Chinese Opera Headlines Series of Cultural Events at The University of Scranton

03/10/11

Shakespeare goes east – Far East – as The University of Scranton presents a performance of “Bond,” an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” by the Taiwan Bangzi Opera Company. The event, scheduled for Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Scranton Cultural Center, is offered free of charge as a gift from the University to the local community. It is part of a series of events that showcases the University’s Asian Studies Concentration.

The world-renowned opera company has performed on stage at King’s College in London, at the Lincoln Center in New York City, as well as in Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong and several Asian countries. In addition to their performance in Scranton, their tour in the United States will include just three other performance venues: at the annual conference of Shakespeare Association of America in Seattle, Wash.; at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.; and at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Produced by Taiwan’s leading scholars, theater artists and Bangzi actors, “Bond” premiered in Taipei in 2009. Bangzi, a traditional operatic theater with more than 50 years of history, is innovative in theme, exquisite in music, and elegant in acting styles.

“Bond” retains the story line of “The Merchant of Venice,” but transports it to a medieval Chinese city. Exploring the two-edged meaning of “bond” – protection and restriction – the play delves into such issues as race, law, justice, friendship, love, gender and, most of all, the deeply rooted Chinese value of marital fidelity. The performance provides a modern Asian perspective on these important issues.

“Bond” will feature 40 performers and a live orchestra. The leading Taiwanese diva Wang Hai-ling will transform herself to play the male role of Shylock, which incorporates the complex Chinese opera roles of lao-sheng (sympathetic older male), jing (younger male) and chou (clown). Wang has been named “Most Outstanding Artist in Asia” by the Chinese-American Arts Council in the United States and has received Taiwan’s National Award for Literature and the Arts.

On Thursday, April 14, the day before the Taiwan Bangzi Opera Company’s performance of “Bond,” the company will engage in a “Carnival of Chinese Opera” on campus from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the DeNaples Center for students at area schools and colleges and members of the public. The free event will include a demonstration lecture of the best of Chinese Opera, video screenings of four essential opera roles that will appear in the performance, brief opera lessons on body movement, martial art and face painting, as well as a contest with prizes.

“We hope that the beauty and essence of Taiwan’s traditional arts will attract American spectators to this distinct art form, and that the exchange will foster a deeper and better understanding between the people of both cultures,” said Ann Pang-White, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Philosophy Department and director of the Asian Studies Concentration at Scranton. “When we designed this series, we wanted it to be both educational and fun,” she added.

The tour is brought to you by the Asian Studies Program at the University of Scranton and has been made possible by generous grants from the Taiwanese government and the assistance from the Taipei Cultural Center of Taiwan Embassy (also known as Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, TECO) in New York. Additional support has been given by a Diversity Initiative Grant awarded by the Office of Equity and Diversity, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s Office, Student Affairs, Art and Music Program, Hope Horn Gallery, and the Office of Public Relations at The University of Scranton, the Scranton Hilton and Conference Center, Osaka Restaurant and other sponsors. WNEP is the media partner for the event.

The University of Scranton’s Asian Studies Concentration, an interdisciplinary, 24-credit concentration, provides students with an understanding of the culturally diverse Asian region. The program, which was launched during the 2010 spring semester, is open to students of all majors. Cross-listed Asian Studies courses may also fulfill major, minor, cognate and general education requirements. All courses included in Asian Studies can count retroactively. Overseas scholarship and exchange student opportunities are available with many Asian countries.

In addition, The University of Scranton’s Asian Studies Concentration has organized a series of cultural experiences representing Asian countries. In the coming months, the Asian cultural “tour” will continue with events focusing on China in February, India in March, and the Philippines in April.

Although offered free of charge, seating for the performance of “Bond” on April 15 by the Taiwan Bangzi Opera Company is limited and reservations are required to attend. Call (570) 941-4094 to reserve your tickets.

School representatives and students interested in participating in the “Carnival of Chinese Opera” on April 14 may contact Frani Mancuso, director of the conference and event services at The University of Scranton, at (570) 941-6200 to make a reservation.

For more information about the performance or carnival, contact Dr. Pang-White at (570) 941-6312 or pangwhitea2@scranton.edu.

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