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October 1, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Asian Theatre comes to Wellington: Snow in Sweet Summer

There are whispers in the Victoria University Theatre Department corridors: “Did you know the Asian theatre paper is doing a Chinese opera…? That’s insane…” Chinese opera is not something you’d expect to see in Wellington, let alone at Victoria University. However, Snow in Sweet Summer by Charles Mee is being performed this week at our very own Studio 77, by Theatre students of the Asian Performance Practices paper.

In the original story set in 13th Century China, Dou’E is falsely accused of murder. Killed for a crime she didn’t commit, she comes back as a ghost to tell her father the truth. He, in turn, clears her name. American playwright Charles Mee has updated the text to a contemporary setting, so that it is Dou’E herself that clears her own name.

The production is directed by VUW Theatre lecturer Megan Evans. Megan is a Chinese theatre specialist, who lived in China studying at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts and the Central Academy of Drama. In ten weeks she has put this production together and taught the students Chinese theatre performance. In terms of using Chinese theatre physicalities and performance techniques, Megan says the students are “taking the idea of it” and using the movements as a reference point. Megan stresses that “you can’t get very far in seven weeks’ training”, especially when you take into account that some performers spend their whole lives training to learn the complicated techniques. However the students have been developing their own ‘movement toolkit’ and the result is a very stylised physicality”.

Music forms a large part of the production. The American adaptation by Charles Mee blends the traditional Chinese scores with bluegrass, blues and American folk music. Megan states this is fitting “because Chinese opera always draws on local music anyway.” Opera director Jacqueline Coates has been working with the students as a vocal coach and the production has also worked extensively with the VUW Music department, with a student from Shanghai composing new opening and closing music.

Overall, the result looks set to be an extremely stylised production, with a synthesis of silly, comic elements and full-on tragedy. This eclectic, challenging production is not one to miss.

October 2-7, 7:30pm
Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn
Students: $8, bookings 04 463 5359 or

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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