Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 25, no. 2 (2008)

Truna JayaEditor’s Note, iii


Three Dollars in National Currency: A One-Act Comedy by Ding Xilin
Introduction and Translation by Christopher G. Rea, 173

Three Dollars in National Currency (San kuai qian guobi 三塊錢國幣, 1939) is a little-known one-act comedy that was written in southwestern China during the third year of the Second Sino-Japanese War by Ding Xilin 丁西林(1893–1974), one of twentieth-century China’s pioneering playwrights. The introduction highlights the play’s significance both as a turning point in Ding Xilin’s creative oeuvre and as a comedic exploration of the geopolitics of wartime China’s ‘‘Greater Rear Area.’’

Christopher G. Rea is a PhD candidate in modern Chinese literature at Columbia University and a visiting fellow at Harvard University. He has published articles on modern Chinese drama and film and is currently completing a dissertation on comic culture in early twentieth-century China.


America’s Kabuki-Japan, 1952–1960: Image Building, Myth Making, and Cultural Exchange
Barbara E. Thornbury, 193

Visits to the United States by the Azuma Kabuki Dancers and Musicians in the mid-1950s and the Grand Kabuki in 1960 took place against the backdrop of a Cold War imperative to secure Japan as an American friend in Asia. Even before the Occupation officially ended in April 1952, kabuki was being promoted in the United States as the preeminent example of a Japanese culture that could be presented with no reference to the Japan that had been America’s wartime enemy. The discourse that I have labeled America’s kabuki-Japan was shaped by prominent critics and “Japan hands” during the 1952–1960 period, a defining one for cultural exchange and for establishing a new relationship with Japan. With its exoticizing focus on tradition and ahistorical continuity, America’s kabuki-Japan was the product of and is still nurtured by a complex mix of political, cultural, and commercial interests on both the American and Japanese side.

Barbara E. Thornbury (PhD, University of British Columbia) is an associate professor of Japanese in the Department of Critical Languages at Temple University. Her publications include The Folk Performing Arts: Traditional Culture in Contemporary Japan (1997). Research for this article was supported by a Temple University Study Leave (2005).

Fire in the Banana’s Belly: Bali’s Female Performers Essay the Masculine Arts
Catherine Diamond, 231

Balinese performing arts have had remarkable fluidity in their gender presentation, in which female impersonators have predominated. Over the past twenty-five years, however, women have been making inroads in the presentation of female characters, then androgynous characters, and now even some of the more crude male characters. Gamelan wanita, the all-women ensembles that were once a novelty, are now commonplace throughout the island and they are aspiring to ever higher levels of musicality. All-female troupes are performing formerly all-male genres such wayang wong, kecak, and topeng. Solo performers are both exploring the increasingly porous boundaries between masculine and feminine representations and probing the etiology of gender inequality.

Catherine Diamond is a professor at Soochow University in Taiwan whose work on contemporary Southeast Asian theatre has been published in Asian Theatre Journal and numerous other journals. She dedicates this article to Cristina Formaggia, friend and fellow dancer, who passed away in July 2008.

“A Mixed-Blooded Child, Neither Western Nor Eastern”: Sinicization of Western-Style Theatre in Rural China in the 1930s
Siyuan Liu, 272

From 1932 to 1937, Xiong Foxi, a Chinese playwright, director, and theatre professor who had studied theatre at Columbia University, directed the drama division of a high-profile literacy campaign in the villages of Ding Xian County in northern China. There, he and his colleagues staged outdoor productions that used traditional, folk, and Western theatrical techniques and incorporated mass participation of the peasant audience. As a successful experiment in localization and popularization of Western-style theatre, the Ding Xian model stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing trend of Chinese spoken drama as a canonical, didactic, and illusionary theatre aimed toward educated city audiences.

Siyuan Liu is a Franklin Fellow and visiting assistant professor of theatre at University of Georgia. He received his PhD in theatre and performance studies from University of Pittsburgh. He has published research articles in Theatre Journal, Asian Theatre Journal, and Text & Presentation.

The Transfiguration of Indian/Asian Dance in the United Kingdom: Contemporary Bharatanatyam in Global Contexts
Avanthi Meduri, 298

Bharatanatyam in Great Britain is currently identified as a South Asian dance. This understanding of the art as a transnational genre of a geolocal area contrasts with the Indian perspective of the form as an Indian national art of the nation state. This paper traces the development of the term “South Asian” in U.S. academic practice in the post–World War II era and notes the adoption of the term in the British academy and by dance practitioners in the United Kingdom. The South Asian label was transformative in that it transnationalized and hybridized the historical identity of Indian bharatanatyam in the 1980s. This transformation was realized not just through the juxtapositing of local/global terms but through the establishment of local/global institutions. The history and implications of the borrowing are detailed.

