Connecting the World of Theater: OISTAT’s Headquarters in Taiwan


2017 / July

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of OISTAT /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

The headquarters of the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians can be found in the Center for Innovation Tai­pei, on the west side of the site of the old Zhong­shan Soccer Stadium. The plaza of neighboring Expo Park is visited by throngs of tourists, and occasionally one of them will wander over, knock on the door, and ask: “What is it that you do here?”

The full Chinese name for the organization is a mouthful, extending for 20 characters, but it is commonly known by the acronym OISTAT, which comes from the French: Organisation Internationale des Scénographes, Techniciens et Architectes de Théâtre.

The three key elements here are “scenographers,” “theater architects” and “technicians.” Basically, OISTAT is a platform for exchange among international theater professionals. It is also one of the few international NGOs with a headquarters in the ROC and with local membership in the organization under the name of Taiwan. 

Joining as Taiwan

Established in 1968, OISTAT originally served as a platform for theater professionals in eastern and western Europe to gain new knowledge via exchange across the Iron Curtain.

From the start, OISTAT aimed to move to various places in the world and deeply embed itself in the local culture. That has remained one of the organization’s unique features. OISTAT’s first general headquarters was in Prague, and in the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it moved to Amsterdam.   

In 1997, thanks to hard work by senior theater hands, ROC membership in OISTAT was attained under the name of Taiwan. In 2006, with the support of the Council for Cultural Affairs (the forerunner of today’s Ministry of Culture), the OISTAT secretariat moved to Taiwan, and in 2011 the secretariat was upgraded to become the organization’s headquarters.   

Based in Taiwan

Taiwan is the first non-European site of the OISTAT headquarters. “It’s a demonstration that OISTAT has truly reached beyond Europe,” says executive director Wei Wan-jung. “It wasn’t until that [first] day [in Taiwan] that OISTAT could say it was truly an international organization.” By moving the headquarters to Taiwan, the theater arts of East and West have been given greater opportunities for crosspollination and greater possibilities for exchange.

What’s more, with Taiwan’s special international situation, the headquarters has come to more fully consider the unique international circumstances that each nation faces. The headquarters once encountered an incident when an OISTAT national branch was assisting with an event but the host government was refusing to allow another nation’s OISTAT branch to participate. As soon as Wei heard the news, she immediately decided that OISTAT would pull out. “As an international organization, OISTAT cannot set that precedent,” argues Wei. She cites an example: “Say one day we were holding an activity in Egypt, and Egypt banned Israel from participating. Then what?”

In 2015, OISTAT and the Ministry of Culture signed an agreement to allow the headquarters to remain in Taiwan until 2020.

Forging new conceptions

Wei has actively leveraged the advantages inherent in OISTAT being headquartered in Taiwan to introduce new international concepts here. In 2015 she invited Dutch lighting master Henk van der Geest to Taiwan to hold seminars and master classes. In 2016 Sophie Jump, winner of the Gold Award at the World Stage Design exhibition, came to lead the “Jump Out of Theatre: Design as Performance” forum and workshop.

In 2017, the Estonian company Theatre NO99, winner of the Golden Triga for Best Exposition at the Prague Quadrennial 2015, was invited to Taiwan to talk about the “Unified Estonia Assembly” project, a combination of performance art and politics that the company led over the course of 44 days during the 2014 Estonian elections. The company had proclaimed the launching of a new political party: the “Unified Estonia Assembly.” At the performance site, it then went on to design political advertisements, come up with a party platform, and hold large campaign rallies. Thanks to excellent planning and perfect performances, the UEA caused a sensation, and at the finale participants voted on party representatives. When “party chairman” Tiit Ojasoo, the company’s director, got up on stage, he said but one sentence: “Now you are free.”

The work reflected the bizarreness of contemporary democratic politics, and it made an ironic statement about political manipulation.

For those involved in theater, politics and social movements in Taiwan who were already skilled at using theater to comment on society, the lecture opened new vistas on how political issues can be played with in ways that challenge prevailing conceptions and methods.

Youth groups, turbocharged creativity

Since 2013, the OISTAT headquarters has been recruiting interns to participate in daily activities. Wei hopes to enable young Taiwanese both to engage in international exchange without needing to go abroad and to gain an understanding of how an international organization’s headquarters works.

There are only four formal professional staffers at the headquarters, but with an average age of 30, they are skilled at making use of the latest trends, and they have injected youthful energy into an organization that is nearly 50 years old.

Meanwhile, Wei, who has a background in foreign affairs and art, is adept at using the vocabulary of different disciplines, and she has helped OISTAT attain greater efficiency in its communications and operations.

