Drama in the People's Republic of China

Drama in the People's Republic of China

Drama in the People's Republic of China

Drama in the People's Republic of China

Synopsis

This is the first book ever published in the West on drama in the People's Republic of China. The plays, playwrights, theories, and performances range from the play that inflamed the Cultural Revolution to a post-Mao satiric drama that upset party leaders; from Jiang Qing's drama theory for her model plays to the discovery of Bertolt Brecht; from the problems and dilemmas that confront theater reform in the post-Mao era to the performance of Ibsen's Peer Gynt and Viennese operettas; and from a historical play glorifying Mao's supremacy to a playwright calling for individualism and women's rights. This book not only depicts aspects of drama in the People's Republic of China, it also provides analyses of the political and social conditions that shaped and are represented in this drama."

Excerpt

No country believes more deeply in the power of drama or takes greater pains about what is in a play than does the People's Republic of China, and no drama in any country and in history has been so frequently and so directly involved and used in ideological feuds, political purges, mass campaigns and high-level power struggles as has that of the People's Republic of China. Martin Esslin states that "all drama is . . . a political event; it either asserts or undermines the code of conduct of a given society." He further explains that "there are always social implications in any dramatic situation and in the solution of any dramatic conflict simply because all human situations, all human behavior patterns, have social — and therefore also political—implications." But did Mr. Esslin ever encounter such direct ties between drama and politics as are found in China today?

The traditions of contemporary Chinese drama is deeply rooted in the history of the Chinese Communist Revolution in which drama activities were intimately integrated with political and military action. In the summer of 1930, when the Political Department (Zhengzhi bu) was established in the Red Army and an Art Bureau (Yishi gu) was attached to it in order to strengthen propaganda activities in the Jiangxi Soviet, theater, as a most important subgroup in the Art Bureau, was for the first time formally recognized to be a useful tool to advance the communist revolutionary cause. When the Red Army Military Academy (Gongnong hongjun xuexiao) was founded in the winter of the same year, drama had its own department within the Academy. Such high ranking leaders as Wu Xiuquan, Cai Chang, He Shuheng and Xu Teli had participated in acting on stage, and prominent military leaders such as Lo Ruiqing, Liu Bocheng and Huang Zhen, not only took part in performances but also wrote plays.

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