Shakespeare as a Chinese Opera In Denison Theatre Adaptation
Posted: April 7, 2003
Take a play from the early 17th century playwright William Shakespeare and adapt it to "Jingju," a dramatic arts form dating back to the Ming Dynasty, beginning in the 14th century; then translate the Chinese script back into modern English and bring it to the United States from Taiwan in the 21st century. Such is the journey that the next Denison University theatre production has taken. The Jingju (Chinese Opera) adaptation of Shakespeare's playThe Taming of the Shrewwill be presented at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday (April 11-12) and Tuesday through Friday (April 15-19) in Ace Morgan Theatre. Tickets for the production are $10 general admission, $5 senior citizens, and $4 for students and can be purchased from the theatre box office by calling (740) 587-6527.
Fulbright Visiting Scholar-in-Residence Hsing-lin Tracy Chung is directing the performance, which is also the world premiere of the English translation. She has been teaching a course in the traditional Chinese acting style as well as a seminar on "Jingju in the Modern World." Most of her class is appearing in the play.
This version of Shakespeare's comedy is set in China during the Ming Dynasty. Rouge Tigress is the shrew, Old Wine Pot is her father, Lion Dog is the would-be tamer, and his malady-ridden mother is Old Pill Bottle. The play originated in Taiwan, where Chung has played an important role in making "jingju" come alive.
The Chinese Opera style has been characterized as "total theatre," integrating into an organic art such elements as singing, recitation, dancing, pantomime, acrobatics, and stylized movements. Costumes, makeup, and the accompanying music provided by an orchestra further enhance the performance. The Chinese Jingju divides its roles into four major categories: male, female, painted face, and the comic, and the orchestra consists of percussion, string and wind instruments to create the appropriate atmosphere.
"The theatre students had no background in this art form at the beginning, but by learning the Jingju methods, it has been a good way for the Western and Oriental cultures to interact and learn about each other," said Chung. In the Jingju version, for instance, the shrew Kate, now Rouge Tigress, also learns from her mother-in-law, "Old Pill Bottle," to change her behavior. "Both Rouge Tigress and Lion Dog change, grow up, and learn that marriage is beautiful," says Chung.
Chung is the chair of the department of Jingju and dean of academic affairs at National Taiwan Junior College of Performing Arts in Taipei, Taiwan. She is a graduate of the National Fu-hsing Dramatic Arts Academy and holds a master's degree in performing arts from Oklahoma City University. In addition, Chung has appeared in more than 30 jingju productions, adapted numerous works for jingju, and has books and DVDs to her credit.
Associate Professor Peter Pauze is Scenic and Lighting Designer, and Associate Professor Cynthia Turnbull is Costume Designer for the production. Junior Sarah Lentz (Evansville, Ind.) is Hair and Makeup Designer, and junior Alma Fellows (Little Valley, N.Y.) is Stage Manager.
The narrator is junior Margaret Reid (Coral Gables, Fla.). The role of the shrew, Rouge Tigress, will be played by senior Melinda Hughes (Westlake) in Act I and junior Elizabeth Martinez-Nelson (San Diego, Calif.) in Act II. Her Little Sister is played by first-year student James Ramsey (Newark); and their father, Old Wine Pot, is played by sophomore David Tyler (Chagrin Falls). The would-be tamer is Lion Dog, played by junior Mark Soloff (Pittsburgh, Pa.); his mother, Old Pill Bottle, is played by sophomore Megan Long (Chapmanville, W.Va.).
Others in the cast are: senior Dianna Craig (Ashland, Ky.); juniors Ashleigh Diver (Middletown), Dominic Dodrill (Jackson), Sarah Kronour (Lebanon), Matthew Orlins (Centerville), and Oma Turanchik (Columbus); sophomores David McDonald (Cincinnati) and Elena Perantoni (Canfield); and first-year students Cara Kalnow (Chicago, Ill.), Caitlin McCown (Beloit, Wis.), Martha "Abby" Nelson (Atlanta, Ga.), Taylor Pyles (Great Falls, Va.), and Tariq Vasudeva (New Delhi, India).
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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