4 CHAIRS THEATRE is a Taiwan-based theatre company that contributes itself to devising theatre pieces and staging original or localized plays. Whether a production takes off from devising, playwriting, or translating, the company keeps in mind that the work in hand, along with the body of work, should focus on the here and now and reflect the everyday life of its audience. Since its establishment in 2007, 4 CHAIRS has not only been a multiple-time finalist of Taishin Arts Awards, but also a frequent invitee to bring works to prominent houses like the National Theatre, the National Taichung Theatre, and Taipei Performing Arts Center. And, from 2019 on, National Culture and Arts Foundation has annually placed the company under the label "TAIWAN TOP" in recognition of its dedication to the performing arts industry. At present, 4 CHAIRS has made itself a company with the ability to find balance among artistic pursuits, work quality, ticket sales, and audience reception, one not to be missed in the landscape of contemporary Taiwanese theatre.
Originally 4 CHAIRS” referred to the four founding members who are all alumni of National Taiwan University of Arts, yet now the name also connotes the horizontal relationships shared among the members and with its collaborating artists. At its startup stage, the company had already had work through devising” on its agenda, and approaches to exploring unique styles and making theatrical arts were tried out. Waiting for What!?, a work devised at this time, was a parodic collage of pop culture and TV series and an allusion to intimate relationships. Its premier in 2009 went into the public eye and won the grand prize at the 2nd Taipei Fringe Festival. Two years later, 4 CHAIRS was invited to the "Innovation Series" at the National Theatre to produce 0920002012, a play taking an apocalyptic view on the tech-addicted modern society.
Hand in hand with playwright CHIEN Li-Ying, 4 CHAIRS kicked off a new project, "Rewriting Classics," in 2015. In this project, it is playwrights rather than translators that are to handle the classics by rewriting versions that are based greatly on the social and cultural life in contemporary Taiwan. Thereby, the contextual and language barriers often found in western canons would then be transcended, and the audience could find the classics more resonant. OK, My Dear Sisters, rewritten from Russian playwright Anton Chekhovs Three Sisters in 2015, was the first work completed in the project. Following it was We are Ghosts, a new version of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsens Ghosts written in 2017.
4 CHAIRS was commissioned to stage The Possible Memoir of a Traitor, a new play CHIEN wrote during her residency at the National Theatre, at 2017 TIFA. The play takes the form and style of a documentary and juxtaposes the past and present of several characters surrounding a mysterious man. The intention is to provide snapshots and portrays historic moments of the HIV-affected gay community in Taiwan in the post-HAART era. 4 CHAIRS and CHIEN have proven great teamwork and remarkable success in their past collaborations. The duo's appeal, together with the sophisticated style and high quality of work the company often demonstrates, accumulated to a phenomenal sell-out once tickets for the play were available. Eventually, The Possible Memoir of a Traitor premiered at Experimental Theatre under the direction of 4 CHAIRSArtistic Director Tora HSU, and a revival took the main stage of the National Theatre at 2019 TIFA.
To date, 4 CHAIRS still strives to represent the social and cultural life in Taiwan with a text-based, neo-realistic approach to theatre. Collaborations with CHIEN have not ceased but continued. Sleep in Spring, a play adapted from Nobel-winning writer Alice Munros work and produced in 2022, saw the team-up again. However, the company never stops hunting new talents or finding alternative ways of making theatre. It welcomed a visiting director, CHEN Yu-Dien, in 2019, and his pair-up with playwright CHEN You-Rei and production of Inflammation showed a more experimental side of the company. Partnership with KOKO ENTERTAINMENT was developed between 2021 and 2022 for Before Outdated, which was a solo show written, directed, and starring long-term collaborating actress Angie WANG. With 4 CHAIRS producing and KOKO presenting, Before Outdated marked a breakthrough in the conventional business model of the theatre industry in Taiwan. Moreover, it is also in recent years that 4 CHAIRS started translating, localizing, and staging foreign-language plays, and contemporary British playwright Duncan Macmillan's Every Brilliant Thing was the first to be produced. Though it was a one-person play, the company double-casted CHU Ding-Yi and LIN Chia-Chi, and actors could decide which entries to include on the list and what songs to use in their shows. These variations were expected to create a theatre experience that provides its audience with more liveness.
Currently at its maturity stage, 4 CHAIRS has established a body of work that shows its unique aesthetic and high quality, and most importantly discovered a meaningful connection between theatre and its audience. Whether dealing with a new play, a rewritten version, or a translated text, the company endeavors to depict the political, economic, social, and cultural environment that shapes the problems and growth of an individual's life, and hopes that both the professional and the amateur could recognize themselves in the work. From 2019 on, 4 CHAIRS has launched a series of workshops under the name of "Plan Together, Play Together." The workshops function as a platform on which enthusiast playgoers, aspiring artists, and theatre workers could build networks, exchange methods of work and ways of training, and start conversations. 4 CHAIRS believes that both in its pieces and workshops, the spirit of collectiveness that once made possible the company could ultimately expand beyond theatrical arts.