Silk Road Rising’s New China Festival introduces American audiences to Chinese playwrights

“It’s interesting to be able to work on stuff that is clearly not rooted in an American perspective.”

Dan Jakes, Chicago Reader

Silk Road Rising, under the direction of Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani, has been a Chicago institution for amplifying Asian-American and Middle Eastern-American artistic voices since 2002. In keeping with the company's stated core values of discovery, pluralism, and empathy, the New China Festival, led by director Helen Young, will present a trio of staged readings of plays by authors from the Chinese-speaking world from August 4 through 19.

"I think it is interesting to be able to work on some stuff that is clearly not rooted in an American perspective [and] to bring it to an American audience," says Carol Ann Tan, the festival dramaturg.

Acclaimed playwright David Henry Hwang led a curation panel for the three selections, which vary significantly in style and theme. They areDialogue & Rebuttal by Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian; Speaking as Then by Ruoxin Ji, a young playwright originally from Nanjing now studying at Columbia University; and Sand on a Distant Star by Stan Lai.

"We knew we wanted a Stan Lai," says Corey Pond, Silk Road Rising associate producer. "He's from Taiwan, and he's just a very big playwright there right now who's had a couple works done in America."

The New China Festival has the added bonus this year of coinciding with the sixth biannual National Asian American Theater Conference and Festival, also in Chicago from August 13 through 18, and also hosted by Silk Road Rising, along with Victory Gardens Theater and the Theatre School at DePaul University. 

Michael Mead