Taiwan Fun Magazine, May 2003

Edge Feature :

The Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation revives The Red Playhouse

By Cheryl Robbins

¡@¡@The Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the performing arts. In 2002, this foundation took over the renovation and operation of The Red Playhouse, a redbrick building in Taipei's Ximending district.

¡@¡@The impressive octagonal design of The Red Playhouse was created by a Japanese architect in 1904. The structure was completed in 1908, and in its heyday it was the entertainment center of Ximending, offering storytelling series and performance art events. However, The Red Playhouse closed its doors to the public in 1970, and gradually fell into a state of neglect and disrepair.

¡@¡@Recently, its value to this area began once again to be appreciated, and a search was initiated for an organization that could properly restore this historical site to its former glory. Yung-feng Lee, chief executive officer of the Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation (§õ¥ÃÂ×, °õ¦æªø), says that since this foundation is a nonprofit organization, it should do something for the community, especially the arts community, and that taking on The Red Playhouse project felt ¡§right.¡¨

¡@¡@The Red Playhouse now focuses on food and drink, exhibitions, and the playhouse. The first floor features the Paper Windmill Cafe with unique displays, such as an aquarium with a tree growing through it, and another one with laminated old photos of Ximending placed on the side of a model of the Titanic. The first floor also has an exhibition/gift shop area, with temporary exhibitions that are free of charge to enter.

¡@¡@The second floor houses the playhouse stage. Lee says that on the second floor, the original structure of the building remains very evident, as he strove to keep as much of the original brick as possible, while adding modern ventilation and lighting systems. The atmosphere is based on the teahouses of ancient China, complete with wooden tables and chairs, and a free pot of tea for each table. Some of the tabletops feature articles written by friends of The Red Playhouse and engraved on plaques.

¡@¡@Also under the Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation umbrella is the highly acclaimed Paper Windmill Theatre Group, which specializes in live performances for children. Lee, who has a background in theater direction, serves as the group¡¦s artistic director. He comes up with ideas for the plays, which combine acting, dance, special effects and cultural themes.

¡@¡@The goal of this group is to make live theater accessible to children. In addition to performing at The Red Playhouse, the group travels all over Taiwan.

¡@¡@However, The Paper Windmill Theatre Group is unique in that many of its members are not professional actors, but people from all walks of life with an interest in acting.

¡@¡@Lee says: ¡§If a person has interest, he/she is willing to accept training. Moreover, what children want to see is 'genuine heart.' For without heart, there is no performance. It is heart that separates amateurs from professionals, not technique."

¡@¡@Although the Paper Windmill Theatre Group does not have a promotional budget, its performances are well attended. Lee says that this is because of the "product," meaning the plays themselves. Paper Windmill constantly introduces new styles, and thus its audiences keep returning to see the group¡¦s latest innovations.

¡@¡@The Red Playhouse has followed on the heels of Paper Windmill¡¦s success. On any given weekend day, there are about 4,000 to 5,000 visitors. These numbers are higher than for many of Taiwan¡¦s museums, meaning that The Red Playhouse has re-earned its place as a premier cultural and entertainment site.

The Red Playhouse (¬õ¼Ó¼@³õ)
10, ChengDu Road, Ximending (¦èªùËm¦¨³£¸ô10¸¹)
(02) 2311-9380

Paper Windmill Cultural Foundation (¯È­·¨®¤å±Ð°òª÷·|)
3F, 59, ZhongChing South Road, Section 2 (­«¼y«n¸ô2¬q59¸¹3¼Ó)
(02) 2392-6170