Past Events

Esther Kim Lee

Hutchinson 154

The Theatricalized Body of Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu

David Henry Hwang is the most recognized Asian American playwright and the winner of the Tony Award for Best Play for M. Butterfly in 1988. This talk examines his latest full-length play, Kung Fu, which is about the life and work of the martial arts icon Bruce Lee. The play opened in February of this year at New York City’s Signature Theatre, which commissioned the play and devoted the 2013-14 season to Hwang’s oeuvre. Hwang intended to write Kung Fu as a musical but later decided against it. What has instead resulted is what can be called a “dancicle,”a style of theatre in which realistic scenes and highly choreographed dance/fighting sequences co-exist onstage. Throughout his writing career, Hwang has frequently used choreography in his plays, and Kung Fu represents an exploration of what he has described as a “Chinese American” style of theatre.

This paper interrogates this style by focusing on how Hwang dramatizes the Asian American body in his plays. Hwang's style echoes the style of Cantonese opera, which he frequently references in his plays, but at the same time, the style is unequivocally in the tradition of American theatre. By using theories of the body, movement, and choreography, I argue that the Asian American body Hwang creates for the stage is defined theatrically. The racialized Asian body onstage is not defined by its skin color or phenotypical traits. Rather, Hwang’s Asian American bodies are made real through theatricalized movements that require skill and labor. The talk problematizes how racial identities are theatrically embodied by Hwang’s characters and how he makes Bruce Lee quintessentially Asian American in Kung Fu.

Location: Hutchinson Hall, Room 154

Bio of Presenter: Esther Kim Lee is Associate Professor in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received Ph.D. in theatre history, literature, and criticism from the Ohio State University and taught theatre and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  She is the author of A History of Asian American Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2006), which received the 2007 Award for Outstanding Book given by Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the editor of Seven Contemporary Plays from the Korean Diaspora in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2012). She is the Editor of Theatre Survey, the flagship journal of the American Society for Theatre Research. Her current projects include a book on the Chinese American playwright David Henry Hwang.

Complicating Gender and Islam through Performance in East Java, Indonesia
Christina Sunardi, Ethnomusicology
October 29, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

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This talk explores some of the ways in which musicians and dancers in East Java, Indonesia have approached Islam and their professions as artists, in effect making and maintaining cultural space for cross-gender dance as well as diverse, complex, shifting senses of masculinity and femininity.

Some are Born Green, Some Achieve Greenness: Protest Theatre & Environmental Activism
Scott Magelssen, School of Drama
October 15, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

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Ecofriendly lifestyles have become increasingly easy and indeed celebrated in the popular media. Meanwhile, however, some of the worst environmental offenses persist, and are ramping up all over the planet. Fracking, poisonous emissions, resource decimation, and human-made disasters on a global scale are prompting activist performers to get ALL of our attentions, from peaceful performance protests to guerilla resistance.

Theatre and Non-leftist Radicalism
Stefka Mihaylova, School of Drama
October 1, 7:30pm
Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre

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In post-WW II American and British theatre practice and scholarship, the expression “radical theatre” typically implies leftist social ideas. At the turn of the 21st century, however, radicalism has also become associated with religion, as in “radical Islam,” and some have critiqued theatre’s overwhelming preference for works espousing liberal social ideas. Can and should theatre make room for non-leftist radical ideas? And does non-leftist radical theatre necessarily imply fascist theatre? This talk invites reflection on these questions, by focusing on several examples: the riots of the Sikh community in Birmingham, UK, in 2005, in response to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of Behzti (Dishonour), in which a Sikh religious leader rapes a young woman in the temple; and the virtual absence of religious drama on contemporary US stages and in the American twentieth-century canon.

Dr. Jay Ball
Central Washington University

When: May 17th, 2013, 1:30pm
Where: Hutchinson Hall 154

Jay Ball (Assistant Professor) received his PhD in Theatre History & Performance Studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 and has taught theatre history, literature and dramaturgy at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama and the College of Charleston. A member of the American Association for Theatre Research, Dr. Ball's research is focused on the international dimensions of 20th-century political theatre, with a special emphasis on South Africa, Northern Ireland and the former Czechoslovakia. Teaching emphases include World Drama, the history of dramatic theory, reception theory and the practices of adaptation/devised theatre.

