Tiananmen Square and Han-let or The Orphan of China: A Collaboration between History and Co-authors—An Interview with Faye C. Fei and William Sun
- Theatre Topics
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 2, Number 2, September 1992
- pp. 129-134
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Tiananmen Square and Han-let or The Orphan of China: A Collaboration between History and Co-authorsÂ—An Interview with Faye C. Fei and William Sun Roberta Sabbath Han-let or The Orphan of China At curtain, a woman, alone on stage, addresses the audience. She explains that as a United States director-in-residence in Shanghai and as a guest of the Chinese government, she was rehearsing an experimental production of a Beijing (traditional) Chinese opera when news of the Beijing Tiananmen Square massacre reached her. That evening, the United States consulate advised her to leave China within 48 hours. A Chinese student runs into the theatre, seeking haven from the military police and searching for his sister, an actress with the company in her last rehearsal. He explains that he returned to China from the United States, where he studied Western theatre, to join the student solidarity movement in Shanghai. When the military attacked the students in Beijing, the government also orchestrated a round-up of all protesters throughout the country. The entire company discusses the situation and decides to protect the student. When the first soldier arrives, the student is on stage, interweaving lines he remembers from Hamlet, a Western revenge play, with the lines from The Orphan of China, a Chinese revenge play. The soldier does not seem to notice the student and only interrupts the play to protest dialogue suggestive of current events. (Later it is learned that he was trying to protect the student.) Other soldiers arrive who expose the student. A struggle follows. After torture, the student confesses his mistakes. The soldiers curse the audience for watching the anti-government work. They order the spectators to remember the "truth, " as stated in the confession. The soldiers hurl threats at the audience. The play ends. Faye Fei and William Sun wrote Han-let or The Orphan of China, a collaborative play, to commemorate their reaction to the Tiananmen Square massacre, June 3-4,1989. China is their homeland. Too young to be involved in the Cultural Revolution, they had not experienced the ferocity of governmental vengeance. Before Tiananmen Square, they never had to be concerned about government censors. Although the State pays all the salaries, at that time it allowed individual organizations to make independent decisions. Their work had never been censored. Fei and Sun's play, China Dream, ran in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, and New York in 1987 without government censor. Sun's play, He'll Be Out of the Mountains, directed by Richard Schechner, was in production at the Shanghai People's Art Theater that spring and summer of 1989. The United States Information Agency (USIA) sponsored Schechner's trip while the Chinese 129 130 Roberta Sabbath government funded the production. Fei and Sun lived in the United States as special correspondents for the most authoritative publication dealing exclusively with nondomestic theatre, caUed Foreign Theater, published by the government-sponsored AU Chinese Theater Artist Association. Both Fei and Sun had left China with the permission of their home universities and with the expectation that they would be returning. Fei was finishing her doctorate at the City University of New York (CUNY). Sun was finishing his at New York University (NYU). They awaited the birth of their first child. Then, the news of violence at Tiananmen Square reached them. From the television in their apartment, Fei and Sun saw government troops fire at their own people. They knew the peaceful tactics of these students differed from the deadly student activities of the Cultural Revolution. As guests on Sunday Night with Garrick Utley, The Larry King Show, and Good Morning America with Joan Lunden, Fei and Sun explained the events in Beijing to American audiences. Privately, they boUed with rage and frustration. At first, in shock, they were completely consumed by the news of the massacre. Finally, Fei and Sun decided to share their pain by giving voice to their emotions. They decided to coUaborate on a play. At that time, they could not formulate a narrative. Then, Richard Scheduler called. The United States consulate advised him to leave China immediately. The play would open without its director. Sun went to New York's...