Learning the Delicate Art of Chinese Opera

On April 24, members of the Chinese Opera Society of New York gave a workshop to the cast of the upcoming spring musical, Flower Drum Song. “Elements of traditional Beijing Opera occur several times throughout the show and we are attempting to make these as authentic-looking as possible,” said Theater Director Gerard Doyle.

Chinese opera is a form of drama and musical theater in China. The acting is based on allusion—gestures, footwork, and exaggerated expressions. Additional body movements help to express such actions as opening a door or feeding chickens. Students learned all of this as well as the masculine and feminine forms of walking, and how to express joy, sadness, or bashfulness.

Flower Drum Song will be performed at Ross School on May 16, 17, and 18 in the Court Theater at 7pm each night. The story takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1960s and highlights the many conflicts that Chinese immigrants and Asian Americans, specifically, faced when trying to assimilate to American culture. There are several characters that show varying degrees of assimilation and are affected by their experiences in different ways.

“We have an almost exclusively boarder cast for the first time, and it’s unusual subject matter,” said Gerard. “This musical has never been done by schools, and it’s cutting-edge. I’m very excited about it.”

Admission is $20; $10 for seniors and students.