Chi-Mei Wang

Chi-Mei Wang was born in 1946. Upon graduating from Taipei First Girls’ High School, she began studying in the Department of Chinese Literature at National Taiwan University. After completion of her degree in 1968, she entered her first job as a junior high school teacher but soon after left to study for an M.A. in theatre at the University of Oregon in the United States. During her time there, she studied many aspects of theatre including performance, directing, design, production and education, as well as acting as a director and writer for the school’s drama club. In 1976 she returned to Taiwan, teaching at Chinese Culture University and acting as a director for the Music Department’s opera performances as well as directing all other kinds of productions and performances. At the same time, she coordinated with other like-minded colleagues to establish an artisan workshop while concurrently founding the Taipei Pantomime Company to promote the research and understanding of the culture and language of the deaf. Additionally, because of her involvement with Chinese Culture University’s Chinese opera group, she had the chance to learn from Liyuan opera masters, gaining insightful knowledge about the movement and musicality of Chinese opera. Because of this experience, she developed a deep and solid understanding of how to direct, write and perform classical and folk stories.

In 1979, Wang became involved in the preparations for the new National Institute of the Arts, acting as the section chief of the secretary division. She provided assistance to the school’s president Mr. Bao You-Yu as well as to important members of the music, fine arts, dance and theatre groups, in completing the school’s founding. She taught at the Institute from 1981 until 1999, when she was offered a teaching post in the Chinese literature department at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. In 2005 she retired from teaching, but she still remains a leader for young people in the theatre and continues to engage in theatre production and promotion.

Wang believes: We should perform our own plays, create as much as possible, and push for local works. For the last twenty-plus years she has invested a huge amount of energy compiling and producing publications of small and large collections of Taiwanese theatre pieces. Moreover, her own creative pieces fully reveal her profound observations about the land, the environment, and vulnerable communities involved in “human” survival. For example, in 1987 her The Orphan of the World was a comparison of the past and the present, reflecting young intellectuals’ criticisms and musings. In 1989, Children of the Good Earth described the experiences, thoughts, and passions of Taiwan’s rural youth. 1994’s Tales of the Mountains and the Seas was the result of leading students in intimately lessons about aborigine culture, song, and dance. And starting in 2004, she began going onstage herself. She even performed a one-woman show, Xiexue Hong, in 2010. All of these pieces reflected her meticulous and mature performance skills in interpreting the modern female character. She was arousing people’s awareness toward the struggles and imaginative powers in the lives of these characters, providing a staged testimony of every aspect of Taiwanese society, government, and artistic history.

Following she was awarded the National Arts Award in 1988 and the WuSanLien Award in 1993, in 2004 Wang was given the 13th annual Laiho Literature Award. At the time, the award panel judges noted that the reason she won the award was because, “She has been cultivating Taiwanese theatre for many years. Theatre has been her tool to transform and improve social culture; she simultaneously respects the past and blazes new trails, using an adept nature and a timely spirit.” With regards to Wang, this description is quite true; in the annals of Taiwanese theatre development, she is an indispensible figure.