Dispatches

Taiwanese Theatre During Coronavirus

A theatre troupe rebuilds after a fire and the pandemic – James Chater

In August last year, when Liu Ruo-yu, the artistic director of U-Theatre (優人神鼓), saw the charred remains of the group’s rehearsal space and spiritual home on Taipei’s Laoquanshan, her first thought was not to what might have been incinerated, but a question: “Heaven, what is it you want to tell me?”


The devastating fire destroyed much of the group’s compound, and with it numerous drums, props and other musical instruments essential to their performances. It was the beginning of what, on the surface, should have been the most challenging year in the group’s history; just six months after the blaze, the worsening pandemic forced Liu into canceling all of their upcoming shows.

However, even as Liu posed the question to the heavens on the day of the fire, indistinctly, she already knew the answer: “We had to stop…we had to come home.”