This item is only available for download by members of the University of Illinois community. Students, faculty, and staff at the U of I may log in with your NetID and password to view the item. If you are trying to access an Illinois-restricted dissertation or thesis, you can request a copy through your library's Inter-Library Loan office or purchase a copy directly from ProQuest.
Gao Xingjian and Chinese experimental theatre
Doctoral Committee Chair(s)
Graves, Robert B.
Department of Study
Degree Granting Institution
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This study focuses on the life and works of Gao Xingjian, a leading Chinese experimental dramatist in post-Mao China, and his zealous search for an alternative theatre in the 1980s. Acclaimed by critics both in China and overseas as the Chinese counterpart of European innovators of avant-garde theatre, Gao has exerted a great impact on the destruction of Socialist realism and Maoist discourses in the political mission of theatre. Gao's experimental theatre is not only one of the earliest attempts to reject the institutionalized spoken-drama theatre which, since the founding of Communist China, has been utilized as the mouth-piece of the Party's politics but also provides an example of welding Western modernism with China's ancient cultural roots.
This study consists of a historical survey of the rise and fall of the spoken-drama theatre and its role in the political life in China, a biographical survey of Gao's life and his confrontations with Chinese cultural authorities, close analyses of his four major plays, Warning Signal, The Bus-Stop, Wild Man, and The Otherness, and finally, a summary of Gao's theatrical ideas and theory. The thesis applies a reader-reception approach to the analysis of both the dramatic texts and actual performances, and shows how the ambiguity in Gao's dramatic texts and the symbolism in his stage presentation have been strategically employed to circumvent censorship and yet maintain a truthful perception of reality.
"The analyses of his plays show that even though Gao claims his theatre to be apolitical, the feelings of agony, confusion, and despair which Gao projects into his dramatic characters are unmistakable evidence of Gao's sharp criticism and disillusion with the political situation in China. While his theatrical vocabulary becomes richer and richer with each play, his vision of reality becomes darker and more bitter. Running through the four plays is an overriding theme of escape--escape from gernotocratic power, from the destructive mentality of the majority, from the polluted city life, and from the consciousness of guilt, all of which parallel the playwright's own life and experiences in China before he moved to Paris as a ""political refugee."""
The study concludes with a discussion of Gao's theatrical ideas and theory about what he calls a total theatre. It summarizes Gao's position in the national debate about the nature and ultimate function of theatre. It reviews Gao's advocacy for an actor's theatre and his observation of the three identities which Chinese opera actors assume during performance. Also discussed is Gao's rejection of a dialogue-based verbal theatre and his experiments in using verbal utterance as one of many components in an audio and visual stage orchestration.