Chengzhou He

Chengzhou He

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2012/13

Chengzhou He obtained his PhD from the University of Oslo. He is Professor of English and Drama and Deputy Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (IAS) at Nanjing University. Apart from editing six books in English and Chinese, he has published two monographs, Henrik Ibsen and Modern Chinese Drama (Oslo, 2004) and The Scandinavian Canon—Ibsen, Strindberg and Hamsun (Peking UP, 2009). Apart from his many articles in Chinese, he has published over twenty articles in English in international journals, including Neohelicon, Modern Language Quarterly, Comparative Drama, Ibsen Studies, and Perspectives: Studies on Translatology. A former President of the International Ibsen Committee, he received the Norwegian ‘Ibsen Medal’ in 2002. He has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Brown University, Visiting Professor at Göttingen University in Germany and Oslo University in Norway. He is the organizer of several theatre and performance events, including the ‘International Ibsen Festival for University Students’ (2010 and 2011) in Nanjing.

Research Project

The Adaptation and Staging of Western Plays in Contemporary China

Since the early 1980s, a number of major Western playwrights have been frequently adapted and staged in China, which has made a significant impact on Chinese theatre and culture at large. These adaptations have been marked by tensions between different performance cultures, the aesthetic and the political, the local and the global, the ideology and the market, with each influencing the other. In addition, Chinese performances of Western plays have undergone major paradigm shifts over the decades. This research project will investigate this phenomenon mainly with respect to the following three aspects: Firstly, in light of Marvin Carlson’s discussion of ‘macaronic theatre’, the plurality of culture and the symbolic use of language(s) will be analyzed based on a detailed account of international casting, bilingual or multilingual performances and cross-cultural collaborations. Secondly, given that since the 1980s more and more Western plays have been adapted to traditional Chinese theatrical forms, such as jingju, kunju, yueju, chuanju, quju and so on, the narrative of rewriting, semiotic re-embodiment and poetic displacement will be addressed in addition to the sinofication of stories. Thirdly, certain Western plays have been frequently adapted and staged in different locations and in different theatrical forms. The performance history of a few select Western plays in contemporary China will be explored in more detail both from socio-historical perspectives and through the lens of locality.

Selected Publications

  • He, C., “World Drama and Intercultural Performance,” in Neohelicon, vol. 38, 2011, pp. 497-509.
  • He, C., “Interculturalism in Theatre and Chinese Performances of Ibsen,” in Ibsen Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2009, pp. 118-35.
  • He, C., “Women and the Search for Modernity: Rethinking Modern Chinese Drama,” in Modern Language Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 1, 2008, pp. 45-60.
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung