Sorry this took so long. In October I put up an installation project of all my research this summer and composed a 30-minute video summarizing the highlights of my experience. Here is the link to it: it includes interviews with subtitles! and some other random footage of Avignon, Edinburgh, and Ghent which is otherwise not found on this blog. 

Right now I’m working on gathering resources to go to Moscow this summer. I hope to continue my work by seeing a bunch of Russian theatre, interviewing Russian theatre artists, and documenting it all to share with y’all! Let me know if you know of any good grants or scholarships to aid me! 

Thank you and Enjoy!

Interview with Sun Li-Tsuei

Sun Li-Tsuei: My name is Sun Li-Tsuei. I’m presenting my show, “The Lotus Eater”, at the “Roquille” space at 5pm everyday until July 30th.

Me: What is your process or preparation for when you do you your show?

Sun Li-Tsuei: Ah, I find it is something very special- to exchange the idea- not only between the artists- but with the world. Because right now, the world is becoming smaller- and everything- i’m finding- is developing very quickly. And, maybe [during these time]- it is necessary to exchange things more clearly- because, even now..- for example, in China, things have just opened up in the last 20 years. So, one has a lot to learn, and one has a lot to show. Because the Chinese culture is not completely understood by the western world. So, I find it very good-[I] can share the idea of [Chinese] traditional culture. That is for… if we can understand [the culture of] each other, its easier to accept each other.

TRACK 3 trailer

Watch this one! Watch how they move!

Track 3 show breakdown – Three Sisters Renovated

While in Edinburgh, I saw a group from Los Angeles perform a renovation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters which involved hyper-stylized movement, stripped-bare text, and loud colors- creating a funny and thrilling roller coaster of a show that got to the heart of the masterpiece in 70 minutes.

Track 3


1. Dirty facts; who did the show, for which festival, and where was it presented?

Theatre Movement Bazaar, a group from Los Angeles “dedicated to creating original performance works” that “merge elements of dance, text, cinema and media from diverse sources to create provocative theatrical storytelling with an emphasis on physical action” presented the production for the Edinburgh Festival.

track3venue1 track3venue2 <Many of the venues were in old historic buildings that looked like Hogwarts. Here is the front of the venue in which Track 3 was performed. 

2. Give a brief breakdown of the premise/play/plot. 

Three Sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina, are stuck in a country house and are dying to get to Moscow. Their beloved brother, Andrei, who was supposed to be a professor, is getting married to a nagging woman, Natasha, whom the family abhors. Finally, their house is always full of officers (Tuzenbach, Vershinin, etc.) who fall in love with the sisters. Years go by and nobody is ever truly happy. Love relationships remain broken or unfulfilled, Andrei grows weary of his wife/never finds a job that meets his potential, and the sisters never get to Moscow.

Track 3 uses the same story, location, and characters as Chekhov’s Three Sisters but creates a new theatre language to convey them. Pages of dialogue are reduced and replaced with heightened movement which simplifies and exaggerates the heart of the action to make it more clear to the audience. When the family is bragging about Andrei- listing his accomplishments as a a musician, talking about how he could be a professor, etc.- Andrei stands downstage right as the ensemble seamlessly scooches the entire dining room (long table, chairs, etc.) towards him with every praise. Masha’s last encounter with Vershinin consists only of a few short sentences exchanged between the two from opposite sides of the stage and a running leap from Masha into Vershinin’s arms.

The opening montage is the three sisters dancing with spoons. The women set the spoons on the front of the stage to remain for the duration of the play. By the end of the play, a fork has found its way in with the spoons- making for Natasha’s notorious line, “What is this fork doing here?” all the more poignant.

3. What stood out to you about this production or the interview?

PACE. Never in my life have I seen a show that had such spotless pace as this one. There was no air in the entire play- everything was jokes and energy and back and forth- UNTIL the last couple of devastating scenes when only a few, well-deserved silences are taken (Masha’s leap to Vershinin, the space after Olga’s, “if only we knew”). 

Most of the interactions between the characters happened with all of the ensemble facing towards the audience rather than looking at each other. Listening happened with in-tune bodies instead of with locked eyes- so that the actors could deliver everything directly to the audience while simultaneously being in communication with each other.

Movement. All of the actors had an electric, demanding presence on the stage. I attribute it to the grandness and specificity in their movement. Every single movement (even just a wave of the arm) was made at 100% and no movement was made without a specific need or purpose. And every movement came as a reaction to all of the movement around it; the physical unity between the ensemble seemed to move the entire stage (even literally, when they all moved the living room in a millisecond).

The bright colors and loud design. Natasha’s broad lime green ribbon belt. Irina’s towering black Dr.Seuss wig with a hot pink bow on top. The big choices on the design side were every bit as magnetic as the big choices in the acting.

