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Politics and Theatre in the PRC: Fifty Years of Teahouse on the Chinese Stage

From: Asian Theatre Journal
Volume 30, Number 1, Spring 2013
pp. 90-121 | 10.1353/atj.2013.0017



Ever since its introduction to China in the early twentieth century, spoken drama (huaju) has been at the forefront of social and political changes. Its realistic portrayal of life and use of spoken dialogue made it an ideal vehicle to promote social reforms and to serve politics. This study investigates the relationship between politics and theatre in the People's Republic of China by focusing on a masterpiece of modern Chinese drama: Lao She's play Chaguan (Teahouse, 1957), which chronicles fifty years of modern Chinese history from the demise of the Qing dynasty to the eve of the communist victory. This essay examines how historical events are portrayed, how history served as a commentary on political conditions of the 1950s, and how changing political climates have affected the productions and reception of this play. It asks whether the new critical opinions of the past few years that question the earlier politically correct interpretation might invite new ways to stage the script.

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