Season: 2013

Actor Linda Alper Talks about Year in Taiwan

Posted on Dec 19th, 2012 in Artists & Company
Linda Alper and Daisuke Tsuji

Worked as college lecturer as Fulbright Scholar

Excerpt from OregonLive

By Marty Hughley

Linda Alper, an actor best-known for decades of work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, never expected to find herself working for the U.S. State Department.

Yet as a participant in the Fulbright Scholars Program, Alper spent most of the past year in the employ of the government while working as a college lecturer in Taiwan.

An international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright program aims to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries." Alper did her part by teaching what she knows: Shakespeare.

Alper long has been a favorite in Ashland, performing in 23 seasons at OSF. She calls herself a Portlander now, however, and she's in the production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Portland Center Stage through Dec. 23. In April she'll appear in the comedy "Ten Chimneys" at Artists Repertory Theatre -- where she performed last year in "Superior Donuts" and "The Cherry Orchard."

But from August 2011 until this July she and her husband Kevin Cooney, a former Ashland middle school and high-school teacher, lived across the Pacific, working mostly at Soochow University in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.

"It's a really wonderful country," Alper says of Taiwan. "It's this beautiful tropical island -- a third the size of Oregon but with 23 million people. It's a thriving democracy, with a high level of education, a pretty high standard of living and a really rich culture. It's a very gracious, interesting place to live."

Recently, between performances at PCS, she talked about her overseas experience. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Is there a rich theater culture there?

There is, but it's not Western theater, it's Chinese opera. They're really interested in Western theater, but the schooling is more about Chinese opera. I saw Chinese opera interpretations of Shakespeare there.

Was it a difficult transition at first? Before you left you told us you were trying to learn enough Mandarin to buy a chicken.

We did learn to buy a chicken, actually. When we first got there, we couldn't believe the heat and humidity -- it's a tropical island. But by the time we left we'd completely acclimated. In July, when you're not supposed to go out in the middle of the day, we'd go out biking. Of course, we'd practically pass out afterward.

At first we couldn't find our way around. But we had so much support from the Fulbright people and folks at the college. We were kind of babied in a way. We arrived to a completely ready apartment. But it took us awhile to figure things out. The college had first put us with some students who spoke English and the first lesson they gave me was how to say the names of all the Shakespeare plays in Mandarin. That was really sweet but it wasn't going to help me get around the city! We eventually found a really good Chinese class at an expat center.

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