4. What have you learned that you will be able to apply to your artistry?  

“We strive to reinvigorate the theatre for contemporary audiences” - Theatre Movement Bazaar website

This play was fast and loud but exploding with specificity. Rather than having to give my attention to the stage, I found it was stolen from me. GO GRAND. Stay specific, but GO GRAND- it reinvigorates classic theatre for our contemporary, fast-paced, and multitasking audience by giving them something so bright and fast they can’t tear their eyes away for even a second to check their buzzing i-phone screen.

Going Grand= big + specific movement, fast pace, and a hyper-focused ensemble in tune with their surroundings.

The spread of Western Post-Modern Theatre in China- Show Breakdowns for “Le Roi Lear, Vacuité” (King Lear, Vacuity) and “La Fleur dans le mirroir et la lune dans l’eau” (The Flower in the Mirror and the Moon in the Water”)

While in Avignon, I fortunate enough to see two productions from China which were directed by Meng Jinghui who is “un des plus influent metteur en scène en Asie et le pionnier du théâtre expérimental chinois” (one of the most influential directors in Asia and the pioneer of Chinese experimental theatre- taken from the show program).

I also befriended one of the volunteers with the company named Zhu Jun and she helped me get a lot of interviews in both English and French, which you can see in below posts. What I got from all three of the interviews is that there is a western-influenced modern theatre movement on the rise in China. But the movement is difficult financially because China is still a developing country. It’s difficult culturally because the productivity-oriented attitude held by many Chinese people does not have the patience for a slower, new type of theatre which may provoke more questions than provide answers. However, as these artists demonstrate, China is changing and more modern/post-modern art is on the rise.

Here are breakdowns for the shows I saw:

Le Roi Lear, Vacuité (King Lear, Vacuity)


1. Dirty facts; who did the show, for which festival, and where was it presented?

The “Meng Junghui Theatre Studio” did the show- it had one sole performer and his name was Zhang Yicheng. You can see an interview with Zhang Yicheng in a video below. It was presented for the Festival D’Avignon Off in the Théâtre Golovine.

2. Give a brief breakdown of the premise/play/plot. 

“Dans la vie quodienne, nous nous lavons chaque jour le visage, les mains, les pieds, le corps. Dans nos rêves, nos cerveaux sont aussi lavés par les souvenirs d’heir, la souffrance d’aujourd’hui, l’illusion de demain. Entre les mouvements singuliers des acteurs et les divers images, nous découvrons un Roi Lear seul avec le cerveau vide. Ni soucis, ni joie, ni espoir, rien de rien. Il n’y a plus que le sang qui se soulève.”

“In everyday life, we wash every day our face, our hands, our feet, our bodies. In our dreams, our brains are also washed from the memories of yesterday, the suffering of today, the illusion of tomorrow. Between singular movements of the actors and different images, we discover a King Lear, alone with an empty brain. There is not worry, not joy, not hope, nothing [in his brain]. There is no more than the blood which raises.” – Show Program

A silent movement piece combining elements of dance and martial arts. One man, alone onstage with paper, paper bag lanterns, and his cigarette and lighter, searches for an answer. He needs something to fill the hole and calm the chaos. Starting out slowly, he gathers courage and breaks out of his circle of paper bags. He gets wound up, he smokes, he’s calm. He’s immersed in piles of papers. He tries to organize them. He messes them up. He throws them to the side. A bag lights up. More bags light up. He finds he can light all the bags, except for one. He does everything to try to light this un-lightable bag. He turns all the others off. He sets it on a chair, he throws at it, he prays to it, he pretends to abandon it. He turns all the other bags on, but now, they too, are flickering and not being lit.  Finally, exhausted, he gathers the bag and curls up into a ball on the floor and falls asleep. The bag alights. He finds the thing, the answer, only in his serenity, with in himself.

3. What stood out to you about this production or the interview?

The plot was simple through out the show; break out of the paper circle, organize the papers, light the lantern, etc. However, the actor was extremely committed to each action, performing them as if his life depended on it- even when a possible end result wasn’t clear (how on earth would one organize all those blank papers?) He was dedicated to the moment. Also, the way the piece was choreographed, there would be several random movements all in one aim (for example, a fifteen-minute series of martial arts pliés in preparation to leave the circle of paper bags),  but the actor devoted himself to the perfection of each movement like it was absolutely necessary to complete the objective. He made the unnecessary necessary and compelling. He made the mundane urgent.

The type of movement combined a mixture of dance and martial arts. It was very effective in its use of isolated tension and release. Movements would be built slowly, with focused tension, and then released completely with a quick exhale. In the beginning of the show, the actor’s movements picked up in pace until it was a constant back and forth of tense, focused, shot movements- and then he took a drag of his cigarette and the relaxation went like a visible wave through each muscle in his body, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Every relaxation was earned. It gave the piece a storytelling range of tempo and energies.

