‘Shawshank’ in China

Source: NYT (2/16/24)
‘Shawshank’ in China, as You’ve Never Seen It Before
A stage adaptation of the film featured an all-Western cast, was performed in Chinese and raised questions about translation, both linguistic and cultural.
By Vivian Wang and Vivian Wang reported from Beijing, and Claire Fu from Seoul)

Two women pose for pictures in front of a promotional billboard for the stage production of “The Shawshank Redemption.”

A stage production of the film “The Shawshank Redemption,” cast with Western actors speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese, opened in Beijing in January. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

When a stage production of “The Shawshank Redemption” opened recently in China, it was cast entirely with Western actors speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese. But that may have been the least surprising part of the show.

That the show — an adaptation of the Stephen King novella that became one of the most beloved movies of all time — was staged at all seemingly flew in the face of several trends in China’s cultural sphere.

Chinese audiences’ interest in Hollywood films is fading, with moviegoers turning to homegrown productions. China’s authoritarian government has stoked nationalism and cast Western influence as a political pollutant. Censorship of the arts has tightened.

Yet the production reflects how some artists are trying to navigate the changing landscape of both what is permissible and what is marketable in China. And its success shows the appetite that many Chinese still have for cultural exchange. Continue reading

The Peony Pavilion in HK

Experience the entire kun opera classic The Peony Pavilion the way author Tang Xianzu originally intended. After years of planning, the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe is presenting the Hong Kong debut of the faithfully restored, complete 55-scene saga at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Structured into three parts and performed over two days, this jewel of the kun opera genre reveals renewed perspectives into the wider social landscape of the Song dynasty, transforming the familiar love story into an unforgettable tale of oppression and emancipation.

A Rotating Poetic World

Explore the ethereal world of The Peony Pavilion through a rotating set design that seamlessly transports the audience from one scene to the next. This unique design also heightens the dreamy landscape of the production, filled with innovative visual effects.

Continue reading

RMMLA Asian Drama and Performance–cfp

CFP: Asian Drama and Performance
Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association 77th Annual Convention
Conference Date: October 10-12, 2024
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

From traditional theatrical practices to contemporary pop culture, the notion of “performance” has continuously played a pivotal role. It not only influences how we interpret literary and visual texts, but also reflects the evolution of society. With “performance” as the focal point, we aim to bring together scholars who can offer insightful perspectives on the topics related to Asian drama, dance and performance. We welcome studies on Asian dramatic texts and performance traditions across various time periods and regions. Papers that examine the performance in a range of humanities disciplines such as cultural studies, film and media studies, gender studies, religion, and anthropology are also encouraged.

We welcome topics including but not limited to:

  • Asian Dance and Drama in Digital Media
  • Decolonizing Asian drama and performance
  • Race and ethnicity in Asian drama and performance
  • Engendering or queering Asian drama and performance
  • (Post-)Human Body and mobility in Asian drama and performance
  • Nationality and diaspora in Asian drama and performance
  • Scripts, Staging, and Props in Theatrical Performances
  • Spatiality and Temporality of Asian Drama, Dance, and Performance
  • Age, aging, and youth in Asian drama and performance

Prospective participants should submit an abstract of approximately 250 words along with a short (2-3 sentence) biography through this google form by March 15, 2024. The language of the session is English.

Please direct any inquiries to: Miao Dou, Melody Yunzi Li, and Pai Wang.

Miao Dou (doumiaokyle@gmail.com)
Melody Yunzi Li (mli40@Central.UH.EDU)
Pai Wang (paiwang@caltech.edu)

Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Melody Yunzi Li’s review of Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987-2007, edited by Alexa Alice Joubin. The review appears below and its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/melody-li/. My thanks to Michael Hill, our translations/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare:
An Anthology, 1987-2007

Edited by Alexa Alice Joubin

Reviewed by Melody Yunzi Li

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright February, 2024)

Alexa Alice Joubin, ed., Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987-2007 New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. Xv + 288 pp. ISBN: 978-3-030-92992-3 (hardback).

Sinophone Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology, 1987–2007 is a compelling collection of English translations of seven adaptations of Shakespeare’s tragedies in several stage genres from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These works, which span two decades, not only transcend national and cultural boundaries but also remap Shakespearean and Sinophone literature. The anthology makes an important step toward remedying a problem in both Sinophone studies and Shakespeare scholarship: the scarce availability of primary research materials on East Asian adaptations of Western classics.