Tracy C. Davis, Northwestern University

When: Friday, April 19, 2013, 1:30pm
Where: Hutchinson Hall 154

Tracy C. Davis, from Northwestern University, is a specialist in performance theory, theatre historiography, and research methodology. She edits the book series Cambridge Studies in Theatre and Performance Theory. She is Director of the Graduate School's Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring initiative and Chair of Northwestern University Press's Editorial Board. She has served as President of the American Society for Theatre Research and is a member of the Board of Directors for Performance Studies International. Her monographs include Actresses as Working Women (1994), George Bernard Shaw and the Socialist Theatre (1994), The Economics of the British Stage, 1800-1914 (2000), and Stages of Emergency: Cold War Nuclear Civil Defense (2007). Her edited volumes include, among others, Playwriting and Nineteenth-Century British Women (co-edited with Ellen Donkin, 1999), Theatricality (coedited with Thomas Postlewait, 2003), and The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies (2008).

By Sue-Ellen Case, UCLA

When: February 22, 2013

A past editor of “Theatre Journal,” Professor Sue-Ellen Case has published widely in the fields of German theatre, feminism and theater, performance theory and lesbian critical theory. She has published over 30 articles in journals such as “Theatre Journal,” “Modern Drama,” “differences” and “Theatre Research International,” and in many anthologies of critical works.

Her books include “Feminism and Theatre” and “The Domain-Matrix: Performing Lesbian at the End of Print Culture.” Her work has received several national awards. Her most recent book is entitled “Performing Science and the Virtual,” published by Routledge.

This event was presented by the UW Center for Performance Studies, with special thanks to the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

Tuesdays, October 2, 16 and 30, 7:30pm
Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse
This series of lectures considers the presence, power, and authenticity of the live and the real in the arts. Lecturers include School of Drama Professors Odai Johnson and Andrew Tsao and English Professor Emeritus Herbert Blau.

Theatre and Social Efficacy
Odai Johnson, School of Drama
Tuesday, October 2, 7:30pm
This lecture explores the response time of artists of various media to national crisis. Using events of some magnitude it charts how various media engage in times of crisis. Professor in Theatre History and Head of the Ph.D. program at the University of Washington School of Drama, Dr. Odai Johnson is the author of Rehearsing the Revolution and Absence and Memory on the Colonial American Stage.

Virtually Yours: Presence, Liveness, Lessness
Herbert Blau, Emeritus, English Department and School of Drama
Tuesday, October 16, 7:30pm
Though "bots and bytes" may be seen in performance (or appear to be), without the presence of a living being there's something palpably missing — the smell of mortality and the mystery of its vanishing, "liveness" is not living. English Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, Dr. Herbert Blau has had a distinguished career in the professional theatre. He helped introduce American audiences to avant-garde drama in some of the country's first productions of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter.

Beyond the Uncanny Valley
Andrew Tsao, School of Drama
Tuesday, October 30, 7:30pm
This lecture explores the convergence of actual and virtual time and space in theatre. Associate Professor Andrew Tsao is a director for stage and screen. His work ranges from network prime-time comedies to Shakespeare and cutting-edge original performances. He heads the undergraduate drama program at the University of Washington. Professor Tsao leads summer drama programs at the Edinburgh Festival and is artistic director of The Drama Collective, a European theatre studies creative lab in Pontlevoy, France.

Marvin Carlson is the Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern Studies, and CUNY Graduate Center.  His research and publication apans an incredible 50 years, and the width of his publications is equally impressive, including texts on dramatic theory and Western European theatre history and dramatic literature, especially of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  He has been awarded the ATHE Career Achievement Award, the George Jean Nathan Prize, the Bernard Hewitt prize, the George Freedley Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has been a Walker-Ames Professor at the University of Washington, a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Indiana University, a Visiting Professor at the Freie Universitat of Berlin, and a Fellow of the American Theatre. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens. His best-known book, Theories of the Theatre (Cornell University Press, 1993), has been translated !
 into seven languages.  His 2001 book, The Haunted Stage won the Calloway Prize.  His newest book, Speaking in Tongues, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2006.

He will be joining us on Friday 20 April, for a talk and reception.  The talk is on Performance in the Arab Spring, to be held in Communication 202 (the Simpson Center seminar room), with a reception to follow.  The talk begins at 2:30.

Paul Atkins
Asian Languages & Literature

Utagawa Toyokuni and the Actor’s Image in Nineteenth-Century Japan
Jonathan Zwicker
Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Michigan

3:30 - 5:00 pm
Monday, May 9th
Thomson 317

Using a variety of printed materials, this lecture examines the status of the individual visage in Japan during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The opening decades of that century were a moment of emerging tension between an epistemology of reproducibility and assorted discourses of individuality. The present talk situates the mass reproduction of the actor’s image in prints and novels within a framework bounded on one end by technologies of reproduction and on the other by an increasing anxiety over the status of the unique and the authentic.

Jonathan Zwicker is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan. He received his PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University in 2002 and was a fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows from 2002-2005.

Sponsored by the Department of Asian Languages and Literature, the East Asia Center at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the UW Japan Studies Program