The current production at Silk Road Rising, 77 W. Washington St., is U. S. premier of Wild Boar, written by Candace Chong, translated from Chinese to English by Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith, adapted by Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang and directed by Helen Young. It will be performed through December 17, 2017.
After 156 years as a British Colony, Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong will retain independent political, legal, and economic systems until 2047. Shortly after this change took place, I visited Hong Kong for the first time, and at that point, there were no real changes. Ensuing years have seen many shifts in the freedoms that those in Hong Kong had enjoyed. The blown up newspaper articles that line the hallway of the theater, tell story after story of mistreatment of journalists. Clearly, there is a problem that seems to be getting worse.
Playwright Candace Chong shares:
“In 2011, a news item in Hong Kong caught my eye: a theatre company rehearsing a play about June 4, 1989 (the day China unleashed its army on protesters in Tiananmen Square) received anonymous threats. I was shocked. I grew up in Hong Kong. It never occurred to me that the freedom of speech I enjoy, as a creator would ever be under attack. As I did more research on the story I began to ponder the question of press freedom.” And further that, “In my play, I tried to imagine such a scenario, set sometime in the future. Thus as a fable, Wild Boar is a cautionary tale. It sounds an alarm.” By traversing 12,518 kilometers to Chicago, Chong is hopeful that her work can sounds the alarm, putting those of us on the other side of the ocean on alert. This is a lofty and very important goal.
This topic concerns me and I was curious about this “fable” and the alarm it is sounding. However, for me. the alarm was obscured in a series of stories that seemed disjointed. Could the translation and cultural differences played a role?
I was fascinated and intrigued by the staging and projections of Hong Kong. The lighting and colors were beautifully done. Perhaps because this is a fable and set in the future, the acting was distanced and “talky”. Watching the play I had a feeling similar to looking at a kaleidoscope, each segment was both beautiful and intriguing, but I was unable to work my way through the symbols and relationships to relate what I was seeing to what I understood the problem to be. That there was a problem was clear, that we in the U. S. can see problems ahead is also clear. It is questionable that this fable, though sounding the alarm will be enough to head off those problems in terms of self-censorship coming up the road.
The creative team for Wild Boar includes Candace Chong (Playwright), Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith (Translators), David Henry Hwang (adapter), Helen Young (Director), Corey Pond (Production Manager), Joshua Baggett* (Stage Manager), Yeaji Kim (Set/Projections Designer), Tony Churchill (Projections Designer), Melissa Ng (Costume Designer), Lindsey Lyddan (Lighting Designer), Thomas Dixon (Sound Design ad Original Music), Katy Vest (Props Master), Jason Pikscher (Tech Director), Carol Ann Tan (Dramaturg), Brent Ervin-Eickhoff (Assistant Director), and Bailey Howard (Assistant Stage Manager).
The cast includes Christine Bunuan* as Tricia, F. Karmann Bajuyo as Ruan, Fin Coe as Yam, Emily Marso as Karrie, and Scott Shimizu as Johnny. Understudies include Zhanna Albertini, Harrison Hapin, Dwight Sora, Marie Tredway, Ian Michael Smith, and Marie Tredway.
* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers.
Thank you to Silk Road Rising (Chief Programming Officer and Mission Trustee, Jamil Khoury and Founding Executive Director, Malik Gillani) for providing Chicagoans with the opportunity to see self-censorship from a different perspective.
More information can be found at the silkroadrising website
All photos by Airan Wright