Furthermore, young Taiwanese have been making their mark in the theater community, says Wei. In 2011, the first year of OISTAT’s Technical Invention Prize, the top award went to Hu Hao-en for his Improved T-Joist Backdrop Stretcher. In 2013 at the World Stage Design competition in Britain, the cutting-edge director Chou Tung-yen won the Interactive and New Media Award for Emptied Memories. Wei repeatedly emphasizes that the work being done in Taiwan is “quite good enough” to garner greater international visibility. With OISTAT providing international connections, there will only be greater opportunities for Taiwanese in the field.

Quadruple satisfaction

In July 2017, OISTAT is holding four major events in Taiwan: The World Stage Design exhibition, the Scenofest festival, the Theatre Architecture Competition and the Technical Invention Prize.

World Stage Design this year is bringing together 178 different designs from around the world, documenting the different design paths adopted by various nations. Scenofest features 40 projects from different nations, including Russia, Germany, Thailand, Hungary, Canada, Egypt and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the Theatre Architecture Competition focuses on theater architects, using the drawings entered for the competition as launching pads for enlightening discussions on the possibilities of theater architecture. This year 102 works were submitted from 23 countries, from which 25 have been selected to be exhibited at World Stage Design. The Technical Invention Prize encourages theater technicians to reveal their secrets and thus promotes technical exchange among the theater tech communities of various nations.

To be held at Tai­pei National University of the Arts from July 1 to 9, these events promise a veritable feast of global ­theater.                      


串聯世界劇場人 OISTAT@台灣

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧OISTAT 翻譯‧Jonathan Barnard













魏琬容積極運用OISTAT總部在台灣的優勢,引入新觀念,為劇場界開啟更多的可能。2015年她邀請荷蘭燈光大師Henk van der Geest來台,舉辦「拾光──光影講座與大師工作坊」;2016年來自英國,世界劇場設計展金獎得主Sophie Jump分享「跳出劇場玩設計──表演設計講座暨工作坊」。

2017年,榮獲2015年「布拉格劇場設展金獎」的愛沙尼亞NO99劇團也應邀來台分享演出《Unified Estonia Assembly》的歷程。這部作品發表在2014年愛沙尼亞選舉期間,是一場為期44天的行為藝術。當時正逢愛沙尼亞4年一度的大選,各政黨候選人莫不極力搶佔媒體版面。此時,NO99劇團也高調宣布將成立「愛沙尼亞統一黨」,同場推出競選廣告、競選文宣和超大型的競選造勢晚會,透過精準策劃和完美演出,風靡了當地選民,逼真程度連執政黨都要查他們是否有不法捐贈。最終的選舉大會,由選民投票選出黨代表,當選主席的 Tiit Ojasoo(該劇導演)站上舞台發表宣言時,他只說了一句:「現在,你們自由了。」

這部作品反省當代民主政治的光怪陸離,反諷政治中的「操弄」。魏琬容轉述了她與導演 Tiit Ojasoo的一段對話。座談會上魏琬容發問:「這件作品改變了什麼?」而對方給了讓她至今仍難忘的回答:「因為這個作品,我們成功的把愛沙尼亞民粹興起的時間推延了4年。」


青年團隊  創意加乘

從2013年開始,OISTAT總部每年招募2位實習生,參與總部日常行政的運作,另外還有「三洲三校2015~2025核心策略發展計畫」(Core Strategy),以專案的形式讓新世代參與,為OISTAT未來十年提出發展規劃。魏琬容希望台灣的年輕人不用出國就可參與國際交流、了解國際總部如何運作。




而台灣年輕人在劇場界也同樣表現亮眼, 2011年第一屆「劇場創新發明獎」就是由當時就讀台北藝術大學的胡皓恩,以改良的「折疊式布幕撐平桁架」贏得首獎。他設計讓撐起舞台布景的T型衍架易於拆卸、搬運,是讓劇場人一眼就驚豔的好創意。2013年於英國卡地夫舉辦的「世界劇場設計展」中,新銳導演周東彥以《空的記憶》獲「最佳互動與新媒體設計」大獎,更藉此開啟他與丹麥埃爾西諾文化庭院的合作。2017年「劇場建築國際競賽」也是由台灣簡哲弘設計的《野台Ye-Tai》奪得首獎。



2017年,OISTAT的四大專案:「世界劇場設計展」(World Stage Design,WSD)、「國際劇場藝術節」(Scenofest)、「國際劇場建築競賽」(Theatre Architecture Competition,TAC)、「劇場創新發明獎」(Technical Invention Prize ,TIP)在台灣舉辦,將一次滿足劇場人的需求,刺激每個隱隱竄動的創意因子。

「世界劇場設計展」可說是戲劇設計界的奧斯卡。今年有來自世界各地178件設計作品展覽,可一覽各國不同的劇場設計取徑。「國際劇場藝術節」的名稱「Scenofest」是結合Scenography(舞台美學)和Festival(慶典)二字而來,今年有自俄羅斯、德國、泰國、匈牙利、加拿大、埃及、巴西等國家, 40檔的劇場節目,可一飽眼福。



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