Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 26, no. 1 (2009)

DesdemonaEditor’s Note, iii


Cry to Heaven: A Play to Celebrate One Hundred Years of Chinese Spoken Drama by Nick Rongjun Yu
Introduction and translation by Shiao-ling Yu, 1

Yutian (Cry to Heaven) is the third Chinese stage adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin between 1907 and 2007. The first, Heinu yutian lu (Black Slave’s Cry to Heaven) by Zeng Xiaogu, was staged by Chinese students in Tokyo in 1907; the second, Heinu hen (Regret of the Black Slaves) by Ouyang Yuqian, was mounted as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the first production; and the third, Yutian (Cry to Heaven), commemorated the hundredth anniversary of Chinese spoken drama (huaju) in 2007. Each adaptation has a different focus that reflects the social, political, and cultural conditions of its time, and together the works provide a historical view of the development of Chinese spoken drama. The most recent production, by Nick Rongjun Yu, juxtaposes one hundred years of dramatic history with scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, making the American slaves’ struggle to gain freedom a metaphor for Chinese dramatists’ efforts to achieve their own.

Yu Rongjun, also known as Nick Rongjun Yu, is the author of more than twenty
plays, including Renmo gouyang (Dog’s Face), WWW.COM, and Tiantang gebi shi fengrenyuan (The Asylum Next to Heaven). His plays have won many prizes in China and have been performed in Hong Kong, Taipei, the United States, and other countries. Besides being a playwright, he is director of programming and marketing for the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center.

Shiao-ling Yu is an associate professor of Chinese at Oregon State University. Her research interests are Chinese drama (both classical and modern), modern Chinese literature, and Chinese women writers. She is the translator and editor of the anthology Chinese Drama after the Cultural Revolution, 1979–1989 (1996 ), which was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. Her other publications have appeared in various book anthologies and scholarly journals such as Asian Theatre Journal, TDR: The Drama Review, CHINOPERL Papers, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, The China Quarterly, Concerning Poetry, Renditions, Tamkang Review, Honglou meng yanjiu jikan (Studies of the Dream of the Red Chamber), and Dushu (Reading).


Paris and the Quest for a National Stage in Meiji Japan and Late-Qing China
Siyuan Liu, 54

Two models in late nineteenth-century Paris foreground the ideological and dramaturgical connections between colonial nationalism in the West and theatre’s role in nation building in Meiji Japan and late Qing China. The first involves manifestations of French nationalism after the Franco-Prussian War as witnessed by Japanese and Chinese diplomats in the 1870s, in particular the Paris Opéra and a panorama titled The Siege of Paris. Such firsthand experiences led to an effort to create national theatres out of traditional theatrical forms. The second instance involves two French colonial war plays seen in 1893 by the Japanese new drama star Kawakami Otojirō, who subsequently appropriated them to stage the First Sino-Japanese War, thus providing a blueprint for performing nationalism in the burgeoning Western-style theatres in Japan and China.

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

1954: Selling Kabuki to the West
Kevin J. Wetmore Jr., 78

In the face of an increasingly communist Asia, the Japanese government worked in 1954 with American kabuki aficionados and the Azuma Nihon Buyo Company to market kabuki to the United States as an aggressively capitalistic, inherently democratic, brilliantly theatrical form. In doing so, they were not only selling kabuki, but also selling Japan, a former enemy, as a political and military ally. Several strategies were employed to do so: the endorsement of literary and dramatic celebrities, emphasis on exoticizing and feminizing the onnagata role while simultaneously downplaying the homoeroticism, and focus on kabuki as business. Therefore the first “kabuki” brought to the United States was the Azuma Company, which presented a mixture of buyo and kabuki. The group
was led by a female dancer and deemphasized the more challenging aspects of traditional kabuki. The Americans promoting the tour also had an ulterior motivation: to offer a new model to an American theatre grown stale on naturalism in the postwar period.

Kevin J. Wetmore Jr. (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is an associate professor of theatre at Loyola Marymount University. He is the editor of Revenge Drama in European Renaissance and Japanese Theatre (New York: Palgrave, 2008), the coeditor of Modern Japanese Theatre and Performance (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2006), and the author of other books and many articles on Asian, African, and cross-cultural theatre.

Decade of Dreams: Democracy and the Birth of Nepal’s Engaged Stage, 1980–1990
Carol C. Davis, 94

The decade between 1980 and 1990 was a time of political upheaval and change in Nepal as the populace demanded a voice in the system that governed their lives. It was also an important period in the development of Nepal’s theatre as democracy was won with the help of the fledgling political theatre movement, which began in the university, was taken to the streets, and was emulated throughout the kingdom. Particularly important was the work of Asesh Malla of Sarwanam and Sunil Pokharel of Aarohan. The work culminated in the Jana Andolan (People’s Movement), which climaxed in April 1990. As the citizens of Nepal wrestled absolute power from the hands of their king the relationship between Nepal’s theatre and society was changed forever. This paper illuminates
this exciting period and the people at the forefront of Nepal’s socially engaged

Carol C. Davis is an associate professor of theater at Franklin and Marshall College. She is also the founding artistic director of the Nepal Health Project, an educational and charitable theatre company that treks to villages throughout Nepal with plays and workshops on health and hygiene, and teaches creative dramatics to children in the orphanages of Kathmandu. Carol has acted and directed in California and Nepal, and her articles have appeared in Asian Theatre Journal, Theatre Symposium, Mime Journal, Education About Asia, Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006), and Not For Sale: Bearing Witness, Making Politics (Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2004).

