- Editor's Note
This issue starts with "Three Dollars in National Currency: A One-Act Comedy by Ding Xilin," a play translated by Christopher Rea. The play and Rea's introduction show the reactions of the writer Ding Xilin to the politics of Japanese-occupied China in the 1930s. Barbara Thornbury's article on kabuki in New York in the 1960s extends observations of the Japanese-American post–World War II interactions in politics and arts. Claire Pamment in another article discusses the reactions of Pakistani popular performers to the ongoing political crises of that country in 2007. Comedy is a space to mock injustice and try the heads of the government.
As I edited these and other articles I thought of the political turmoil that has marked our world so overtly since 2001. I wondered about the what-ifs. For example, what if the experimentation of Xiong Foxi discussed by Siyuan Lui in "A Mixed-Blooded Child, Neither Western Nor Eastern" had not been cut short by the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s. Would huaju look different in China than it does now? But spending too much times on what-if's cannot lead forward.
What is more useful is to see performers, past or present, engaging with their political and social circumstances and using art to think through situations. We do not always have the power to determine what happens. There are days when I feel like the hero of Ding Xilin's play—it seems like the most an artist can do is a smash vase and make a gesture. The hero protests class injustice in China and notes the frustration of war, when he offers a bullying mistress "three dollars in national currency" as the price of freedom of speech.
But the artist does have power to respond to events. Performance lets us think things through in a troubled world. In the beauty or art and the jibes of the clown we can seek solutions, out loud and in the presence of others.