Annie Levy和我今年要共同執導希臘古典喜劇家亞里斯多芬的作品「女人天下」（“The Ecclesiazusae,” 英譯 “The Assembly Women,” or “Women in Power”)。我們使用的劇本是當代希臘劇作家Dionisis Christopoulos所改寫的版本。希臘古典戲劇沒有女性演員，皆由男人來詮釋女性角色。「女人天下」描述一群雅典城邦婦女因對男人主導的政權失望，企圖將政權以「合理」的方式移轉到女人身上。劇中描述女人對於美好政府的想像，應該要像烏托邦一樣，每個人分享一樣的財富、食物甚至性愛，戲中也少不了以荒腔走板的方式詮釋女性對於治理國家的想像就像管理廚房一樣。
— Jocelyn Yuchia Chang, Taiwan
During our early discussion on the script of The Ecclesiazusae (English translation as The Assembly Women or Women in Power), Tsai Ing-wen, the 2016 presidential candidate of Taiwan happened to appear on the cover of the US magazine Time and became quite an event. The color tone of that cover photo was much darker than that preferred by the Taiwanese media, a difference which somehow provoked debate on the Internet and in the local media. My partner this year, Annie Levy, is an American director. She juxtaposes the Time cover photo of Hillary Clinton, also a presidential candidate, with that of Tsai Ing-wen, and a stark contrast comes out. On that photo of Hillary, bright, clear color underlines her female quality, and downplays the masculine strength. On the other photo, however, low color tone plays up Tsai’s calm expression. The softer, more female features are glossed over, and it is the masculinity it tries to highlight. I am not sure if it has to do with the divided expectations for female politicians in the Eastern and Western world, but I do know about one interesting phenomenon: Whether it be men or women, they are anxious when power is possessed by the latter. And it’s quite true both in the East and West, from the very ancient past until now.
The Ecclesiazusae is by Aristophanes, an ancient Greek comic playwright. Annie Levy and I are co-directing it this year. The script we are using is an adapted version by Greek playwright, Dionisis Christopoulos. As there were no female actors in the ancient Greece, all the women are played by male actors. In The Ecclesiazusae, the women in Athens are disappointed by the regime led by men, and they attempt to “reasonably“ shift the leadership to themselves. The play depicts many beautiful prospects the women bear for the government. They believe government should create a world where everyone equally shares wealth, food, and even sex. There is even an absurd plot depicting how women imagine the ruling of a country the same as they rule their kitchen.
In the rehearsal, Annie and I try to interpret the play in an alternative way. Three old-school and worldly male actors are rehearsing The Ecclesiazusae. Meanwhile, there is a young American girl who is the assistant stage manager. At first, the three male actors rival each other, and always find fault with the young girl. Nevertheless, the power relationship begins to change with the evolvement of the play, whether it’s men’s stereotypes of women, or women’s yearning for and fear of power. With the development of the play within the play and given the corresponding relationship between the roles on the stage, different characters will search for alliances, and will sometimes be threatened. In the end, the female assistant, who is originally persecuted and molested by the male actors, becomes the most powerful one in controlling the situation.
I am driven by our rehearsals to think about power. Terms like robust, enormous, tall, and tough are associated with masculinity. Then how about femininity? Soft, unknown, intangible, endlessly spreading are adjectives make us think about the female quality. How we could alternatively shift between these two types of power in the play is quite an interesting experiment. If it’s easier to give the masculine power a tangible shape, then what should we do with the feminine one? Whether it be male or female, a truly powerful person should possess both qualities. Yet, how should these two qualities be balanced?
To me, The Ecclesiazusae explores more than just the war between men and women. It actually discusses how one can “truly embrace” different characters, and that how we can make good use of them to create a better life. Such reflection might also respond to the current political situation, when more and more women devote themselves to politics, and are concerned about social issues. While this trend is somehow a shock to the convention of male dominance, it also brings us new courage, doesn’t it?
— Jocelyn Yuchia Chang, Taiwan
(Translated by Yu Ting Kao)