Artistic Directors:
Wayne Chang

K. K. Wong
Business office:
153 Centre Street, Suite 207
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 516-515-0630


Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America was founded in 1992 to produce works for and by Asian artists. Since then, it has become New York's most significant entry point for dramatic works from Chinese-speaking countries and a place of collaboration for artists from various parts of Asia.



JUNE 3 TO 18, 2017


Tragi-comic play re-imagines "Orpheus and Eurydice" themes for modern, multicultural times; visits the traditional Chinese underworld as if it's a videogame.


June 3 to 18, 2017
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street), East Village
Presented by Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America
Wed - Sat at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:00 PM.
$25 general admission; $20 seniors & students; Wednesdays pay what you can.
Box office (212) 868-4444,
Running time: 75 minutes (no intermission)

Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America returns to Theater for the New City (TNC) June 2 to 18 to present the New York premiere of "410[GONE]" by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, the prize-winning author of "The World of Extreme Happiness" (Manhattan Theater Club, 2015). The dark and dazzling play uses comedy, Chinese mythology and cyber-imagery to explore how we release loved ones when they are gone. The play will be acted in English with Chinese subtitles. Chongren Fan directs; he staged Yangtze's critically-applauded production of "Behind the Mask -- a Play" by Chinese authors Feng BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo at TNC in 2015.

Where do we go when we die? In Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s dark and dazzling play, a boy named Seventeen has committed suicide and wanders into the Chinese Land of the Dead, a dominion ruled by Goddess of Mercy and Monkey King. His elder sister, Twenty-One, has been reliving the night of the suicide in order to find her lost brother. Between the lines of life and death, the siblings reflect on identity and explore heritage, but in the end, they must face the ultimate question: if there is no love without pain, what does it mean to love?

Roger Yeh and Carolina Do. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The play combines references to Chinese mythology and Chinese Opera with a wide variety of pop culture references, including the Dance Dance Revolution arcade game and pachinko arcades. The title, "410[GONE]," refers to the http 410 status error code, “Gone,” which indicates that the requested resource has been intentionally removed and will not be available again. We're offered a multicultural take on the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, with death portrayed as something of a video game. Seventeen is moving through a digitally-enanced version of the traditional Chinese underworld, encountering the Goddess of Mercy and the Monkey God, who struggle to process the impact this intruder has in their ordered world. Meanwhile, his sister is searching for a meaningful solution to the mystery of his death. After a series of hilarious events between the lands of the living and the dead, Twenty-One finally meets Seventeen again only to realize she has to set him free.

When the play debuted at Crowded Fire Theatre in San Francisco in 2013, Hyphen Magazine, an Asian American cultural and arts publication, wrote, "410[GONE] re-organizes and layers familiar Asian American dramatic elements (traditional folk elements, etc.) and typical American experiences (fast food, etc.) to expose, but never define, Twenty-One’s grief, Seventeen’s spiritual dilemma, and a relationship between a brother and sister… Frances’ bricolage of imagery creates a cultural frame that is so emotionally accurate one forgets its critical role in creating the experience…If you cry at this play, don’t worry. It’s just because it hurts so good.” Subsequently, it was produced in 2015 at Brown University, the playwright's alma mater, where she began the play in 2005 as an independent study project that was mentored by Paula Vogel. At the time, the piece was titled "The Other Side of the Closet." This is the play's third prodution and its New York debut.

Roger Yeh and Carolina Do. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The actors are Carolina Do, Edgar Eguia, Meilin Gray, Gerardo Pelati and Roger Yeh. Scenic, costume and sound design are by Joseph Wolfslau. Lighting design is by Yi-Chung Chen. Production Stage Manager is Bonnie McHeffey.

Playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is author of "The World of Extreme Happiness," which was a finalist for Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2014-15 and was produced by Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center in 2015. Her plays have also been produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre of Great Britain, the Goodman Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2 [West End] and others. She has received the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award, an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the David A. Callichio Award and the Keene Prize for Literature. She holds an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, a BA in Sociology from Brown, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Cowhig was born in Philadelphia and raised in Northern Virginia, Okinawa, Taipei and Beijing. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Playwriting at UC Santa Barbara.

