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Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group

  • Date:2023-07-18
Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group

Chinese Name: 莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團

Founded: 1995

Location: Taipei City

Did you know?

Synonymous with avant-garde theater in Taiwan, Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group is the oldest small theater group in the country. They have gained international attention and become a leading brand in the art world.

Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group, also known as SWS, was established in the summer of 1995. The name of the group is derived from a character in Virginia Woolf’s book “A Room of One’s Own,” symbolizing the liberation of women’s talents from the oppression of the male-dominated system. The group aims to develop original scripts and avant-garde theater aesthetics, with no limitations on themes, forms, or issues.

The members of the group started collaborating during their university days in the 1990s, mostly coming from the National Taiwan University Drama Society. After graduation, they continued to stay connected and create together. In 1995, they changed their name to “Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group” as proposed by the leading creator of the group, Wei Ying-juan (魏瑛娟), as they could no longer use the name of the National Taiwan University Drama Society.

Since its establishment, SWS has presented nearly 50 works. Since 1997, the group has been invited to perform new works in different countries and cities, playing an important role in international cultural and artistic exchanges. In recent years, they have actively expanded into the international market, not only accepting invitations from important performing arts festivals and cultural events abroad but also taking the initiative to connect with international artists and networks, actively promoting cross-national co-production.

In 2012, the group published the book “Be Wild: Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group,” which records 41 of their works since the establishment of the group in 1995. The book features a mix of media, including images, texts, collages, and designs, created by emerging photographer Cheng Ting (鄭婷), collage artist Lin Yi-hsuan (林亦軒), graphic designer Aaron Nieh (聶永真), and 47 writers and poets. The book offers new and diverse interpretations and perspectives on theater works. The overall concept of the book resembles a photographic theater on paper, showcasing the group’s consistent pursuit of innovative experimental aesthetics. “Be Wild” represents the core of the group’s creations, signifying not only the “wild” nature of small theaters but also the unconventional and non-traditional path of Shakespeare’s sisters.

From 2016 to 2018, SWS, together with Japan’s Seventh Theater and the Mie Center for the Arts, initiated the “Notes Exchange (交換手札)” project, opening up possibilities for joint productions between Taiwan and Japan. The work “Café Lumière (珈琲時光)” was created as a result and became the first Taiwanese performing arts work invited to the Tokyo Arts Festival and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, among other iconic theaters. In 2020, the three parties jointly launched the “Anatomy of Notes (手札解剖室)” project, continuing to deepen and expand the results of the exchange between Taiwan and Japan.

In 2019, SWS participated in a cross-national co-production project with Denmark’s Husets Teater, co-producing “Folkekongen” (The People’s King). Taiwanese director Liao Jiun-cheng (廖俊逞) and Danish director Liv Helm first co-directed the Danish version, which was then performed in Taiwan in 2020. This cross-national collaboration is a concrete result of SWS’s continuous operation and cultivation of international networks.

In 2019, SWS was invited to perform “Dear Life (親愛的人生)” at the Paris Autumn Festival, an adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro’s short stories. “Dear Life” broke through language and cultural barriers, showcasing an authentic Taiwanese style on stage. The artistic director of the festival, Marie Collin, praised the work, saying, “The story comes from Taiwan, and the directing style is like making a movie, without any cultural barriers.” This was the first Taiwanese theater work in the festival’s 48-year history.

SWS is also active in domestic performances. In 2022, they collaborated with Ming Hua Yuan Tian Zi Art & Culture Group (明華園天字戲劇團) to present their flagship production “The Unnamed Island: The Hagseed and the Wizard (無題島:孽種與魔法師)” at the Taiwan Traditional Opera Festival, seeking a new aesthetics for contemporary Taiwanese opera through interdisciplinary collaboration.

SWS is an outstanding team in modern theater and a frequent recipient of the Taishi Arts Award (台新藝術獎). Over the years, the group has consistently explored and developed their unique theater aesthetics and style. In addition to presenting new works through theater exploration and experimentation and engaging in cultural exchanges at home and abroad, they will continue to operate their creative platform, promote theater education, and participate in cultural policies.