Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Shakespeare in India: Modes of Performance

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Universalized Shakespeare

The universalized Shakespeare stream is seen through a Marathi production, directed by Sharad Bhuthadia, by profession a pediatrician, but belonging to a category prominent in India, of the amateur professional. These are artists who do not earn their main living in theatre, yet devote all their leisure and creative energy to it, run theatre groups and even travel with their shows to different parts of the country. Bhuthadia’s group, Pratyaya, chose to perform Lear inspired by the much acclaimed translation by Vinda Karnadikar, eminent Marathi poet, who is able to capture the nuances of Shakespeare’s language without sacrificing its images or allusions.

A faithful translation, it was performed in a manner ‘faithful’ to the tradition of realist staging of Shakespeare. This has been the most common staging practice for Shakespeare in India. Based on universalist assumptions of a stable and authoritative text, it performs Shakespeare straight letting the text speak for itself. It seeks to let the past live in the present, playing up its foreignness. Though sometimes critiqued as “derivative” and “essentialising,” this universalist staging practice, particularly in our colonial and postcolonial context, functions as an empowering mimicry. “Doing it like them” becomes a mastering of the master colonising text.


Shakespeare in India: Chronology of King Lear Productions in India

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

(Citing language, translator, director, group and place based on available information).

1832     Scenes, Lear (III.iii), English, Chowringhee Theatre, Calcutta.

1880     Atipidacarita,    Marathi, tr./adapt. S M Ranade, Aryodharak Company, Poona.

1897     Rajavu Lear, Malayalam, tr./dir./actor Govinda Pillai, Trivandrum.

1906     Har Jeet, Urdu. Munshi Murad Ali, dir. David Joseph. Victoria Theatrical Company, Bombay.

1907     Safed Khoon, Urdu, Agha Hashr Kashmiri, Parsi Company, Bombay.

(1919)          ”          ”          Jalal Ahmed Shah

1962     Lear, English, St Stephen’s College Shakespeare Society with Roshan Seth, Delhi.

1964     Raja Lear, Urdu, tr. Majnoon Gorakhpuri, dir. Ebrahim Alkazi, National School of Drama, Delhi.

Shakespeare in India: History of King Lear in India

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

King Lear is an appropriate play with which to illustrate these tendencies and periodisation in the performance history of Shakespeare in India. One of the more frequently performed tragedies, it spans all these streams and periods and, in the last twenty years, particularly, it has become a kind of a measure or testing ground of actors and theatre groups. Its first performance in India was in 1832, when some scenes, in English, were done at the Chowringhee Theatre. Calcutta. During the period of ‘adapted’ Shakespeare, from the 1860s to the 1910s, in the 1880s a happy-ending version of Lear, Atipidacharita (The story of the intensely wronged one), influenced by Nahum Tate, in Marathi, became popular in Bombay. Another adapted and localized version, Safed Khoon (White Blood or Filial Treachery) by Agha Hashr Kashmiri, for the Parsi theatre in 1906, achieved commercial success and was played throughout the country.

Shakespeare in India

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Lai, Ananda and Sukanta Chaudhuri, eds. Shakespeare on the Calcutta Stage: A Checklist, Calcutta: Papyrus, 2001.

Nagarajan, S., and S. Viswanathan, eds. Shakespeare in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Narasimhaiah. C.D., ed. Shakespeare came to India, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1964.

Paul, Sunita, ed. A Tribute to Shakespeare, New Delhi: Theatre and Television Associates, 1989.

Shakespeare in India, a brochure. National Library, Calcutta, 1964.

Shankar, D.A., ed. Shakespeare in Indian Languages, Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1999.

Trivedi, Poonam and Dennis Bartholomeusz. eds. India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation and Performance, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005.

Shakespeare in Asia: Introduction

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Co-authored by project co-founders and co-directors Alexander Huang and Peter Donaldson

While Shakespeare and Asia have been connected on stage and screen for centuries, Asia-related performances in Asia, the Americas, and Europe are currently experiencing an exciting new wave of creativity. Such encounters have generated extraordinary artistic and intellectual energy, leading to the transformation of traditions that has worked in both directions at once.