Director Chongren Fan's last production for Yangtze Rep, "Behind the Mask, a Play" by Chinese authors Feng BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo, was a dark comedy in which an ancient myth about blood and honor reveals the secret life of a Chinese theater troupe. Blogcritic Carole De Tosti wrote, "'Behind the Mask' is an intriguing view of China’s past and present. It reveals how the vehicle of drama can preserve and innovate, and meld history with currency. The production uplifts ancient cultural myths, distills the key principles, and incorporates these ideas with those of popular culture using humor. This premiere, seen for the first time in the U.S. and performed in Mandarin Chinese, is possible in the hands of an adept director, who has cleverly adapted the script and inspired the skilled actors. Coupled with the music and lighting design, 'Behind the Mask' works."

Most recently he directed "Lost in Shanghai" by playwright/composer Angel Lam at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and the Chinese premiere of "Stones in His Pockets" by Marie Jones (Olivier Award Best Comedy) at Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. He was a resident artist at Mabou Mines, a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow at Manhattan Theatre Club, and a Resident Director at the Flea Theater under its founding Artistic Director, Jim Simpson. He is also a video programmer for live performances. Recently he programmed projections for the North American Tour of Disney’s "Aladdin." He is a member of IATSE and an associate of SDC. He earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence. (

This production is made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. It is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council. 

MAY 6 & 7, 2017
Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America presents
An original bilingual experimental play production of

Two robbers enter an Italian restaurant in NYC on a snowy night. At the same time, a white girl steps into a traditional Chinese restaurant at noon. The two unrelated restaurants witness a funny but thought-provoking story. Here is the production by Yangtze Theater, an originally-written comedy play, "Twin Restaurants." 

Directed: Tony Wang
Written: Jiang Shan
Stage design: KK Wong
Stage manager: Yiru Chen

Peiyuan Huang, Grace Jin, Yi Liu, Darius McCall, Justin Moy, Laura Przybilla, Marija Skangale, Randy Ta, and Yi-Jun Zhao


Saturday May 6th, 2017 at 7:30PM
Sunday May 7th, 2017 at 8:00PM
Alchemical Theater Laboratory
104 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10011

General Admission $15.00 cash at the door
Seniors& Students $13.00 cash at the door with ID

The play will be performed in both English and Chinese; subtitles available.
To purchase tickets online:
Facebook Event:


Joanna Chan, Yangtze's cofounder, Artistic Director (1992-2014) and Emeritus Director, is inducted to the Museum of the City of New York.

Photo of Joanna Chan by Max Ho.

Joanna Chan is among 70 plus New Yorkers chosen from the city’s 400-year history for a permanent exhibition, "New York at its Core," at the Museum of the City of New York. Her life story as an artist and a pioneer of community and spiritual leader will be in an inactive, digital display along with those of other notable New Yorkers including Alexander Hamilton, David Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Fiorello LaGuardia and Jay Z.

As described by the Museum: "New York at its Core is a major, multi-media exhibition on New York City's sweeping 400-year history of growth and transformation. Five years in the making, it will tell the compelling story of New York's rise from a striving Dutch village to today's 'Capital of the World.' The exhibition captures the human energy that drove New York to become a city like no other through more than 400 objects and state-of-the-art interactives."

The exhibition is open to the public each day from 10: 00 AM until 6:00 PM. The Museum of the City of New York is located at 1220 Fifth Ave. (at 104th Street).


Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America Presents
Theater for the New City
MAY 6 TO 22, 2016

MIDNIGHT KILL -- The teachers of a rural Chinese hamlet in the 1970's are excited that Mei is pregnant. Li wonders if he's the father of the child. L-R: Robert Cheung, Bingcong Zhu, Wanning Jen, Chun Cho, Chien-Lun Lee.


June 25-July 12, 2015:
"Behind the Mask, a Play"
by Fang BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo (China)



"The Story of Yu-Huan" was performed May 30 to June 22, 2014.
See our gorgeous photo slideshow.

Full page interview of Joanna Chan -Wen Wei Pao, March, 2015
Joanna Chan on NBC "Dateline" June 9, 2014


Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America presented "Midnight Kill,"
written, directed and designed by K.K. Wong.
In a Chinese mountain hamlet in the 1970s, a school teacher's murder
reveals twisted, oppressed but indelible human desires.


L-R: Chien-Lun Lee, Wanning Jen, & Chun Cho.

