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The Other Shore

Production Ensemble 2008

The Swarthmore College Department of Theater Production Ensemble presents a production of Gao Xingjian's The Other Shore, a compelling meditation on the complicated tensions that exist between mass consciousness and the individual's right to be human. Performances are Thursday, March 27 at 8 pm; Friday, March 28 at 4:30 pm; and Saturday, March 29 at 3 pm and 8 pm, all in Frear Ensemble Theater (LPAC Rm 1), Lang Performing Arts Center. The production is directed by Kym Moore with assistant director Lauren Dubowski BMC '08 and sets and costumes by Marsha Ginsberg. An ensemble of nine student actors are featured. Born in 1940, nine years before the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Xingjian was heavily influenced by the absurdist drama of Beckett, Sartre, and others which he read while studying French literature in his late teens and early twenties. He began producing absurdist-inspired theater while still a college student and his works have retained their curiosity, urgency, and cultural hybridity throughout his career. Xingjian, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, is considered a pioneer of absurdist drama in China, where Signal Alarm (1982) and Bus Stop (1983) were produced during his term as resident playwright at the Beijing People's Art Theatre.

Xingjian is a writer of what he considers to be staunchly apolitical literature. Choosing to focus his work on the struggles of identity and of the individual, Xingjian believes that "If ideology unites with power and is transformed into a real force then both literature and the individual will be destroyed" However, in a communist-realist theater world heavily censored by the Chinese government, Xingjian's Buddhist- and European-inspired absurdist pieces were considered subversive. Soon after rehearsals for The Other Shore began in Beijing, Xingjian fled China and his works have never again been produced there. In France, his new home, Xingjian's literary career has taken off, and he has continued writing what one critic called "Literature...born anew from the struggle of the individual to survive the history of the masses."

The Other Shore is a stunning collection of vignettes examining multiple aspects of the human condition and the struggle and collaboration between the individual and society. Spirituality, hope, violence, and hatred are just a few of the themes explored in the piece. The cast and crew of The Other Shore hope to capture the underground, avant-garde spirit undoubtedly felt by Xingjian's first Beijing cast when they were practicing in secret, afraid the production would be stopped at any moment. Through the striking archetypes Xingjian creates, the ensemble explores the deepest corners of the human subconscious. The piece, inspired by Chinese Opera traditions and Buddhism, and also by western aesthetic, is complicated and all the more relevant in light of the increasing cultural globalization of the twenty-first century. How can we, as human beings, retain our individualism in the face of globalization? Director Kym Moore sees the production as "a meditation on what it means to be human from a Buddhist point of view." Moore and the ensemble of student actors have been exploring how these philosophical matters resonate and manifest within our own culture. In a society that views itself has highly individualist and independent, how does "group thought" challenge the individual to conform? Do the United States and China have more in common with each other than we realize? Please join the company in delving deep into these questions with their production of The Other Shore. This event is free and open to the public without reservations. For more information contact Liza Clark at (610) 328-8260 or email

Location: Frear Ensemble Theatre
Dates: March 27, 2008 - March 29, 2008
Times: Thur, Mar 27, 8 pm
Fri, Mar 28, 4:30 pm
Sat, Mar 29, 3 pm & 8 pm


Chris Klaniecki

Isa St. Clair, Sarah Choi, Jesse Paulsen

Judy Browngoehl, Sasha Shahidi, Nell Bang-Jensen, Sarah Choi, Jesse Paulsen, Miriam Rich

Jesse Paulsen and Isa St. Clair


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