Chinese troupe stages traditional tale at TSF

By Chelsea Katz

Kilgore News Herald

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For Angelina Gao, Kilgore and Texas Shakespeare Festival has become like home, after beginning the tradition of a Chinese Theater Night six years ago.

Thanks to art, stage and theater, Gao and Steven Zhang join TSF company members from all over the country and world in Kilgore.

“That’s a very good thing,” Zhang said. Although the experience comes with challenges each year, Gao said they have conquered them all to continue coming back each season.

Gao and Steve Zhang earned their master’s degrees in 2012 in modern literature and are now teachers at Chongqing Technology and Business University in China. For her degree Gao focused on how to translate William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde into Chinese, and she said Zhang focused on how to make “ghost plays” prevalent in Chinese theater.

“We want to see theater from a different angle,” Gao said about choosing majors that were only linked with theater.

Nine students came with Gao and Zhang to Kilgore this year, and Gao said that is the most ever. Next summer, though, Gao said she believes they can bring even more.

Even though the students might not go back to a career in acting in China, Gao said they can use what they learn in Kilgore about how to present themselves in their every day lives.

“They say all these kinds of skills they learned here really helped them when they are working,” she said from talking with former students who have come to Kilgore.

For many of the students, their trip to TSF is their first time in America, and Gao said everyone becomes friends with the rest of the TSF company and the host families for the weekly Monday events.

For Gao, TSF is like a theater gas station for her. Live theater in China is more difficult to produce than inAmerica, and she said she is reenergized and returns to China more confident and ready to face those challenges.

This year’s Chinese Theater Night at 7:30 p.m. July 23 in Van Cliburn Auditorium will feature a pantomimed show written by Gao and Zhang and directed by Zhang, called “Stay.” It is a traditional Chinese story about trying to stay alive, and it follows a character who learns how to put off death. The direct translation of the Chinese title is “Ghost Block,” Zhang said.

“Every piece of story in this show is based on true stories,” Gao said. Even though it is pantomimed, Gao said there is sound from the actors and music both recorded and from traditional small Chinese instruments.

The story brings up questions, and Gao said the cast does not judge, but presents the questions for the audience to form their own answers and make their own judgments. In rehearsals, Gao said the TSF company members could understand the story.

“[The traditional Chinese and western cultures] could understand each other very well,” she said. “That’s so amazing.”

With the time period of 1910s to 1930s, Gao said some of the actors are in traditional Chinese dress, while others are in western-influenced outfits.

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