In "Midnight Kill," written and directed by K.K. Wong, a school campus in a Chinese rural village during the 1970's becomes a theater of twisted, oppressed but indelible human desires. Daily mundane activities become an absurd performance of ordinary people's basic emotions. The play is based around an actual murder story that occurred in a mountain hamlet in Anhui province (China), where the author lived for five years. Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America will present the work's world premiere May 6 to 22 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., NYC. It will be performed in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles and will be completely accessible for English-speaking audiences.

Qihao Huang, Jia Hui Xiong, Chun Cho.

The play is a drama set among the teachers of a small elementary school in a rural farming village in northern China during the early 1970s, when China's Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution was at its height. Under the country's autocratic rule, extreme forms of collectivism, asceticism, and class warfare ran rampant in every corner of the country. In this crucible of passion, ideology and deprivation, a married woman has been having an affair with a young teacher. The play opens with the scene where the teacher has already killed the woman. The rest of the play traces their relationship as a flash back, eventually revealing the motivations behind the killing.

Chien-Lun Lee, Chun Cho and Bingcong Zhu as the three female teachers at the school.

The style of the play is symbolic and somewhat abstract, drawing the audience's attention to the internal world of the characters. It isn't a mystery per se, but it is designed to create suspense and anticipation. K.K. Wong writes, "I am just trying to present what was the general nature of ordinary people and how it was deformed, distorted and twisted in that particular environment. I hope the audience will simply get to know these people, who lived in the that small village far in Anhui, China in 70’s, with their their loves and hatreds, their hopes and their efforts to survive."

The stage design simulates two locations at a different times of the day in the village. Throughout the performance, the cast members will strategically shuffle stage elements to convert and merge the spaces into new scenes.

The actors are Robert Cheung, Chun Cho, Shan Y Chuang, Qihao Huang, Wanning Jen, Arthur Lai, Chien-Lun Lee, Jia Hui Xiong and Bingcong Zhu

Qihao Huang and Jia Hui Xiong.

Set design is by K.K. Wong. Lighting design is by Yi-Chung Chen. Composer and sound designer is Xiren Wang. Costume design is by Kevin Yang. Translator is Hai-Ying Li.

K.K. Wong (author, director, set designer) is a Cantonese born in Shanghai. He moved to Hong Kong and developed an impressive career both there and in China in the fine and performing arts, as a designer, painter and actor. His 60' x 10' calligraphy mural for the dance production of General YueFei for the Asian Festival in Hong Kong caused a sensation and established his fame as an artist. Subsequently, he served as set designer for Hong Kong Dance Companies’ production of "Red Snow, Lady Yu and Yellow Earth" that appeared in Beijing in 1988. Mr. Wong's calligraphy has been collected by Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Hong Kong Dance Company and other Japanese and overseas companies. His paintings are represented by MMI of contemporary arts in New York, and have been collected in the US, Germany, Malaysia and museums and galleries in China and in Hong Kong. A character actor both on stage and on screen, Mr. Wong had appeared in films and television series in China and Hong Kong. He migrated with his family to this country and made New York his home in 1989. He is Co-Artistic Director of Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America.

This production is made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. It is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council.



JUNE 25 TO JULY 12, 2015
by Chinese authors Feng BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo

An ancient myth about blood and honor reveals the secret life of a Chinese theater troupe in the dark comedy "Behind the Mask -- a Play" by Chinese authors Feng BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo, which is being newly adapted by Yangtze Repertory Theatre in a production helmed by Chinese-born director Chongren Fan. The play was performed in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles to be completely accessible for English-speaking audiences. English translation is by Kristen Hung. This U.S. premiere was presented by Yangtze Rep June 25 to July 12, 2015 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, East Village.

Francisco Huergo, Hui-Shurn Yong, Chris Smith, Viola Wang, Xiao Quan, Neil Redfield, Shan Y.Chuang, Esther Chen and Chien-Lun Lee. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

A play-within-a-play takes place in a theater space somewhere in China, where a nine-person troupe is rehearsing for a story about a Chinese mythical hero, Mei Jian Chi. As the myth is popularly known within Chinese culture, it depicts a tyrant, the King of Chu, who orders the death of his two master swordsmiths as part of a ritualized process to forge the world's sharpest blades, using human blood. Their son, Mei, seeking revenge, devises a death ploy with an errant by offering his own living but decapitated head to the King. Fragments of the mythical story switch in and out from snippets of mundane and personal follies of the struggling troupe during rehearsal. Through the play, we get to learn about the troupe and the pressures of the artistic life in contemporary China.

The original script was written in 1999 by Huang WeiRuo and Feng BaiMing. The contemporary part of the play--the troupe’s own story--was devised and created by Chongren Fan and ensemble.

The production featured an ensemble of nine who play various roles in the play. The actors were: Shan Y. Chuang, Esther Chen, Chien-Lun Lee, Xiao Quan, Viola Wang, Neil Redfield, Hui-Shurn Yong, Chris Smith and Francisco Huergo. Set and costume design were by K.K. Wong. Lighting design wasby Yi-Chung Chen. Mask design was by Andrew Diaz.

Director Chongren Fan was born in Shanghai and he is a New York-based stage director. Before coming to the U.S., he was Artistic Director of a Shanghai-based musical theatre company, All That Musical, where he directed productions including "Rent," "Spring Awakening" and "Seasons of Love: A Cabaret." He holds an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College's Multi-disciplinary Collaborative Theatre Program. He is currently a Resident Director at the Flea Theater, where he directed "The Final Kiss" last fall. He was a Jonathan Alper Directing Fellow at Manhattan Theatre Club where he was assistant director of "The World of Extreme Happiness." He was assistant director for A.R. Gurney’s "What I Did Last Summer" this season at Signature Theatre. He directed Goldberg Award winning play, "Nightfall," at NYU Tisch. He has worked on development projects with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, Ma-Yi Theatre Company, La MaMa, New Ohio Theatre, Dixon Place, Prototype Festival, American Dance Institute and Mecoon Theater (Shanghai, China).

Feng BaiMing (co-author) is a Chinese National First-class Playwright and Member of China’s National Television Drama Committee. His works include the operas "The Prairie," "Ocean," "White Reed/Red Kopak," "My Heart Soars" and "Dragon Fly," musicals "Equator Rain" and "Drama: Behind The Mask," and the TV Series "Water Rises in the Wind." He has received many Chinese national awards and recognitions, including the Five-One Project, Wenhua Award for Outstanding Dramatic Writing, National Stage Arts Project Top Ten Dramatic Works and the Chinese Cao Yu Prize for Drama.

Huang WeiRuo (co-author) is a playwright, dramatic theorist and professor at the Central Academy of Drama in China. His works in recent years include the operas "The Prairie," "Ocean," "My Heart Soars" and the drama "Behind The Mask" (all written with Feng BaiMing), also the plays "The King of Chu," "After Carnal Thoughts," "Zheng: The King of Qin" and "The Scholar and The Executioner." His TV series include "The Merchants of Hui" and "Life." He has been a repeat recipient of many national prizes including the Five-One Project, Wenhua Award for Outstanding Dramatic Writing, Chinese Cao Yu Prize for Drama and The FeiTian Award for Outstanding Television Writing.


Every time we see a play, we become travelers. The destination possibilities are as endless as our imaginations. When Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America is at the helm of our voyage, our trip is sure to be enthralling, mystical and fun....a total joy to behold....a sweet and gripping piece of theatre (Read the full review by Heather Chamberlain)

If your summer vacation doesn’t include a trip to China, you might consider an excursion to the lower East Side of Manhattan to see Behind The Mask, A Play by Chinese authors Feng BaiMing and Huang WeiRuo....The adaptation of the script and the direction by Chongren Fan are clear, clever and unobtrusive. (Read the full review by Ann Firestone Ungar)

"Behind the Mask" is an intriguing view of China’s past and present. It reveals how the vehicle of drama can preserve and innovate, and meld history with currency. The production uplifts ancient cultural myths, distills the key principles, and incorporates these ideas with those of popular culture using humor. This premiere seen for the first time in the U.S. and performed in Mandarin Chinese is possible in the hands of an adept director, who has cleverly adapted the script and inspired the skilled actors. Coupled with the music and lighting design, the Behind the Mask works. (Read the full review by Carold de Tosti)

We see the challenges – both professional and personal – of the acting profession as the various actors reveal snippets of their inner selves. Once again, we New Yorkers are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such a broad spectrum of cultural events. This energetic and enthusiastic cast made for a unique evening. (Read the full review by Brenda Repland)


