Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land
by Stan Lai
Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land is an iconic classic of the modern Chinese world. Perhaps the most performed and well-known contemporary play written in the Chinese language, it was created in 1986 by Stan Lai and his theatre group, Performance Workshop, in Taipei, Taiwan. In 1992 the play was made into a film titled Peach Blossom Land.
Having as a starting point a classic 5th century AD Chinese utopian text, Lai and his group created a piece beloved for its timeless themes, structural originality and playful meta-theatricality. The play has long been standard reading for theatre and literature students in Chinese speaking lands.
Two (very different from each other) theatre groups have been mistakenly scheduled to rehearse in the same theatre on the same night. Finding no other solution, they decide to split the stage in two. As they are forced to share the theatrical time and space, their worlds intersect, and questions around the clash between old and new, our relationship to the past and to history, and ultimately the point of making theatre, arise.
Lai directed an English version at Stanford University in 2007, using his own translation. In 2015, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land was the first of his plays to be performed professionally in the Western world, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
YUN: How vast is Shanghai! How can two people even find each other in such a boundless city? What if we hadn’t met in Shanghai?
JIANG: Impossible! It is certain we would meet in Shanghai.
YUN: So sure?
JIANG: OK. Let’s say we didn’t meet in Shanghai. Then 10 years later, we would meet in… say in Beijing! So let’s say we didn’t meet in Beijing, then 20, or 30, maybe even 40 years later, we would meet… say, somewhere overseas! It is certain we would meet.
YUN: But then we would be old. What fun would that be?
JIANG: That would be divine too.
Stan Lai, playwright
One of the most celebrated theatre artists in the Chinese-speaking world, award-winning playwright and director Stan Lai was born in the US in 1954. Holding a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, Lai lives and works in Taiwan, in mainland China, as well as in the US. With his Taipei-based group, Performance Workshop, Lai helped revolutionize modern theater in Taiwan in the 1980s. His work also influenced a new generation of artists and theater-goers throughout mainland China as his plays found enthusiastic audiences there. His over 30 original plays include The Village (2008) and the epic, eight-hour A Dream Like a Dream (2000). Lai is artistic director of Performance Workshop, and co-founder and director of China’s Wuzhen Theatre Festival.
Nadia Foskolou, director and translator
Director and translator, living and working in New York and in Athens. She holds an MA in Theatre Studies from the Sorbonne University, a Diploma in Acting from the ‘Florent’ Acting School (Paris), a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Athens and an MFA in Directing from Columbia University in the City of New York (which she completed on Fulbright and National Bank of Greece Foundation scholarships). In NYC she just directed (and also conceived) the world premiere of Nathan Wright’s Manifesto: The Diaghilev Project (Robert Moss Theatre). She has directed more than 20 productions in New York and in Athens. Selected credits: Nathan Wright’s Peninsula (New York International Fringe Festival Outstanding Ensemble Award and Fringe Encores), Euripides’ The Madness of Hercules (Roy Arias Stage II Theatre), Charles Mee’s Hôtel Méditerranée (Between the Seas festival, world premiere), Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear (in a translation of her own from French into English). She directed and translated the Greek premiere of Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s Address Unknown, which was voted Best Short-Term Production of 2015 and was reprised for 5 consecutive seasons.