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University Theatre to Present Avant-Garde Chinese Drama

Friday, March 14, 2014

The University Theatre continues its 2013-2014 season with Gao Xingjian’s The Other Shore in the William Inge Theatre, Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith. Performances run April 11, 12, 15, 16, & 17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 13 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for The Other Shore are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $15 for the public, $14 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

The Other Shore draws on Chinese culture to tell the story of an ensemble who seek enlightenment from their current circumstances and decide to travel to "the other shore." Once they reach this mysterious land across a body of water, they must rediscover what it means to be human in order to survive. As they meet other beings, they learn about consequences, leadership, manipulation, faith and love.

The play was written by Gao Xingjian, the 2000 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gao sustained more than 20 years of persecution and censorship in his native China before emigrating to France and becoming a successful playwright and dramaturg. Targeted for his avant-garde ideas, Gao was sentenced to a six-year "re-education" during the Cultural Revolution and later entered a temporary exile after several of his plays were banned. Returning to Beijing in 1984, Gao began production of The Other Shore in 1986. After one month of rehearsals, the play was banned as part of Communist attempts to cleanse the arts of "foreign influences." Permanently fleeing his homeland in 1987, Gao settled in Paris, a political refugee. Now a French citizen, his plays are banned in China to this day.

The production is performed by a versatile ensemble of eleven actors who take on varied roles throughout the play. Director Alison Christy, Detroit doctoral student, explains, “The ensemble is being told to play a game without knowing the rules. This game is not hopeful – it’s pessimistic, brutal even.”  The objective of the play is “illumination of self” and the playwright utilizes nontraditional means of storytelling which allows for new insights for the characters, actors, and audiences. Christy describes the play as a “series of moments that show these rather fleeting discoveries.”

The designers for this production are challenged to create a world that can support this ambiguous milieu. The world created is “constantly shifting and changing, which can be interesting and terrifying at the same time,” says Christy. The design team includes costume designer Casey McNamara, Kansas City, Mo., masters student; lighting designer Pamela Rodríguez-Montero, Heredia, Costa Rica, masters student; and scenic designer Nannan Gu, Yantai, China, masters student.

Joe Lilek, Bethesda, Md., sophomore, serves as assistant director of the production and Katie Turkalo, Topeka junior, is stage managing. The ensemble includes Elizabeth Ernst, Kansas City, Mo., junior; Krista Jarboe, Girard sophomore; Ashley Kennedy, Lawrence junior; Aden Lindholm, McPherson sophomore; Christoph Nevins, Overland Park sophomore; Eric Palmquist, Lawrence junior; Emily Schwerdtfeger, Columbus, Ohio, freshman; Eric Shin, Seoul, Korea, freshman; Ashton Wilkin, Lenexa sophomore; Laurie Winkel, Topeka senior; and Blair-Lawrence Yates, Canterbury, England, junior.

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