A comprehensive introduction by Alexa Alice Joubin gives readers an overview of adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in the Sinophone world. It points out the significance of this anthology—that “Sinophone Shakespeare’s rich range of interpretative possibilities have much to teach us about non-Anglophone understanding of Shakespeare and Sinophone performance practices today” (2). Each adaptation offers a unique lens to understand new aspects of timeless Shakespearean classics, including HamletMacbeth, and King Lear. The plays selected for translation were staged in multiple traditional and modern performance genres, from Chinese opera to huaju spoken drama. Continue reading

Chinese Theater Collaborative digital resource center

January 16, 2024, 8 pm EST

We invite you to the launch of the “Chinese Theater Collaborative/華語戲聚“ (CTC) digital resource center.  CTC is a companion site to two recent publications devoted to making traditional Chinese drama accessible to a broader audience, How To Read Chinese Drama: A Guided Anthology (Columbia University Press, 2022) and How To Read Chinese Drama in Chinese: A Language Companion (Columbia University Press, 2023).

The “Chinese Theater Collaborative” (https://chinesetheatercollaborative.org, going live on 01/16/24)  features over twenty original modules that examine modern renditions of iconic Chinese plays (Orphan of ZhaoStory of the Western WingMulan and Peony Pavilion and more) in multiple formats (theater, film, TV, and comics among others).

These narrated and illustrated modules showcase the vibrant and diverse afterlives of traditional Chinese plays, while facilitating the integration of drama into the literature, culture, media, and language classroom.

Join us on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 8 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) by registering here: https://easc.osu.edu/events/ics-event-launching-chinese-theater-collaborative/huayuxiju

For questions, please contact chinesetheatercollaborative@osu.edu.

Patricia Sieber (Professor, DEALL) and Julia Keblinska (Postdoctoral Fellow, EASC)
Editors, CTC
The Ohio State University
Launch supported by The Institute for Chinese Studies (The Ohio State University) and co-sponsored by the Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies (Lingnan University)

Drag in contemporary China

New Publication
Source: Contemporary Theatre Review 33.1-2 (2023)
Fanchuan and Bianzhuang: Ways of Doing Drag in Contemporary China
By Hongwei Bao

With popular reality TV shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, the term ‘drag’ has come into the public attention in recent years. However, as Mark Edward and Stephen Farrier, editors of Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers, pointed out, drag as a global form of performance culture has long histories, rich heritages and multiple genealogies.1 It is therefore important to look at the local, indigenous, regional and hybrid forms of drag culture alongside its global forms to appreciate its diversity and richness. This also helps to identify the discourses and power relations that construct a dominant form of drag culture.


This short essay examines the multiple genealogies and diverse forms of drag culture in contemporary China. I will draw examples from queer Chinese cinema, performance and activism. These examples and the forms they represent are by no means exhaustive, but they can offer an insight into the diversity of drag cultures in the contemporary Chinese context. In doing so, this essay hopes to contribute to a more open and capacious understanding global drag culture.

The diversity of the drag culture in China is manifested by the different terms used to translate drag. Fanchuan (反串)and bianzhuang (变装)are two of the most common terms used to describe drag in Mandarin Chinese. Fachuan – meaning crossdressing – is usually seen as a sophisticated art form of gender reversal performance deeply rooted in traditional Chinese theatre and Southeast Asia performance. Bianzhuang – usually translated as drag – refers primarily to contemporary drag performance in popular entertainment venues such as bars and clubs and its aesthetics is more akin to the American drag culture portrayed in Jennie Livingstone’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning…. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE]


MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Claire Conceison’s translation of Teahouse, Meng Jinghui’s radical adaptation of Lao She’s famous drama. The translation includes images from Meng’s 2019 production of the play in Avignon. A teaser appears below; for the full translation, see: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/teahouse/. The translation is published in conjunction with Barbara Leonesi’s recent MCLC essay on Meng’s adaptation, a link to which appears in the title header.

My thanks to Claire Conceison for sharing her translation with the MCLC commmunity.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Teahouse 茶馆

By Lao She 老舍[1]
Adapted by Meng Jinghui 孟京辉[2]
Translated by Claire Conceison 康开丽
Published in conjunction with Barbara Leonesi’s MCLC essay on Meng’s adaptation
See also Conceison’s 2019 report on Meng’s Avignon production

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October 2023)

Preshow at performance of Meng’s Teahouse performed at the Avignon Festival 2019 from July 9-20 at L’Opera Confluence theater. All subsequent photos are from this performance. Photo: Claire Conceison.

Dramatis Personae (in order of speaking)[3]

Teahouse Customers
Wang Lifa
Master Song
Master Chang
Er Dezi
Master Ma
Pockmark Liu
Kang Liu
Kang Shunzi
Eunuch Pang
Qin Zhongyi
Tang the Oracle
Little Girl
Peasant Woman
Li San
Song Enzi
Tubby Huang
Little Spider
Big Spider
Ronald McDonald
Little Thing
Big Sister
Little Sister
Wang Shufen
Qin Boren
The Actor
Ding Bao

Teahouse set, designed by Zhang Wu. Composed of 6 tons of steel, it required assembly of 1,000 pieces by 45 technicians, and 8 electricians to rotate the sphere. Photo: Meng Jinghui Studio.

