Power and Problems of Performance Across Ethnic Lines

Power and Problems of Performance Across Ethnic Lines

Excerpt:

I don’t know if Wilson knew anything about the history of Chinese theatre before he gave rights to the Chinese for their production of Fences. Maybe he had some instinct that the Chinese stage had a special affinity with African American people. China’s very first production of modern drama (huaju, meaning spoken drama) was a blackfaced Uncle Tom’s Cabin by a Chinese student amateur drama club in Tokyo in 1907. A few months later in Shanghai, another group of Chinese did a second version of the same story. Both used some blackface makeup, but neither was derogatory as the blackfaced minstrel was in the U.S. around the same time. No doubt, the international popularity of the novel’s melodramatic plot can partly account for the Chinese interest in the Uncle Tom theme. But the more profound reason lies in the Chinese people’s ability to identify with African Americans in their struggle against their powerful oppressors.

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