Shen Lin is Professor of Theatre Studies and a writer and translator. He is the Deputy Head of Research at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and Chief Editor of The Drama Journal. He has held visiting professorships at the University of California at Davis (2001) and the Institute of Art History, Dance and Theatre, University of Copenhagen (2003) and was a fellow at the University of California, Humanities Research Institute (2002). Shen Lin is a recipient of the British Council and Chinese State Education Commission Scholarships, the Knachel and Folger Fellowships at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C., the Distinguished Young Professor of Beijing Universities and Colleges Award, the State Council Special Grant for Contribution to Culture and Art, and the Ministry of Education’s Millennium Endowments for Leading Scholars. Shen Lin’s writings include translations of Western and Chinese plays and operas; essays in English and Chinese on intercultural theatre, drama translation, Shakespeare and contemporary Chinese theatre; Theatrum Mundi (2000); Two Theatres in One World (2001), Big World and small theatre (2002); two plays, Bootleg Faust and Good Person of Hangzhou; and two dance scripts, The City and The Sun Bird. He conceived and curated the “International Theatre Showcase Beijing” in 1998, 2000, and 2002, and “Shakespeare and Contemporary Stage Masters” in 2006 and 2007. His stage productions include Le Balcon (1993), Jacobi and Leidental (1997), and Che Guevara (2000).
Use of the Old and the Western in the Quest for a New and Chinese Theatre
My topic proceeds from my ongoing research and experience in professional theatre and will be explored further during my time at the center.
The topic will focus on the specific ways in which Western aesthetics prompted the innovation of Chinese traditional opera over the course of the past one hundred years as seen in the introduction of stage design, the emergence of the director, and his/her dominance over the leading performers in traditional opera companies, the appearances of actresses, and, thus, the disappearance of female impersonators in traditional Peking opera. Some of the cited instances can and must be studied with reference to parallel cases from European theatre history, such as the Renaissance quest for classical theatre, Elizabethan theatrical female impersonation, and the emergence of the producer, manager, and director. At a later phase of the research I wish to show how these and other formal or institutional reforms, along with related contemporaneous debates and contemporary studies, often arose from socio-political agendas, ideological programs, and utopian visions dating back to the New Culture Movement at the turn of the nineteenth century, culminating in the Cultural Revolution and continuing in new directions in today’s post-socialist era.