SCENE 1: Ensemble

First Customer: Who is this Tan Sitong?

Second Customer: I heard of him somewhere before. He must have committed a horrible crime. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been sentenced to death.

Third Customer: In the past few months, some officials and scholars have been trying to stir up trouble and causing all kinds of chaos!

Fourth Customer: No matter what happens, my Bannerman’s subsidy is safe. That Tan Sitong and Kang Youwei were saying subsidies should be abolished and we should earn our own living. That’s wicked!

Third Customer: By the time we get our subsidies, our superiors have skimmed most of it off the top anyway. It’s a tough life however you look at it.

Fourth Customer: A tough life is better than no life. If I had to earn my own living, I would starve.

Wang Lifa: Customers! Do Not Discuss Affairs of State.

Master Song and Master Chang: Drink some of this? ….. [read the full translation here]

Summer Translation Collaborative with Amy Ng

Summer Translation Collaborative with Playwright Amy Ng
May 15-19, 2023
The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH, U.S.A., in person)
Traditional Chinese play translation for the contemporary stage
Pending grant funding

Staged reading of “Rescuing One’s Sister in the Wind and the Dust”; adapted by Amy Ng; based on “Zhao Pan’er Rescues a Sister Through Seduction” by Guan Hanqing; image credit ©Alameida Theatre

In this week-long workshop on the OSU campus, Amy Ng (a London-based Hong Kong playwright) will lead a collaborative effort to translate a classical Chinese play into stageable English. The workshop will feature guest presentations by experienced translators (mornings), hands-on group translation work & individual reflections (afternoons), and a staged reading (Friday afternoon). The goal is to create and document a new process for drama translation, while crafting an engaging, fun, and thought-provoking playtext.

We would like to recruit a diverse cohort of advanced undergraduate and graduate students as well as recent MFAs and PhDs. Required qualifications: advanced command of modern Chinese, professional fluency in English. Interest in and/or experience with theater (any tradition) is desirable, but not required. We welcome novice translators as well as those with prior experience. We especially welcome applications by members of traditionally underrepresented groups. Continue reading

Performing the Socialist State

Performing the Socialist State

Performing the Socialist State: Modern Chinese Theater and Film Culture, Xiaomei Chen’s new book, will be published on February 7, 2023, when it should be readily available for purchase everywhere Columbia UP books are sold. But it can be purchased directly from the Press website now and will ship straightaway. The webpage for this book is:


Customers who purchase the book through the Columbia UP website will receive a 20% discount off the price of the book by using the promo code CUP20. Feel free to share this code on your social media accounts, in newsletters, in email outreach, on your website, and in any other places you may be telling your contacts about the book.

Performing the Socialist State offers an innovative account of the origins, evolution, and legacies of key trends in twentieth-century Chinese theater. Instead of seeing the Republican, high socialist, and postsocialist periods as radically distinct, it identifies key continuities in theatrical practices and shared aspirations for the social role and artistic achievements of performance across eras. Continue reading

Contemporary Chinese Queer Performance

Dear all,

I am delighted to announce the publication of my new book Contemporary Chinese Queer Performance. Please recommend the book to your university libraries if this is of interest. Thank you!

All the best,

Hongwei Bao hongwei.bao@nottingham.ac.uk

About the book:

In this ground-breaking study, Hongwei Bao analyses queer theatre and performance in contemporary China. This book documents various forms of queer performance – including music, film, theatre, and political activism – in the first two decades of the twenty first century. In doing so, Bao argues for the importance of performance for queer identity and community formation. This trailblazing work uses queer performance as an analytical lens to challenge heteronormative modes of social relations and hegemonic narratives of historiography. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of theatre and performance studies, gender and sexuality studies and Asian studies. Continue reading

Ruling the Stage

I would like to draw your attention to my new book Ruling the Stage: Social and Cultural History of Opera in Sichuan from the Qing to the People’s Republic of China (Brill, 2022).

In it, through an innovative interdisciplinary reading and field research, I analyse the history of the development of opera in Sichuan, arguing that opera serves as a microcosm of the profound transformation of modern Chinese culture between the 18th century and 1950s. I investigate the complex path of opera over this course of history: exiting the temple festivals, becoming a public obsession on commercial stages, and finally being harnessed to partisan propaganda work. The book analyzes the process of cross-regional integration of Chinese culture and the emergence of the national opera genre. Moreover, opera is shown as an example of the culture wars that raged inside China’s popular culture.

