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   Date: 10/23/08

Smith Presents Premiere of The Golden Lotus

Prominent Chinese director and writer Wang Yansong will direct the world premiere of his new play The Golden Lotus, running in Theatre 14 at Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts October 29 through November 1, at 8 p.m. each night. Matinee shows are also scheduled for November 1 and 2 at 2 p.m.

A scene from The Golden Lotus: Ximen Qing (played by Draper Harris, UMass ’09) consults with Golden Lotus (Abbie Chase ’10) as two ghosts (Melissa King ’12 and Manqing Cang ’12 observe from afar.

The Golden Lotus is based on a classical Chinese novel, Jin Ping Mei, which was written during the late Ming Dynasty. The book, declared pornographic and banned for centuries, was secretly read by many educated elite Chinese. The play reinterprets many of the book’s familiar stock characters, including Golden Lotus–beautiful, cold, scheming adulteress; Ping’er–pure, calm, loving wife; and Wu Song–upright, unflappable, heroic tiger slayer.

The play was translated by Josh Steinberg and Nan Zhang with contributions from Nora Mally ’10 and Ellen Morf ‘09J.

Cast members include: Abbie Chase ’10 as Golden Lotus; Emily Lennon ’09 as Mother Wang; Meredith Mitchell ’10 as Ping’er; Sam Rush, production coordinator for Smith College Theatre and founder of New Century Theatre, as Wu Da; Draper Harris (UMass’09) as Ximen Qing; and Doug Zhang (UMass graduate student) as Wu Song.

On Friday, October 31, from 4-5:30 p.m. in T207A in the Mendenhall Center, Wang will give a presentation of his professional work, especially his productions of plays written by Cao Yu, one of the most influential playwrights in China in the 20th century. He will then respond to questions from the audience.

Wang, who often employs choruses in his theatrical productions, plans a chorus of six for Lotus, each representing one of the main characters. The chorus will move the action along, forming a bridge between the living and the dead, and create soundscapes.
While exploring sexual politics and gender roles in traditional Chinese society, Wang’s play is also an allegory of human corruption whose characters grapple with love and seduction, loyalty and treachery, ambition and revenge–and ghostly intervention.

Wang has written and directed more than 30 plays, musicals and operas and published several articles on the theories and practice of stage direction. His production Da Cuo Che (Taking the Wrong Train) is considered to be the first modern musical in China. It premiered in 1984 at a 12,000-seat stadium for three sold-out nights and went on to enjoy a run of 1,460 performances at various venues. His most recent productions include two critically acclaimed interpretations of plays by Cao Yu, considered to be one of the most significant playwrights of 20th-century China. Wang Yansong’s directorial works have won numerous awards in China and abroad, and he has been invited to direct and teach in Russia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and the United States. He received his Master of Fine Arts in directing from the Shanghai Academy of Drama in 1982.

Ed Check, set designer for Lotus and a senior lecturer in theatre, traveled to China last summer along with Kiki Smith, costume designer and professor of theatre, to meet with Wang and Nan Zhang, lecturer in lighting design at Smith, to discuss the staging of the play.
Tickets for The Golden Lotus ($8 general public, $5 students/seniors, $1 for students only on October 30) can be purchased by calling the Mendenhall box office, 413-585-ARTS.



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