The center of creativity in Shakespeare performance is shifting from Europe and the U.S. to Asia, where directors such as Ninagawa Yukio, Suzuki Tadashi, Ong Keng Sen, Wu Hsing-kuo, and many others experiment with combinations of traditional and contemporary theatre, new strategies for working across languages and genres, new ways of reaching diverse audiences.

These works are widely recognized as among the most innovative and distinguished in the world; they are changing how we understand Shakespeare, serving as a forum for theatre artists to deal with such contemporary questions as national and Asian identity, and reshaping debates about the relation of East and West.

Sources on Asian and International Shakespeare

Friday, June 4th, 2010
  1. Aebischer, Pascale, Edward J. Esche and Nigel Wheale, eds. Remaking Shakespeare: Performance across Media, Genres and Cultures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.Brown, John Russell. New Sites for Shakespeare: Theatre, the Audience, and Asia. London: Routledge, 1999.
  2. Ashizu, Kaori. “Kurosawa’s Hamlet?” Shakespeare Studies 33 (1995): 71-99.
  3. Auslander, Philip. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. London: Routledge, 2008.
  4. Bharucha, Rustom. “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare: Dissenting Notes on New Asian Interculturality, Postcoloniality, and Recolonization.” Theatre Journal 56.1 (2004): 1-28.
  5. Billings, Timothy. “Caterwauling Cataians: The Genealogy of a Gloss.” Shakespeare Quarterly 54.1 (2003): 1-28.
  6. Brandon, James R. “Some Shakespeare(s) in Some Asia(s).” Asian Studies Review 20 (1997): 1-26.Burnett, Mark Thornton. Filming Shakespeare in the Global Marketplace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  7. Burnett, Mark T., and Ramona Wray, eds. Shakespeare, Film, fin de siècle. New York: Palgrave, 2000.
  8. Burt, Richard, ed. Shakespeares after Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture. Westport: Greenwood, 2007.
  9. Burt, Richard. “Shakespeare and Asia in Postdiasporic Cinemas: Spin-offs and Citations of the Plays from Bollywood to Hollywood.” Shakespeare, the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video. Ed. Richard Burt and Lynda Boose. New York: Routledge, 2003. 265-303
  10. Burt, Richard and Lynda E. Boose, eds. Shakespeare, the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video. New York: Routledge, 2003.


Ma Yong’an: Excerpt from an Interview

Monday, April 5th, 2010

From: Alexa Huang, “Shakespeare on the Chinese Stage 1839-2004,” PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2004.

by Alexa Huang
2:30-4:00 pm, Wednesday September 4, 2002

Playwriting Office, Beijing Jingju Company, Beijing, China

HUANG: Your jingju Othello, the first Chinese stylized theater Shakespeare in the 1980s, was staged to full houses in Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin between 1983 and 1986. It was said to have initiated a new wave of experiments with xiqu Shakespeare performances in China. What is the historical background of your adaptation? How did the audience react?

MA: In fact, my jingju Othello is the first jingju Shakespeare since the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949. It was quite a few years earlier than the xiqu Shakespeare performances at the first international Chinese Shakespeare Festival [in 1986]. Although there were sporadic attempts to stage Shakespeare’s plays in xiqu styles, my jingju Othello was the first serious attempt to perform Shakespeare in a traditional Chinese music theater. Two of the early xiqu Shakespeares in the 1930s and the 1940s that I remember are an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet called Zhuqing ji [The Tempering of Love][1] and a jingju Macbeth called Xieshou yin [Imprint of the Bloody Hands], adapted and directed by my Master Hao Shouchen. Since my experimental stage work was new, I encountered numerous difficulties during the initial phase of exploring the possibility of staging it and later during rehearsal.

The older generation in the audience did not like the jingju Othello. There was a psychological barrier that was preventing the “traditionalists” from appreciating performances of new or foreign plays. Many of them left half way through the performance; others refrained from commenting on the performance.

However, there were many people who applauded the achievement of this jingju Othello. The famous British scholar, Phillip Brockbank, saw the production and said it was very close to his ideal performance. The vice mayor of Beijing, Chen Haosu, also attended the premiere. After the curtain call, Mr. Chen stepped on stage and hailed our performance with a Chinese couplet: “The hero is beguiled, the beauty falls victim; exotic ambiance, Chinese style!” His words meant a lot to me and the cast. A young couple in the audience came to the backstage after the production and showed us their handkerchief. It was soaking wet with tears. They told us they were deeply moved by the production.