For more details please see the book’s webpage: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004519398

Igor Chabrowski <i.chabrowski@uw.edu.pl>

A New Old Play review

Source: NYT (5/19/22)
‘A New Old Play’ Review: Even the Clown Show Must Go On
Qiu Jiongjiong’s absurdist epic of 20th century China is both a movie and a play, both tragedy and farce.
By Austin Considine

Yi Sicheng in &ldquo;A New Old Play.&rdquo;

Yi Sicheng in “A New Old Play.”Credit…Icarus Films

Per the title, Qiu Jiongjiong’s magnificently layered historical epic, “A New Old Play,” draws as much from Brecht and Beckett as from cinematic traditions. At once tragedy and farce, it breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.

The opening scene is disorienting at first, not least for the film’s protagonist, Qiu Fu (Yi Sicheng), a well-known actor from a Sichuan opera troupe. We meet him when he is old and stooping, in a crumbling mountain village enshrouded by fog. It is China in the 1980s, and the Japanese, the nationalists and the communists have wreaked their havoc in turn. Now two raggedy demons have arrived in a broken-down bicycle rickshaw to cart Qiu off to the underworld.

Still, something feels uncanny, demons notwithstanding. The entire mise-en-scène of the film, we discover, is artificial, an assembly of stage props and hand-painted scenery. Qiu has always played the clown, shuffling from scene to scene, a hapless pauper harassed by need and political fashion. Even his wife (Guan Nan) may not miss him when he’s gone. Somehow he, like the film, maintains a sense of humor. Such is life for a poor player.

Qiu isn’t keen to leave, but his time is up — as the demons remind him, it’s no use trying to outrun fate. Also, the King of Hell is a fan, and Qiu’s failure to appear would make them look bad.

But first, let’s drink and play mahjong in purgatory, where Qiu awaits final passage to oblivion. Absurdities and indignities mount as he reminisces about a life spanning wars and famine, revolution and betrayal. The director’s cleverest trick is having also found joy there.

A New Old Play
Not rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 59 minutes. In theaters.

Selected Plays of Stan Lai

NEW PUBLICATION: Selected Plays of Stan Lai, edited by Lissa Tyler Renaud

Stan Lai (Lai Shengchuan) is one of the most celebrated theatre practitioners working in the Chinese-speaking world. His work over three decades has pioneered the course of modern Chinese language theatre in Taiwan, China, and other Chinese-speaking regions. He has been declared “the preeminent Chinese playwright and stage director of this generation” (China Daily) and “the best Chinese language playwright and director in the world” (BBC). Lai’s works include masterpieces of the modern Chinese language theatre, such as Secret Love in Peach Blossom LandThe Village, and his epic eight-hour A Dream Like a Dream, all of which are in this collection.

The collection was edited by Lissa Tyler Renaud, who is known internationally as a master teacher, actor-scholar, invited speaker, writer, critic, and 2nd generation editor.

The three volumes feature works from across Lai’s career, providing an exceptional selection of a diverse range of performances, and are available individually or as a set.

Volume 1 contains:

Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land
Look Who’s Crosstalking Tonight
The Island and the Other Shore
I Me She Him
Ménage à 13 Continue reading

RMMLA 2022 Asian Drama and Performance–cfp

CFP: Asian Drama and Performance
Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association 75th Annual Convention
Conference Date: October 13-15, 2022
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico

We invite submissions of papers both specifically and broadly related to Asian drama and performance, past and present. Specifically, any studies on Asian dramatic texts and performance traditions are welcome. Broadly, we also anticipate papers that examine the concept of performance in a range of humanities disciplines such as cultural studies (media, material culture, book culture, diaspora, multilingualism), gender studies, religion, and anthropology.

Please submit your abstract to Xiaoqiao Ling (Xiaoqiao.Ling@asu.edu) and Melody Yunzi Li (mli40@central.uh.edu) by March 31st, 2022. The language of the session is English.

Please direct any inquiries to: Xiaoqiao.Ling@asu.edu

A Remembrance for Dr. Po-Hsien Chu (1986-2022)

A Remembrance for Dr. Po-Hsien Chu (1986-2022)
By Jyana S. Browne and Caitlin Marshall

Dr. Po-Hsien Chu was a brilliant scholar of Sinophone theater and performance, a nurturer of the field of Sinophone Studies, a generous and witty collaborator, a punctilious teacher, and above all, a cherished colleague who made scholarly fellowship into an art. Like the many colleagues who have spoken about Po-Hsien in the past several weeks, we lookedforward to years of collaboration and comradeship” (Yizhou Huang) with Po-Hsien, and struggle to grasp that those years of fellowship are in the past. Dr. Po-Hsien Chu passed away unexpectedly on February 8, 2022. He was 35 years old.

How do we build a monument to one who had just, as it were, officially “arrived” to the academic party? One whose lack of pretentions would cause him to shoo away with a flourish of the wrist, a sideways glance, and an urbane smile any too-exuberant hailing of welcome or extolled announcement of his presence? We build by acknowledging and holding with dignity all that Po-Hsien gathered to him in his time, and we reflect that labor of love by sharing here a congregation of voices that loved him in return. Continue reading