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Not just about a meal- Dining On the New Year's Eve

Not just about a meal- Dining On the New Year's Eve

Dining on the New Year's Eve is not just about a meal, but a meal during which one can hardly put his or her true feelings into words, a meal that goes by the name of New Year's Eve dinner. This family-exclusive event occurs annually, and the regulars of the dinner will—if there is no accident—dwindle in number and get to know less and less about each other. Initially, we are put around the table for “the Dinner” without any choice; then, we become those who reach out to get it going. And finally, as a matter of fact, we will walk away from it ever and after.


I, Po-ang HSU, director and playwright of the show, underscore the motif of New Year's Eve dinner. This piece is heavily invested with a particular attention to everyday trivia and feelings, but it is not enough to tell a story that only has one level of narration. I want to insert the crux somewhere in Zhao Yun's rescue of the young prince at the Battle of Changban, because aside from simply hiding it away, I want to draw on techniques of Beijing opera that I know so well as well as the tradition's experimental potentials to tell a story about a family through a dramatic intensity tinged with a sense of samsara. So, I am not going to proceed with the story directly; rather, I opt for the oblique path, for historic analogies, and for a selective disclosure of information. There will be things that I will let out and things that I won't, because not everything is supposed to have an answer. What I do is try my best to approach to this phenomenon by putting myself into the shoes of the characters and the audience and see if what happens in Dining on the New Year's Eve happens in your household too.


This means that the plot of the show crosses two spatial-temporal settings in a non-linear fashion. In comparison to storytelling faithful to the chronological order, non-linear narration is more capable of representing reality, because our mind does not process memory and emotion as regular as clockwork. Instead, memory just crops up all of a sudden in most cases.

On a separate note, some key points about what Beijing opera techniques and body aesthetics call for. Put in a nutshell, the techniques comprise singing, speaking, acting, and acrobatic fighting. These practices all involve a mindful manipulation of hands, eyes, posture, and steps. Beijing opera values a well-rounded mellowness in how you orchestrate your limbs and prioritizes a contained, indirect way of expression. In short, a body language in line with Beijing opera's aesthetics is a body language based on indirectness and equilibrium.


The show opens with the cleaning of a battlefield. An undertaker named Raven carries out the business with his disciple. Suddenly, the undertaker is possessed by the death god, who playfully grants the last wish of a dying gong-man. On the one hand, the chanting makes us feel present at the battlefield, and on the other hand it brings us to a family on New Year's Eve. We see Raven and his disciple reincarnate as a couple getting ready for New Year's Eve dinner. They keep waiting for their third son who does not show up, and this guy is precisely the gong-man who has remained on the battlefield. Meanwhile, there are other family members with their own story to tell. The fourth son cannot come home due to his military service, and the couple find themselves in the company of their eldest son's wife, who is struggling to blend in. As the family is facing multiple un-resolved problems, Zhao Yun is kept busy looking for Lady Mi, missing in the chaos of the Battle of Changban. Likewise, the Cao army and the refugees are all menaced by death during the war; an accident may induce an eternal separation. Till the next time one sees his or her loved ones again, it would perhaps be in another time and place. This accounts for why placing a smidgen of hope in reincarnation might lighten up the prospect of life.


Dining on the New Year's Eve counts as the twentieth piece presented by Po You Set. We are delighted to find another possibility of telling a story. There is no such a thing as the “proper” way of watching the show, so you may just come and have a look, feel for yourself, and let it sit and grow in your head. In fact, there is little to lecture about; what matters is your being here with us to enjoy the show and figure out the most important thing to you. We are grateful for everyone who made this feast happen and thank you all for coming to have a share. We wish you a happy New Year with love and hope aplenty.

Stage Phoho





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