- Chinese Name: 吳興國
- Birth Name: 吳國秋
- Date of Birth: April 12, 1953
- Birthplace: Kaohsiung City (Southern Taiwan)
- Did You Know That…?
- Wu currently holds the rank of Chevalier in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His other accolades include Taiwan’s National Literary and Art Award in 2011 and the Hong Kong Film Award for best new performer in 1994.
Theater actor, playwright, and director Wu Hsing-kuo has been compared to Laurence Olivier, one of Britain’s most remarkable stage actors, by The Times.
At the age of 11, Wu started training as an actor at Fu Hsing Drama School, the predecessor of the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts. Eight years later, he attended the Chinese Culture University to study Chinese opera. During his academic years, Wu also joined Cloud Gate Dance Theatre to learn contemporary dance from mentor Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), whose tutelage helped Wu acquire new forms and aesthetics in performing arts.
In 1978, Wu became the pupil of late veteran Peking opera actor Chou Cheng-rong (周正榮). However, Wu and Chou went their separate ways after Wu’s determination to blend modern elements with traditional Chinese theater clashed with Chou’s purist teachings.
Trained in both traditional and modern theater, Wu founded Contemporary Legend Theatre in 1986, aiming to revitalize the declining Peking opera. The troupe’s debut piece, “Kingdom of Desire (慾望城國),” was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” whose combination of Peking opera with modern theater received rave reviews.
In 2001, Wu played 10 characters in his version of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” which was another attempt to express Western themes through Peking opera. For Wu, there are similarities between Shakespearean plays and Chinese opera in terms of philosophy and soliloquy usage. Wu was acclaimed by The Guardian as the “Taiwanese answer to Orson Welles” with his one-man adaptation.
Wu made his appearance on the BBC in 2013 after premiering Kafka-inspired “Metamorphosis” at the Edinburgh International Festival to mixed feedback. With his interview airing on the major British media, Wu helped to introduce Taiwan’s opera scene worldwide.
Wu believes that Chinese opera works adequately with Western adaptations. He continues to develop and diversify the traditional performance art form in the hope of appealing to younger audiences and bringing different parts of world together.