Aug 31, 2015 Uncategorized Comments Off on Go-alone actor finally gives himself a hug (China Daily)
The play Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie is a challenge for actor Chin Shih-chieh (right), due to its long monologues, conversations and mood explosions.[Photo provided to China Daily]
Chin Shih-chieh feels like having a cigarette. Sitting on a stone footstep of the Poly Theater in Beijing, the Taiwan actor lowers his head without saying a word.
After a 15-minute break, he returns to the stage, dancing alone to jazz, giggling like a child and then loudly weeping, seemingly oblivious to those who are watching him.
He is performing in the play Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, which returned to the capital on Aug 15-16.
Over the past 30 years, Chin, 64, has gained the reputation of a fervent promoter of Taiwan’s contemporary theater scene. He is known for his sophisticated acting and can easily lose himself in whatever roles he plays.
In Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, he portrayed a sociology professor who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has played the role some 167 times since Taiwan Godot Theater Company first staged it in Taiwan four years ago.
The play has just two actors, in this case Chin and Taiwan TV actor Pu Hok-loeng, and was adapted from the best-selling novel Tuesdays With Morrie, written by Mitch Albom, a sports journalist. It tells the story of the reunion between Albom and his former university professor Morrie Schwartz 16 years after he graduated.
When Albom finds out that the professor is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis he decides to visit him every week until the day he dies.
When the Chinese-American director Daniel Yang watched the play in the United States in 2009, Yang translated the script and invited Chin to play one of the roles.
The long monologues, conversations and mood explosions challenged him physically, Chin says, but he was drawn to the role at the same time.
“The best thing about the role is his solitude, which I enjoy while performing onstage. Though he is dying, the energy I deliver to the audience is strong, and that comes back to me.”
One of his favorite scenes in the play is when Albom hugs Schwartz as he lies dying.
“That’s what I want when I’m dying: a big, warm hug. It reminds me of the warmth of being alive.”
Chin’s real life has been one of dramatic changes. Born in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, he was a veterinarian working in a farming area. He liked singing to animals and telling them stories, he says.
But when he turned 27, he thought: “I want to find a job of writing or telling stories to real people.”
He then moved to Taipei, and in 1980, opened a theater with friends, including the veteran actors Ku Pao-ming and the late screenwriter and theater director Hugh K S Lee. At the time, Taiwan’s contemporary theater scene was in its infancy.
One of his most well-known roles is that of Jiang Binliu, the leading man in the play Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land by the Taiwan director Stan Lai. The play was performed in 1986, and Chin played the role hundreds of times over the next 20 years.
Lai once said that though Chin had played the role that long, he never ceased to bring something new to it at every performance.
For years Chin has followed a relatively simple lifestyle, eschewing cars and mobile phones, and preferring to wear second-hand clothes. Though he acts in movies and TV series he has said the thespian love of his life is theater.
In 2005, he worked with the Taiwan director Wu Hsing-kuo as artistic director, presenting the Samuel Beckett classic Waiting for Godot in a Peking Opera format.
Chin married in 2009, and he is the father of twins, a boy and a girl, now aged 4.
Having his own family has made him softer and happier, he says.
“I used to consider myself my own biggest rival. I’m now a lot more relaxed.”