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  • Books Received
Reviewed by:
  • Snow in Midsummer by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig
  • Kathy Foley
SNOW IN MIDSUMMER. By Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. London: Bloomsbury [Methuen Drama], 2017. Paperback, $14.95.

Snow in Midsummer is a contemporary rewrite of the Chinese Yuan period zaju Injustice Done to Dou E, which was staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in March 2017. The Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig to adapt the thirteenth century work, giving it a contemporary spin. Michael Billington, reviewing it in The Guardian, "found the initially perplexing narrative grew on me as the evening progressed" and globalization, patriarchy, climate change and other issues interacted. The revenge play is given a contemporary context. The reader is taken to a liminal space where soap opera, ghost play, and courtroom drama intersect, with contemporary activism added. Thunderstorm (Cao Yu) and Ghosts (Ibsen) seem to form models to the work as well. The ideas are interestingly chosen but do not fit precisely on the page, although they might be fun to stage. The overall project seeks to educate Western audiences about the Chinese classic while at the same time it creates a contemporary piece concerning organ sales. The reviewer of the production noted that Justin Audibert's staging and Lily Arnold's design supported the premise of a performance where the ghostly and the earthly coexist. [End Page 270]

Kathy Foley
University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Voices of Taiwanese Women: Three Contemporary Plays ed. by John Weinstein
  • David Jortner
VOICES OF TAIWANESE WOMEN: THREE CONTEMPORARY PLAYS. Edited by John Weinstein. Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series [Cornell East Asia Program], 2015. Paperback, $43.46; Hardcover, $40.87.

In this anthology, John Weinstein has compiled three plays based in the community theatre (shequ juchang) movement in Taiwan from the past twenty years. What is most notable is that these plays tell the stories of Taiwan's cultural and linguistic minorities such as the Fujian province immigrants or Hakka peoples. These plays are also interesting because they are authored by women; this stands in contrast to the popular theatre which is based in Taipei and is predominantly male dominated. The plays included in the anthology are Hsu Rey-Fang's The Phoenix Trees are in Blossom (1994, revised 1997), We are Here (1999) by Peng Ya-Ling, and One Year, Three Seasons (2000) by Wang Chi-Mei. These plays explore questions of identity and history; they use innovative dramaturgical models to give rise to voices often excluded from the Taiwanese mainstream. In addition, all three plays employ the local languages of Taiwanese and Hakka. Moreover, the lines spoken in these languages are not subtitled as they occasionally are in Taipei. One Year, Three Seasons explores the economic and social history of the entrepreneurship in Tainan in areas such as the garment trade, education, and beauty. Performed in the Taiwanese language, the play also references the era of Japanese occupation (1895–1945). The Phoenix Trees are in Blossom is told through flashbacks and employs both Taiwanese and Mandarin languages as it interweaves the story of real-life actress Li Xianglan with a fictional family history as they deal the historical events of Japanese occupation and the return to China in 1945. We are Here (full title Echoes of Taiwan VI: We are Here) is a series of oral histories of Hakka women and men (primarily women) which blends their stories with Hakka folk songs and customs. The play is not organized chronologically but instead the individuals are allowed to tell their own story; while a Mandarin narrator begins the play, the rest of the text is spoken in Hakka and asserts their right to their story and identity. [End Page 271]

David Jortner
Baylor Universiyt
  • Drumming Asian America: Taiko, Performance, and Cultural Politics by Angela K. Ahlgren
  • David Jortner
Drumming Asian America: Taiko, Performance, and Cultural Politics. By Angela K. Ahlgren. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Paperback, $34.95

Taiko drumming has spread in popularity throughout the world in the past half-century. Drawing upon her own experience as a taiko player, Angela Ahlgren looks at taiko performance groups in the...


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