Chongren Fan and K.K. Wong on Sinovision



"The Story of Yu-Huan"

Drama in two acts, written and directed by Joanna Chan
A bilingual drama with dance on the celebrated beauty (708-746 A.D.)
whose hanging death marked the decline of the mighty Tang Dynasty

visit photo album

May 30 to June 22, 2014 (closed)
A Yangtze Repertory Theatre prodiuction presented by Theatre for the New City
Theater for the New City (Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater), 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th St.)
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM.
Added performance Wed., 6/18 at 7:30 PM
$25.00 general admission; $20 for seniors and students; Wed. and Thurs. pay-what-you-can.
Box office: Smarttix 212-868-4444,
Reserve by email or call (516) 515-0630.
Running time: 2 hours (incl. intermission).
Previews May 30 & 31, opens June 1.


Yu-Huan, of the House of Yang, has been an undiminished subject of literature and fine arts throughout thirteen centuries. Her death marked the end of 130 years of unprecedented prosperity in China's Middle Kingdom and a golden age of artistic outpourings. Her life story is the subject of "The Story of Yu-Huan" by Joanna Chan, which was presented by Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America May 30 to June 22, 2014 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th St.), directed by the author and choreographed by Ashley Liang. This was was Joanna Chan's final production as Artistic Director of Yangtze Rep.




Full page interview of Joanna Chan -Wen Wei Pao, March, 2015


Joanna Chan

The NBC story begins, "Within the walls of Sing Sing, a convicted murderer has convinced a nun that there has been a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Eric Glisson

The NBC news team, led by Lester Holt, reports on the case of Eric Glisson, a Bronx resident who was wrongfully convicted of murder nearly 20 years ago. Glisson was an inmate in Sing Sing when in 2006 he met Joanna Chan, the Maryknoll nun who is Artistic Director of Yangtze Rep in New York City, through her work in the prison's theater program.

Glisson's conviction has been overturned thanks to Sister Joanna (known in Sing Sing as "Grandma") and the efforts of lawyer Peter A. Cross, who has represented her theater company, and of Mr. Cross's assistant, Charmaine Chester.



THE STORY OF YU-HUAN, reviewed by Theatre is Easy

MING PAO, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST and MMAGAZINE on "The Soongs" at Hong Kong Rep, Jan. 2014

EMPRESS DOWAGER reviewed by Eugene Paul in (2013)

THE CHALK CIRCLE reviewed by Glenda Frank in New York Theatre Wire (2012)

THE EMPRESS OF CHINA reviewed by Kelly Aliano in Offoff Online (2011)

OEDIPUS REX in Sing Sing Prison reviewed by Carib Life (2006)

NY TIMES ARTICLE on Joanna Chan's production of "Oedipus Rex" at Sing-Sing prison, Ossining, NY

NY TIMES REVIEW of "Luna," an evening of dance, choreographed by Max Luna III (September 22-23, 2006)

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW of our production of "Teahouse," performed in NYC by Beijing People's Art Theatre (November 27-December 1, 2005)

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November 16, 2006
Editorial Observer

Oedipus Max: Four Nights of Anguish and Applause in Sing Sing

To enter a maximum-security prison to see inmates put on a Greek tragedy, in this case Oedipus Rex, at Sing Sing is to descend into an echo chamber of ironies. An ancient story of murder and banishment brought to life by banished murderers. Imaginary horrors summoned in solid flesh by men whose own stories are horrifying and real.

It’s a lot to ponder as you hand over wallet, keys, watch and train schedule at the prison entrance. As for your illusions and misperceptions about inmates and prison life, those you surrender inside.

I went to Sing Sing with the play’s director, Sister Joanna Chan of the Maryknoll order, whose headquarters is not far from the Hudson River bluffs on which Sing Sing has hunkered since the 1820s. Sister Joanna, who is petite, Chinese and in her 60s, had been working with the inmates since June, and Friday’s performance was the last in a four-night run. The cast and crew, serving time for murder, rape, robbery, assault and other crimes, called her Grandma.

