This lecture offers a quick overview of Professor Xiaomei Chen’s new book, Performing the Socialist State: Moments, Crisis and Success of Modern Chinese Theater. It begins with the theatrical achievements of Tian Han, Hong Shen, and Ouyang Yuqian, three founders of spoken drama, and ask how their legacies in the Republican period played important roles in constructing socialist theater under Mao. She demonstrated how these outstanding performing leaders provided the blueprints for the Maoist theater in the PRC, contrary to the conventional claim that the PRC regime suppressed their creative energies. To this end and in this context, she reflect on the continuities with the performing culture in the Republican period trough examinations of “rightist satirical comedies 右派諷刺喜劇”in the 1950s, women’s theater and “red classic” film in the 1960s, scientists on stage in the Maoist and post-Maoist period, and soldiers in transformation from the Republican, to the socialist, and finally, to the post-socialist era. She also explored issues with regards to the relationships between science and theater, music and theater, and artists and their collective identities.
Xiaomei Chen is Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California at Davis and Chair Professor at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. She is the author of Occidentalism (1995), Acting the Right Part (2002), and Staging Chinese Revolution (2016). She is the editor of Reading the Right Text (2003) and Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Drama (2010) and co-editor, with Claire Sponsler, of East of West: Cross-Cultural Performances and the Staging of Difference (2000)”; with Julia Andrew, of Visual Culture in Contemporary China (2001), and with Steven Siyuan Liu, Hong Shen and the Modern Mediasphere in Republican-Era China (2016). She is co-editor with Tarryn Chun and Siyuan Liu, Rethinking Socialist Theater Reform (2021), which won Excellence in Editing Award by the Association of Theatre for Higher Education (ATHE). Her new book, titled Performing the Socialist State, was published by Columbia University Press in 2023.