Theatre and Performance Studies: ‘The Reception of Ibsen in China’ & ‘Watching Eurovision from Down Under’
Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar, 3 May 2019
Ting Zhang is currently working on the role of translators, dramaturgs and directors in shaping the reception of Ibsen in China. It’s fascinating work-in-progress towards Ting’s PhD; her presentation will be an early draft of the paper she’s going to present at the International Federation for Theatre Research conference in Shanghai.
We also welcome back Chris Hay (University of Queensland) who is gearing up for his annual plunge into the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, except this time it appears he has a gala book-launch to factor into the equation and we get to have a sneak preview — dress appropriately!
“The Historical Evolution of Different Receptions of Ibsen’s Work in China: Implications for Dramaturgy as a ‘Transmission’”
Ting Zhang, PhD Candidate, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney
The history of the reception of Ibsen’s plays in China closely reflects some of the major social and political transitions that Chinese artists and their audiences have lived through. Generally speaking, we can divide the interpretation and promotion of Ibsen’s work into three periods, corresponding to the three major phases of nation-building in modern China: (i) from 1907 to 1949; (ii) from 1949 to 1978; (iii) from 1978 to the present. In the first period, Ibsen was translated and adapted enthusiastically and became a major author in the development of Huaju (spoken drama) in China. Chinese intellectuals embraced Ibsen as an ideological model that helped to enlighten the masses and stimulate social and political change. Between 1949 and 1978, the emphasis of Huaju was turned to domestic authors and new works rather than Ibsen, and very few productions of his works were staged. Over the last 40 years, however, there has been a substantial re-engagement with Ibsen due to social progress in China. Particularly since the 1990s, his plays have been appreciated more for their aesthetic and cultural potential and not simply as an ideological tool.
This paper uses the example of Ibsen’s reception in China to identify the constraints of historical, social and political factors on scholars and artists in general, and dramaturgs in particular, to interpret the true meaning of Ibsen’s works. Dramaturgy, I will argue, must function as a ‘transmission’ between the past and the present, the society and individuals, as well as between the artists and audiences. It is the task of the dramaturg to overcome historical, political, ideological and social constraints with a wide range of knowledge, sensitivity, and tolerance of artistic works. More importantly, to play a role of ‘transmission’ by engaging with others through a mutual learning process.
“Pyjama Fandom: Watching Eurovision from Down Under”
Dr Chris Hay, School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland
Despite the apparent geographic barriers, Australia have been a notable participant in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) from 2014, when Jessica Mauboy performed as an interval act in Copenhagen. Since 2016, when Australia has been allowed to vote in the ESC as well as perform, the ‘live broadcast’ of the ESC has taken place on SBS from 5.00am — marking a departure from the previous delayed telecast, which had been in the ‘prime time’ slot from 8.00pm since the ESC’s debut on Australian TV in 1983. This has complicated notions of ESC fandom in Australia: instead of consuming the broadcast in the evening, accompanied by alcoholic drinks and dance parties, fans now watch the broadcast bleary-eyed and pyjama-clad in the morning, more likely accompanied by caffeinated drinks. This paper considers how the live audience experience has changed in Australia with the shifting time of the broadcast, combining an historical survey of the ESC’s Australian reach with a thick description of the contemporary experience of Eurovision fandom from down under.
The paper also marks the conclusion of a research project first begun in conversation with the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies Research Seminar in 2014, a project soon to be published in the edited collection “Eurovision & Australia: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Down Under” (Palgrave, May 2019).
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