Avanthi Meduri is a reader in the dance programs and convener of the new interdisciplinary MA/PGDIP in South Asian dance studies at the University of Roehampton, London. She received her PhD from the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, in 1996; has published widely; and is the editor of Rukmini Devi Arundale (1904–1986): A Visionary Architect of Indian Culture and the Performing Arts (2005). Trained in bharatanatyam and kuchipudi since childhood, her recent dance-theatre choreography featured a feminist theatre performance of Rukmini Devi’s biography, with the double title Birds of the Banyan Tree, and What is in a Name? Productions were staged in India, the United States, and the United Kingdom in 2004–2005.

Tradition and Transformation in the Pelegongan Dance Repertoire
Azti Nezia Suriyanti Azmi, 329

The pelegongan dance repertoire in Bali remains one of the most performed and rigorously taught forms in Balinese dance. What elements define this form and what degrees of variation within these elements, in turn, are allowable? In other words, what makes a legong dance a legong? For the present study I explore this question by looking at “Legong Gering,” a new legong dance created in 2005 by I Nyoman Cerita for Odalan Bali, a North American touring concert by Çudamani, a performance troupe from Pengosekan village, Ubud, Bali. The study begins with an analysis of the context and visual elements of the piece (including costuming, choreography, and musical accompaniment). It then uses an explicit approach in explaining the motivations behind creation: it defines the pelegongan form and then analyzes how closely “Legong Gering” follows these “standards.” “Legong Gering” is governed by both new and preexisting social and religious concepts.” Legong Gering,” much like the Odalan Bali performance, is an aestheticization of ritual itself. As a corollary to this short study, I also entertain the possibility of studying the “implicit” nature of dance knowledge and creation with reference to the legong dance form.

Azti Nezia Suriyanti Azmi has studied Balinese dance with Ida Ayu Ari Candrawati, Kadek Dewi Aryani, Maskar, and I Nyoman Catra. She attended Wesleyan University as an undergraduate, where she also studied Javanese dance with Urip Sri Maeny while earning a BA in economics. She has served as a dancer, teacher, and coordinator for Gamelan Dharma Swara and coproduced two of their productions at the Symphony Space in New York.

Mock Courts and the Pakistani Bhānḍ
Claire Pamment, 344

Munir Hussain (b. 1949), a prominent bhānḍ (wandering comic), playfully teases at the mise-en-scène of Pakistani politics. This contemporary performer in his anecdotes in performances at weddings draws on the long comedic tradition to form a vibrant critique of the present sociopolitical scenario.

Claire Pamment is an associate professor (Higher Education Commission Foreign Faculty) and head of the Department of Theatre at the National College of Arts, Rawalpindi. Since 2003 she has been living in Pakistan, teaching theatre at Beaconhouse National University and Fatima Jinnah University and initiating numerous national and international theatrical collaborations. She received her MA in dramaturgy from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and is currently an MPhil candidate at the National College of Arts, Lahore. Her thesis is “Bhānḍ as Trickster in Pakistani Theatre.” This paper was awarded second place in the International Theatre Federation’s New Scholar Prize for 2008.


Yuanyang Zhong (Mandarin Duck Tomb), by Zhang Huoding Theatre Workshop, National Peking Opera Theatre of China,
reviewed by Megan Evans, 363

A Dialogue between Sichuan and Beijing Opera, produced by David Wong,
reviewed by Jeffrey Scott, 370

Odalan Bali, created by Çudamani,
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 373


Lee Yun-Taek, Four Contemporary Korean Plays, translated by Dongwook Kim and Richard Nichols, with introductions by Richard Nichols,
reviewed by Chan E. Park, 381

Yan Haiping, Chinese Women Writers and the Feminist Imagination, 1905–1948,
reviewed by Amy Dooling, 384

Daphne P. Lei, Operatic China: Staging Chinese Identity across the Pacific,
reviewed by Ashley Thorpe, 387

Kimberly Besio and Constantine Tung, eds., Three Kingdoms and Chinese Culture,
reviewed by Siyuan Liu, 390

David Birch, Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature, Vol. 6. Haresh Sharma: The Cultural Politics of Playwriting in Contemporary Singapore,
reviewed by Susan Philip, 392

Joi Barrios-Leblanc, ed., Savage Stage: Plays by Ma-Yi Theatre Company,
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 395

Theresa Jill Buckland, ed., Dancing from the Past to the Present: Nation, Culture, Identities,
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 397

John Wesley Harris, The Traditional Theatre of Japan: Kyōgen, Noh, Kabuki, and Puppetry,
reviewed by Samuel L. Leiter, 398