The Singapore Arts Festival at Thirty: Going Global, Glocal, Grobal
William Peterson, 111

The Singapore Arts Festival celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2007, an appropriate milestone for taking stock of the country’s premiere cultural event. Under the leadership of Goh Ching Lee since 1999, the festival has sought to carve out a distinctive identity that is Asian and cutting-edge, while providing a model for other arts festivals in the region. By programming international work and commissioning Singaporean work that is slick, glossy, and easily transferable across cultural and geographic boundaries, the festival may be pointing toward a future in which the work circulating at international festivals assumes a form and content that is, in the words of George Ritzer (2007), increasingly “grobal,” that is to say global and accessible, but increasingly devoid of content and removed from any concrete or stable cultural, political, or social context.

William Peterson is a senior lecturer and director of the Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and has published widely on theatre, politics, and religion in Singapore, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the Philippines.


The Yellow Earth Becomes the Yellow Dragon: Eco-Consciousness in Chinese Theatre of the 1980s
Heather Phillips, 135

Amidst the political and cultural sea change of the 1980s in China, a refined awareness of the environment bubbled to the surface. Throughout this decade, artists and scientists alike searched for ways to convey the urgency of China’s ecological crisis. Playwrights who tackled this issue often looked to the past, rediscovering ecological models in Confucian and Daoist ethics as well as ancient myths and rites. This paper examines two such plays, The Sangshuping Chronicles (1988) and Gao Xingjian’s Wild Man (1983), both of which offer fascinating possibilities for the development of a Chinese eco-poetics
consonant with Una Chaudhuri’s Western-based concept of eco-theatre.

Heather Phillips is a PhD student in the Department of Drama and Dance at Tufts University. In November 2007, she cohosted the ASTR seminar “Ethics in Translation,” and in May 2008 she cohosted a colloquium at Tufts on the translation of plays. This paper represents her first venture into the study of Chinese theatre.

Return From Exile: On Ming Hwa Yuan Gezaixi Company’s Survival in the New Century
Ming-Lun Wu, 148

Within a decade, Ming Hwa Yuan (MHY) built its fame by setting up a new image of gezaixi, Taiwanese “song opera.” MHY is acutely aware of the visual possibilities on stage, the utility of stage technology, and the company’s promotions and marketing are a classic example for commercial theatres in Taiwan. In the first half of this paper, a brief history of gezaixi is the axis on which is sketched the transformation of MHY; in the second half, an outstanding MHY production, The Legend of the White Snake, provides an example for further analysis.

Ming-Lun Wu is a PhD student in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on gezaixi in Taiwan and issues of influence. Her current working thesis centers on the emphasis of visual elements in gezaixi performances within the context of ideological and political backgrounds. She received her MA from the National Taiwan University.


Performance Review Essay: Japanese Theatre in Los Angeles (Shochiku Grand Kabuki—Chikamatsu-za, by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, directed by Nakamura Ganjiro III; Blood! Love! Madness! by Nakamura Kichizo, Kikuchi Kan, and Shimizu Kunio, directed by Brent Hinkley; Hiroshima Maiden, created by Dan Hurlin)
reviewed by Kevin Wetmore Jr., 159


Samuel L. Leiter (editor), Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre
reviewed by Andrew T. Tsubaki, 168

Paul Cravath, Earth in Flower: The Divine Mystery of the Cambodian Dance Drama
reviewed by Toni Shapiro-Phim, 170

Alexandra B. Bonds, Beijing Opera Costumes: The Visual Communication of Character and Culture
reviewed by Mei Sun, 174

Li-ling Hsiao, The Eternal Present of the Past: Illustration, Theater, and Reading in the Wanli Period, 1573–1619
reviewed by Megan Evans, 176

Fan Pen Li Chen, Chinese Shadow Theatre: History, Popular Religion and Women Warriors
reviewed by Bradford Clark, 179

Kay Li, Bernard Shaw and China: Cross-Cultural Encounters
reviewed by Alexander C. Y. Huang, 182

Tom Hare, Zeami: Performance Notes
reviewed by Joni Koehn, 184

Laurence Kominz (editor), Mishima on Stage: The Black Lizard and Other Plays
reviewed by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, 186

Lorie Brau, Rakugo: Performing Comedy and Cultural Heritage in Contemporary Tokyo
reviewed by Matthew W. Shores, 191


Kevin Bird (director), Dewi: Portrait of a Balinese Dancer
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 195