4. What have you learned that you will be able to apply to your artistry?  

Take your time but don’t lose intent. The audience will be patient and attentive as long as you are still on a full and active commitment/journey.

Simple, symbolic, and repetitive actions can remain compelling as well as echo larger-than-life themes if they are done by the actors with life-dependent focus and dedication.

La Fleur dans le mirroir et la lune dans l’eau (The flower in the mirror and the moon in the water)


1. Dirty facts; who did the show, for which festival, and where was it presented?

This a piece that originated at the Beijing Fringe Festival. It was presented at the Festival D’Avignon OFF. You can read/watch an interview with one of the actors in a below post.

2. Give a brief breakdown of the premise/play/plot. 

To be honest, it has unfortunately now been more than a month since I’ve seen this play and its plot didn’t stick as well in my head as some other shows’ that I saw due to the heightened language and convoluted narrative. While I still remember powerful scenes and images, I can’t give a good outline of the play. So, here is a plot summary from the OFF program:

“Cette pièce poétique en quatre chapitres, neuf histoires, et six personnages ne tente pas de suivre le fil d’une narration mais de nous faire méditer sur un voyage mystérieux.
- Une femme rêve d’un homme qui est tombé amoureux d’une femme prénommée Shui (L’eau)
- Dans le terminal de l’aéroport, une hôtesse aux écouteurs se souvient de son chien et de son ami qui l’a abandonné
- Un homme qui s’appelle Jing (Miroir) étudie “De l’origine des espèces” de Darwin
- Une femme se réveille et découvre qu’elle est déjà dans un autre rêve
- Jing se penche, un autre rêve commence” 

“This poetic play in four chapters, nine stories, and six characters does not attempt to follow one narration but to make us meditate on a mysterious journey.

-One women dreams of a man who is in love with a woman named Shui (Water).

-In the terminal of the airport, one hostess with headphones remembers her dog and her friend who abandonned her.

-One man named Jing (Mirror) studies “the origin of species” by Darwin.

-One woman wakes up and discovers that she is already in another dream.

-Jing bends over [to study] and another dream begins.”

The play jumped between settings, both real and surreal. It used heavy spoken text (Chinese with French-subtitles), video projections, and choral work.

3. What stood out to you about this production or the interview?

The stylized utilization of the Beckett-like text. The actors faced us for all of their dialogue between each other (and not between each other)- except for once in a while, when it was earned. When they did break the eye contact with the audience, it added a new depth to the scene. This was also used in a stylized physical adaptation of The Three Sisters (entitled Track 3) which I will write about in my next post.

4. What have you learned that you will be able to apply to your artistry?  

Overall, my view has been expanded concerning the development of theatre in China. I also am left wondering; is “western” style theatre (as the actor in the interview described modern work) really “western” once it has been adopted by an eastern country? Wouldn’t the eastern country have come to the same furthered development of theatre anyways had they the same liberating political and economic circumstances as the West or are there several possible trajectories in the growth of art? In this globalized, über-connected age, we are sharing more and more with the whole world and everything is mixing together. People are People. Art is Art. When two people from different cultures can connect over one art style / art work, I think it makes that art take on universality in its identity.

The rest of the interview with actor from La Fleur dans le mirroir

Him: Why did I become an actor? … That’s very… hmmm… sometimes I ask myself the same question. In the beginning it was very easy- to respond to everybody [asking me that question. I would say,"I would love a life discovering other lives, seeing the rest of the world"] – all of that. But more and more, what I find is – how do you say it- it’s a duty to do it- to make heard the texts- to… how do you say it…- it’s necessary to share. [One must act because] it’s necessary to share. It’s necessary to share a feeling, a poem, a story, and also to defend something- it’s simple in a sense- to engage politically, etc. Yes. I think its that. [Acting is] a duty. It is necessary to do it. Some people do it, and I’m one of them.

Me : Great, thank you. In your opinion, what is the role of theatre in China and how is theatre developing in China?

Him: The theatre in China right now, is difficult in the sense that there is not a lot of money [for it] and the public has the need to- how does one say it- the public is like a baby, they need to be taken care of, but one can’t really put on plays for them. But, it’s truly growing with what we have here, because the theatre- for us anyways- is already a western form. It’s not Chinese. It’s not like the [old] opera- the Beijing Opera- or another traditional Chinese form. There is a new level of text and also one has [nothing but] catastrophes between [what is said politically] so… one is trying to say something. More human, more open, and sometimes, more advanced.

Me: Great. Thank you very much!

Him: Oh, it was nothing. :)


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