise techniques to create flexible performance spaces and help the essential elements of creators' work shine at their brightest. He has participated in many international theater organization conferences, recommended Taiwan theater to international theater circles, and introduced Taiwan's outstanding theatrical works to other countries. He has won several important awards and has contributed tremendously to the internationalization of Taiwanese stage design."

(Photo Credit: Taipei Performing Arts Center)