Xiaomei Chen's book Performing the Socialist State: Modern Chinese Theater and Film Culture (Columbia UP, 2023) looks at three "founding fathers" of Chinese spoken drama: Tian Han, Hong Shen, and Ouyang Yuqian. Dr. Chen argues that these three theatre artists laid the groundwork for Mao-era Chinese drama during the earlier Republic period, and that there is more continuity between the two periods than has typically been supposed. She also argues that these artists were not mere victims of heavy-handed political ideologues, but were passionate and sophisticated political thinkers in their own right. By telling the stories of these three figures and their effect on later Chinese drama, Dr. Chen helps us understand why the performing arts have such notable political consequence in the history of 20th century China.
Note: our interview with Dr. Chen on her 2016 book Staging Chinese Revolution can be found here.
Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.