Kuang Jianlian (stage name Hongxian Nü) of the Guangdong-based Yueju [Cantonese opera] Theater Company was one actor/director who was greatly inspired by my jingju Othello. After seeing my performance, she began working on a yueju adaptation of Merchant of Venice. Her Merchant of Venice was staged during the first international Chinese Shakespeare Festival in 1986.

Wu Hsing-kuo: Excerpt from an Interview

Monday, April 5th, 2010

From: Alexa Huang, “Shakespeare on the Chinese Stage 1839-2004,” PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2004.

by Alexa Huang
4-6:30 pm, Monday, March 15, 2004

Ziteng lu [Wistaria Teahouse], Taipei, Taiwan.

HUANG: In the 1980s and early 1990s, you successfully adapted several Shakespearean and Greek tragedies, including Macbeth, Hamlet, Medea, and the Oresteia (with Richard Schechner). In fact, your theater company has been known for its exclusively non-traditional, Western repertoire. Do these jingju adaptations of foreign plays have any special connotations? Why do you privilege foreign plays?

WU: I believe that a combination of Western classics and jingju acting would benefit the development of jingju theater in a fast-changing age. It helps us to express the contemporary quality of the art. It is no longer enough to “inherit” the heritage of our ancestors [jingju predecessors]. We have to create new genres that will become a new “heritage.” However, I was very frustrated and annoyed by the nativist cultural policy and its monopolization of art festivals [in Taiwan].[1] We worked so hard to maintain and re-invent the exquisite tradition of jingju; why should we be excluded from the artistic forum? I could not accept this. However, we as artists did not want to take to the streets with flags and slogans like ordinary people. Further, I knew from experience that public demonstrations and protest would not change anything, especially the stronghold of political ideology.

I find the nativist call for “localization” absurd and ironic. What does it mean to “bentu hua [localize, nativize]” art and literature? I was born, raised, and trained here [as an actor] in Taiwan. I founded a theater company in Taiwan that staged plays for the Taiwanese audience. Why was I suddenly labeled as an “outsider” by the new predominant discourse of nativism? Who is the “real” native Taiwanese, then? Why did the art I profess, jingju, suddenly become an antithesis to the Taiwanese identity?

Hamlet in China: Translation, Interpretation and Performance

Monday, April 5th, 2010

by Ruru Li (University of Leeds)

Of all Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet has attracted the most Chinese translators, with no fewer than twelve different translations into Mandarin1 having been published since 1922. The earliest of these marked the first time a complete Shakespeare play had ever appeared in Chinese. Before then, the only version of Shakespeare available to Chinese-speakers had been in the form of loose translations––and subsequent stage adaptations––based on Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

In Shashibiya: Staging Shakespeare in China, I offer readers a diagram (Li Ruru, 2003, 116) illustrating that when foreign plays are introduced to China the translators, adapters, scholars and theater practitioners all bring their own personal and societal history as well as a shared cultural legacy into the composition of the works that are performed on stage. I contend that Shakespeare in China is as much a story about China as about Shakespeare. This experience is evident in the translation, interpretation and performance of Hamlet, the history of which not only highlights the influence of the politically sanctioned literary theory on the Chinese understanding of this great tragedy, but also reflects the complex responses of Chinese people towards a century of radical changes in their society and culture.

Shakespeare, Performance, and Autobiographical Interventions

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Originally published in the Shakespeare Bulletin: A Journal of Performance Criticism and Scholarship 24. 2 (Summer 2006): 31-47.

Can we not suggest […] that the autobiographical project may itself produce and determine the life and that whatever the writer does is in fact […] determined by the resources of the medium?

—Paul de Man 69

Autobiography and Appropriation

The idea that Shakespeare belongs to the world has become a cliché. When examining the global and “worldly” Shakespeare, instead of focusing on cultural and national appropriations, we must now ask: does Shakespeare also belong to the individual readers, actors, directors, re-writers? Can Shakespeare be linked to the personal, the autobiographical mode of interpretation, and the local modes of reading? How might an actor’s performative, autobiographical readings contribute to the epistemological formations of “Shakespeare” and adjust the storied biographies of the actor and Shakespeare’s characters on- and offstage? How does the medium contribute to and limit autobiographical performances of Shakespeare?