We walked through long, low corridors to the auditorium, called the Chapel, with a high ceiling of exposed steel beams and the grimy yellow light of bare bulbs. Nuns and other visitors from town nibbled cheese cubes and drank coffee from paper cups. A few mingled with inmates, easy to pick out not by their air of menace but by their green pants.

There were jitters in the room, not in the audience but in the cast and crew, the bustling nerves of any amateur production. Previous nights had gone well, I was told. The play had even won over B-block, a brutal crowd. Tonight’s show was for guests, and the final chance to shine.

I met the assistant director, an inmate with a white skullcap and deep-set eyes who went by his Muslim name, Bilal. He told me how faith helped him to face his guilt in murder, and how theater polished the tarnished gem inside. Like other inmates I met, he had the taut intensity of someone gripping his beliefs tightly, so as not to let them get away.

Sing Sing, the former home of Old Sparky, is not widely known as a progressive place. But its theater program is a rarity in New York prisons. It relies on a nonprofit group, Rehabilitation Through the Arts, and the savvy benevolence of Sing Sing’s superintendent, Brian Fischer, who considers its virtues self-evident.

The inmates chose Oedipus Rex because they had done more than a dozen productions, including Jitney, by August Wilson, and wanted something really difficult. Sister Joanna persuaded them to choose Sophocles over Shakespeare, since it was more accessible and would fit in the maximum allowed two hours.

She took me backstage before the curtain rose. The cast and crew held hands in a circle and prayed for a good show. Jocasta, Oedipus’s wife and mother, was an actress from New York City and the cast’s only non-inmate. She told everyone how proud she was. Oedipus, with tongue-in-cheek pomposity, demanded silence and offered encouragement. Please, let’s kill them all," he said. We all knew what he meant.

Then everyone came in close to lay hands on Bilal’s head and to give the program shout: R.T.A.!

The room went dark, gloomy music rumbled, and the lights came up on the temple pillars and plague-wracked citizens of Thebes, who wore bedsheet togas over T-shirts and green pants. Oedipus entered, his raised arms N.F.L.-thick, his dreadlocks wrapped in regal gold ribbons. The cast was almost all black or Hispanic, except for the Priest, a lanky bearded Shepherd and a dark-haired fireplug of a Messenger No. 1.

This production went to Greece by way of the five boroughs, as the ancients were summoned to be asked important questions about a foretold murder. But the men hit their marks precisely, and moved and spoke with elegance and conviction. If they were haunted by the play’s resonance in their lives, they didn’t show it. They seemed like people trying to produce art, and in so doing to somehow assert an identity better than the one of murderer, rapist, robber, that had overwhelmed all others.

As I watched, I wondered what it would be like to be defined by my own worst sins. It struck me that when people are locked up for horrible crimes, a lot of goodness and beauty necessarily get locked up too. It also seemed that the Theban society onstage, though afflicted by plague, vengeance and divine cruelty, was probably gentler and saner than the one the inmates knew. Its members clearly cared for one another, and were not numb to grief.

When Oedipus made his final entrance, blinded and lurching, from stage left, the Chorus trembled, and shock and sorrow rose on cue in the hushed auditorium, just as it has for the last 2,500 years.

Sister Joanna told me later that chorus members had been reluctant in rehearsal to touch one another, though they eventually got past it. Oedipus, a man of conspicuous self-control, had particular trouble losing it for his final breakdown, when he collapses into the arms of Creon, his uncle and brother-in-law. He didn’t pull it off until Monday’s dress rehearsal. On Friday, Sister Joanna thought she saw real tears.

After the curtain fell and the cheers and applause finally died, the crew joined the cast onstage, with officers quickly posted on the left and right steps. The inmates crowded the footlights, straining for the hands of audience members who filed slowly past to say thank you, great job, wonderful show. Clearing the room of visitors in small escorted groups took nearly an hour. The inmates never stopped chattering and hugging, their faces shining with relief, and with the yearning to savor every moment before the spell was broken and they were taken to their cells.


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Dance Review | Luna
Inspired by the Miracle and the Vagaries of Love

Published: September 25, 2006

Max Luna III took his audience on a winding ride on Friday night in choreography presented by the Yangtze Repertory Theater of America at the Schimmel Center at Pace University. The evening opened with two dances so blandly generic — though one, “Cold Song," featured a powerful performance by Jason Jordan — that you wondered not where the real Mr. Luna was hiding, but if he indeed existed.

