Adaptation and Staging of Greek Tragedy in Hebei Bangzi

By Tian, Min | Asian Theatre Journal, Fall-Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Adaptation and Staging of Greek Tragedy in Hebei Bangzi


Tian, Min, Asian Theatre Journal


This article is a critical study of the adaptation and staging of Greek tragedy in hebei bangzi (Hebei clapper opera). It examines the rationale for these adaptations and contrasts their dramaturgy, staging, and performance with the premises of Greek theatre. The author argues that because of the inherent differences in dramaturgy, staging, and performance between hebei bangzi and Greek tragedy, these adaptations, conceived as a "fusion" of these two theatrical traditions, are, in fact, a displacement of Greek tragedies from their theatrical and artistic contexts and an appropriation of them as raw materials to meet the dramatic, scenic, and performance prerequisites of hebei bangzi. The significance of these adaptations is twofold: first, as they use a complete and authentic form of Chinese xiqu and the stories from Greek tragedy, they are effective in facilitating the understanding of Chinese xiqu in the West; second, they provide yet another approach to performing Greek tragedy and help materialize our modernist imagination of its performance style.

**********

During the last two decades of the twentieth century, adaptations of Greek tragedies drawing on Asian traditional theatres have made significant contributions to the modern and contemporary staging and interpretation of Greek tragedies. Productions such as those by Suzuki Tadashi, Ninagawa Yukio, and Ariane Mnouchkine have drawn international acclaim and have brought about critical debate. During the same period of time, Chinese adaptations of Greek tragedy in traditional Chinese theatrical forms have become important intercultural theatrical events. The first adaptation of Greek drama in a traditional Chinese theatrical form was the 1989 hebei bangzi (a) (Hebei clapper opera) production of Medea by Hebei Bangzi Theatre of Hebei Province. Productions by hebei bangzi theatre troupes based in Hebei Province and Beijing have toured European countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France, and Spain, and South American countries such as Argentina and Colombia. In contrast to those by Suzuki, Ninagawa, and Mnouchkine, Chinese productions have not drawn the critical attention they merit outside China. (1) This study undertakes a critical analysis of these productions by examining the rationale for them and contrasting their dramaturgy, staging, and performance with the premises of Greek theatre.

For many artists adapting Greek tragedies in Chinese traditional forms, the raison d'etre is that there are similarities in staging and performance between Greek and Chinese forms. But for me these surface similarities are only constructed rationales for the "fusion" experiments, which overlook the inherent difference between traditional Chinese theatre (including hebei bangzi) as performed today and the Greek tragedy: the former is a performance-centered theatre of physical gestures and movements whereas the latter is a drama centered on dramatic text. Antonin Artaud's imagination of a theatrical "physics" of "concrete gestures" for Aeschylus and Sophocles that has "an efficacy strong enough to make us forget the very necessity of language" (Artaud 1958: 108) is an assertion of his own avant-gardist ideal rather than an affirmation of the existence of such a theatrical "physics" in ancient Greek theatre. The dramatic agon is a good example to show the primacy of words in Greek tragedy as exemplified in the "war of words" (Euripides 1998a: 15) between Medea and Jason or a messenger's "torrent of words" (Aeschylus 1991: 47). Oliver Taplin concludes that in Greek tragedy, "Virtually all the significant action is signposted by the words" (Taplin 1978: 19).

The development of staging and acting in Greek tragedy is just the opposite of that of Chinese theatre. The impulse of Greek theatre deviated from the earlier simple theatrical forms and geared toward realism and psychology, from Aeschylus' ritual performance to Euripides' realism and psychological approach. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Adaptation and Staging of Greek Tragedy in Hebei Bangzi
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.