China welcomes KSU production of “Monkey King”

“Amazing.” That was the overwhelming response of “Monkey King” cast members when asked about performing at the Shanghai Theater Festival in early December.

Georgia (Dec 13, 2005) — “Amazing.” That was the overwhelming response of “Monkey King” cast members when asked about performing at the Shanghai Theater Festival in early December.

Following its completely sold−out run at KSU‚ the original production‚ involving faculty and students from the department of theatre and performance studies‚ packed up and headed to China.

“Theatre creates a common ground‚” professor Karen Robinson said. “We assumed there would be differences‚ but there were actually more similarities between our cultures than differences.”

Produced for the KSU celebration of "The Year of China‚" the play was written by professor Margaret Baldwin‚ a noted Atlanta playwright‚ and directed by Robinson‚ who was named one of the top ten directors in Atlanta. Adapted from Chinese folk stories‚ "Monkey King" adds a contemporary American spin to the ancient tale of the little trickster monkey's search for immortality and powers. The story is a tale mixed with satire‚ fantasy‚ adventure‚ action and religious allegory.

“Audience members in Shanghai told us that we made god−like characters human and that seeing our production helped them see their story in a different way‚” Baldwin said. “That’s the greatest thing theatre can do.”

Despite having to quickly adapt to a new stage and setting‚ the team succeeded in producing some of its best performances‚ Baldwin said.

“There was a whole new level of energy‚” she said. “It was a different show.”
Project director and costume and scenic designer Ming Chen said "Monkey King" was a great cultural exchange experience for all involved in the process.

The first KSU production to be performed overseas‚ “Monkey King” received rave reviews in Chinese newspapers and magazines‚ Chen added.

But it wasn’t all work for the students‚ who were able to tour the city and learn about its culture.

“We felt an overwhelming warmth from the people‚” Elizabeth Neidel‚ a senior majoring in theatre and performances studies‚ said. “They were genuine and truly happy that we were there.”

The cultural exchange program was made possible‚ in part‚ by a grant from the Coca−Cola Foundation and by an offer from the host institution‚ Shanghai Theater Academy‚ which provided room‚ board and local transportation.

According to professor Dean Adams‚ there is a definite possibility of more international touring in the future.


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