Performers in an evening of dance choreographed by Max Luna III, a former Alvin Ailey dancer. Photo by Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Mr. Luna, a former Alvin Ailey dancer, emerged in two pieces that made it plain that he had something of his own to say and the skill to say it. He works in a modern-dance idiom colored by the traditional dancing of his native Philippines, represented in “Tinig Ng Lupa," the evening’s closing dance.

“The Hurt We Embrace," to music by Jan Kaczmarek, was a traditional wrecked-relationship duet, but the vagaries of love were observed and communicated with extra shrewdness in choreography performed with affecting intensity by Joseph Watson II and Roberta Sorrenti. Everything came together in Mr. Luna’s new “Mga Awit (A Love Cycle for Voice, Cello & Piano)," danced to music full of dramatic incident, composed by Michael Dadap and performed live by Sal Malaki (tenor), Marc Tagle (cello) and Cynthia Guerrero DeLeon (piano).

Mr. Luna’s program notes describe the piece as “dedicated to my partner, Alan, who has shown me that the miracle of love renews and grows through the cycles of life." The suite brims with cycles of growth and renewals, particularly in two group segments that stand out for their unexpected thrusts and patterns. Mr. Luna knows how to move his dancers and juxtapose them and his onstage musicians. The bright opening solo by Matt Anctil and a lush duet for Mr. Jordan and Mica Bernas are as authoritative, and feel as personal. Good dancers all, so why no program biographies?

Review of our presentation of:

China's most prestigious theater company in its New York debut.
November 27 to December 1, 2005
Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University
3 Spruce Street, New York City

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Photo by Beijing People's Art Theatre. (Not from published review.)

Steeped in 50 Years of China's Subjugation

Published: December 1, 2005

There is nothing in Western culture that quite corresponds with the traditional teahouse in China. The corner pub or Old West saloon come to mind, but as the captivating and beautifully acted production of Lao She's "Teahouse" by the Beijing People's Art Theater makes clear, there is no place that offers as broad a panorama of its society.

First performed in 1958, "Teahouse" has been a favorite work of one of China's favorite writers, before and after the Cultural Revolution. The current revival, which is performed in Mandarin with English supertitles and sponsored in New York by the Yangtze Repertory Theater, is playing a limited run that ends tonight at Pace Downtown Theater, 3 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan.

Photo by Nan Melville for the New York Times

The play covers 50 years of Chinese history, and a unifying theme that runs through it is the subjugation, often willing, of China to foreign interests and powers through the first half of the 20th century. Spending an evening at the Yutai teahouse with the Beijing Theater helps explain the excesses of Maoism.

All of the action takes place in the teahouse, owned by Wang Lifa. The cross section of its customers range from pimps, gangsters and opium addicts to rich idlers who bring songbirds in their cages for entertainment, government spies, secret policemen and rebels. Tea is not the only commodity sold there.

The first act takes place in 1898, on the eve of the Boxer Uprising, as the Qing dynasty is in its death throes and although the Yutai denizens still wear their hair in pigtails, British influence is paramount. Poverty in the countryside is rampant, and peasants go to the teahouse to sell their children to wealthy mandarins.

The second act jumps forward 20 years to the time just after the death of Yuan Shih-kai, the successor to Sun Yat-sen as head of the Chinese republic. Warlords, each backed by a foreign power, have split China apart and the country is in a state of perpetual civil war. Wang has tried to keep his teahouse intact by taking in students as boarders and adding entertainment by way of a gramophone. Many of his old customers still appear, but in vastly altered circumstances.

The final act takes place in 1948. The Japanese occupiers have left, but the Kuomintang, also under foreign influence, has again turned the tables on the teahouse's customers, many of them bynow the sons and daughters of those in Act I and some of whom want to tear down the teahouse and replace it with shops full of foreign goods.

If at one level "Teahouse" seems like a primer on pre-Communist Chinese history, it is Lao She's development of his characters over two generations that makes it exciting theater. A stellar cast of about 30 give a brilliant master class in ensemble acting, led by Liang Guanhua as Wang, Pu Cunxin as Master Chang and Yang Lixin as Master Qin. This is the first visit to New York by the Beijing People's Art Theater, and I hope it returns again soon.

Photo by Beijing People's Art Theatre (Not from published review.)


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