English-language world premiere of "Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals"

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Matthew Kelty, (808) 956-2598
Director of Publicity, Kennedy Theatre
Kennedy Theatre Box Office, (808) 956-7655
Posted: Jan 22, 2014

"Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals" will premiere at Kennedy Theatre on Thursday, February 20
"Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals" will premiere at Kennedy Theatre on Thursday, February 20

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance is proud to present “Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” as part of its 50th Anniversary season.  Performances will take place Feb. 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, and Mar. 1 at 8 p.m., and Feb. 23 and Mar. 2 at 2 p.m.  Audiences will also have the opportunity to attend free pre-show chats at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 and Mar. 1.  Subject to availability, UHM students with a validated Spring 2014 ID will be able to take advantage of the theatre’s buy-one-get-one-free program on Thur., Feb. 27 and Fri., Feb. 28.  Patrons who attend on Feb. 20 are also invited to join the cast, director, and guest artists – as well as faculty from the Department of Theatre and Dance – for a post-show reception on the theatre’s lanai in celebration of Kennedy’s 50th Anniversary.

“Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” is a fitting production to mark Kennedy Theatre’s 50th Anniversary, as this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Jingju (Beijing “Opera”) performance at the University of Hawai‘i.  In 1963, shortly before Kennedy Theatre opened to the public, the Jingju play “Twice a Bride” was one of the final plays presented at UH’s Farrington Hall; Daniel S.P Yang directed the production.  Two more Jingju productions were presented in the 1970s: “Black Dragon Residence” in 1973, also directed by Yang, and “The White Snake,” directed by John Y.H. Hu.  UHM alumna and professor of Asian Theatre Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, who has served as director of the department’s Asian Theatre program since 1985, began presenting Jingju in the 1984-85 academic year, with the play “The Phoenix Returns to Its Nest.”  The play would go on to tour China in 1986 — the first English-language Jingju to do so.  (Two later productions have also toured China.)  Wichmann-Walczak was the first non-Chinese Jingju performer in the People’s Republic of China, and is the first non-Chinese member of the National Xiqu (Chinese “Opera”) Association.  With her guidance, Kennedy Theatre has presented a Jingju play every four years since 1985.

These plays spring from a remarkable partnership between UHM and professional Chinese Jingju performers, and are the culmination of extensive training in this traditional art form.  Shen Xiaomei, a National Actor of the First (highest possible) Rank, a former student of legendary Jingju master Mei Lanfang, and Wichmann-Walczak’s performance teacher, has served as Artistic Supervisor for all eight productions that Wichmann-Walczak has directed.  For this production, student actors have spent over six months under the tutelage of Lu Genzhang and Zhang Ling, both National Actors of the First Rank and emeritus lead actors with the Jiangsu Province Jingju Company.  (Please note that names of artists from China are presented in the traditional Chinese manner, with last/family name given first.)  Training includes physical technique and carriage, combat, and acrobatics, as well as vocal training in both da sangzi (“large” voice) and xiao sangzi (“small” voice or falsetto).  Training begins with Chinese text, before moving to an English-language translation of the play developed by Wichmann-Walczak and Hui-Mei Chang, a Punahou School faculty member and UHM alumna.  This production will mark the translation’s world premiere.  Student musicians spend their time studying with Zhang Xigui, Principal Instrumentalist with the Wenhuali Jingju and Kunqu Association of Shanghai, and Emeritus Leading Instrumentalist with the Jiangsu Province Jingju Company.  All of these artists have taught and performed in China and internationally; more extensive biographies for all of the training artists involved are included in an additional document provided with this press release.

 “Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” celebrates the achievements of the Song dynasty’s Yang family.  The adventures of this warrior clan have been recounted for centuries in novels and popular media such as folk songs, theatre, film, and television, and figure prominently in the Jingju repertory.  Kennedy Theatre has now presented three Yang family plays: the first, “Silang Tan Mu,” was presented in 1998; the second, “Women Generals of the Yang Family,” in 2006.  The generals of the Yang family preserved the Song dynasty through many wars, with the matriarch, She Taijun, and Yang family daughter-in-law Lady Mu Guiying leading the troops after the heroic deaths of most of the Yang men.  Disillusioned by growing corruption, She Taijun and Lady Mu ultimately left the court and retired to their ancestral home.  “Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” begins twenty years later.  The Xi Xia Kingdom once again threatens the borders, and Minister Kou Zhun persuades the Emperor to hold a martial competition to select a Supreme Commander for the Song troops.  Lady Mu’s teenage children, son Wenguang and daughter Jinhua, emerge as victors of the contest.  Because of their youth, however, the Emperor calls on Lady Mu to take command and save the nation.  Will she overcome her now-ingrained animosity toward the court and war itself, and agree to lead?

This production of “Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” is made possible through the generous support of: the Cooke Foundation, Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Chun Ku and Soo Yong Huang Foundation, National Resource Center for East Asia, UH Foundation Chinese Theatre Endowment, and Ing Family Endowment for Asian Theatre; as well as the UHM Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Research, Student Activity and Program Fee Board, Center for Japanese Studies, Center for Chinese Studies, and Confucius Institute.

Tickets for “Lady Mu and the Yang Family Generals” are available at the Kennedy Theatre box office; the box office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on performance dates.  Tickets may also be purchased online at etickethawaii.com, by phone at (808) 944-2697, and at participating outlets.  Prices are $25 general admission; $22 seniors / military / UH faculty and staff; $16 UHAA members; $13 students; and $5 UHM students with validated Spring 2014 UHM photo ID.  Ticket prices include all service fees.  Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more.  For further information, please visit the department’s website at hawaii.edu/kennedy, or call the theatre at (808) 956-7655.  For disability access, please call the theatre.

For more information, visit: http://hawaii.edu/kennedy/2013/ladymu/index.php