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Hove, Arthur O. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 68, Number 2 (Nov. 1966)

Shaw, Paul
A theater of the senses,   pp. 10-12


Page 11


M[OST PEOPLE cart around
     somewhere in their minds a
variety of pre-conceived notions
about Asia. These are associations,
images, ideas, and attitudes, gleaned
and acquired in fragments over a
time from childhood, or under the
pressures of contemporary events.
These notions dwell in the corners
of our mind with no logic or con-
sistency.
  In different people they surface
in any number of manifestations
gathered from Fu Manchu, Charlie
Chan, Terry and the Pirates, Pearl
Buck; or the cartoons depicting
Asians, especially Chinese, in terms
of a human sea, Mongol hordes
equipped with automatic weapons,
jet planes and the A or H Bomb.
  Little of the content in world his-
tory schoolbooks has been devoted
to China and Japan. These vaguely
remembered images from grade
school run something like this:
China had an ancient culture, gun-
powder, and astronomym-which Ja-
pan borrowed; Chinese with pig-
tails; Japanese bowing; China with
millions of people, rickshas, rice and
chopsticks-Japan, the same. Re-
membrances from high school cur-
rent affairs courses recall China as
Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, revo-
lution, and famines. Japan as Perry,
Pearl Harbor, a white horse, Iwo
Jima, and General MacArthur. in
college: China as opium wars, Open
Door, Boxer Rebellion, Sun Yat-sen,
1949, Mao, guerillas, wars of na-
tional liberation. Japan recalls Perry
again, the Russo-Japanese War, the
Shantung problem at Versailles, and
a great deal of World War II.
   For most of us, however, Asia has
 remained distant and dreamlike, the
 unfortunate truth summed up per-
 haps, by a voice from somewhere at
 some time replying to a forgotten
 question about Asians-they are so
 backwards; they eat their dessert
 first.
   One is told with deadening fre-
 quency that it is very important,
 nay urgent, to understand Asia. But
 seldom does anyone offer a concrete
 proposal as to just what it is one
 must do to come to any sort of en-
 lightenment about Asia-especially
 her culture.
  Few are the times that one is
given an opportunity to appreciate
and participate in an aspect of Asian
culture other than literature, or
painting and music. Asian theatre
has remained inaccessible in the
United States except for rare occa-
sions. The scarcity of performances
is due not only to the language bar-
rier but also to the almost esoteric0
nature of Asian theatre. A West-
erner can follow without effort the
most intricate dialogue and stage
maneuvers in a European or an
American play, but he is helpless
when confronted with the simplest
scene in Chinese or Japanese
theatre.
THEATRE is probably the least
  transmissible from   one culture
to another unless the cultures have
many    common    characteristics.
Theatre is a shifting quantity,
ephemeral even within the cultureý
that creates it. To understand Asian
theatre, one must be prepared to
Klook at it from the point of view of
the culture that created it; it was
with this in mind that the Asian
Theatre program at the University
of Wisconsin was started.
   The program was started in the
 fall of 1963 with Prof. A. C. Scott as
 director. The object of the program,
 as stated by Prof. Scott, is to "pro-
 vide American students with a cor-
 rect sense of values concerning the
 various forms of Asian theatre and
 to provide them with a basis of
 knowledge from which they can go
 on to do more advanced study and
 research into specific areas if they
 wish."
   Prof. Scott has a broad back-
 ground in Asia. He took his degree
 at the Royal College of Arts in Lon-
 don and spent his military service
 in Asia. He is not an academic
 theoretician, but one who has been
 deeply involved in Asian life and
 culture for many years-especially
 theatre-and it is this experience
 that Scott gives to his students in
 the program. In addition, he has
 written extensively on the Chinese
 and Japanese theatre.
   Before coming to the University
 of Wisconsin, Scott was a research
 fellow in Oriental Studies at the
University of Hong Kong from
1953-60. He was with the Modem
China Research Project at Columbia
University, 1960-62, and during this
period he also directed a Chinese
theatre workshop for the Institute
of Advanced Studies in the Theatre
Arts, New York City.
  Prof. Scott began to implement
his ideas for the program with
money from the Ford Foundation
for four Asian Fellows who were
chosen for their knowledge of
Oriental stage and acting tech-
niques. He wanted each Fellow to
be professionally competent as a
performer-demonstrator and to take
part in the lecture-demonstration
which is an essential part of his
teaching.
  Prof. Scott arranged for two spe-
cialists to come to the campus as
short-term visiting lecturers-Ko-
rean dancer Won Kyung Cho and
'Chang Chung-ho, a specialist in
k'un-ch'u, classical Chinese drama.
In addition, a group of Noh actors
were brought to perform at the Uni-
versity. This was the second time in
the history of the 600 year old art
that a group has performed in. the
United States. The lead actor was
Kita Sadayo, a 16th generation per-
former of Noh, an art that origi-
nated in 14th century Japan.
  Noh is the oldest living form of
    !t0LI ý IL     J-3 aiSi CLLLL .'L
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which certain aspects of Japanese
culture are idealized. The serious
Noh plays are underlaid with a com-
prehensible and compact body of
belief, derived largely from the
Amidist strain of Buddhism, which
gives the plays a constant ideologi-
cal core lacking in other forms of
Japanese theatre.
T  HE    HEART     of the Asian
Theatre program is in the work-
shop production that for the past
two years has culminated in the
presentation of a Kabuki play. The
casts have been members of the
Asian theatre classes or participants
in groups which work specifically
within the context of the program.
The production is treated as a class-
room research project in the first
place and its aim is to give theatre
students some practical conception
11
November 1966


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