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Gender Studies Workshop: Gender and Performance Onstage

April 23 @ 9:00 am - 5:30 pm

Gender as a form of performance is nowhere more clearly articulated than on the theater stage (and in opera-based films). On stage, the male and female characters are enacted by artistic mimesis based on a set of assumptions about what constitutes maleness and the femaleness. Theater is also a great unifying force in standardizing these notions and it offers stage characters larger than life-size power to influence the audience. In turn, gender is not only a form of social performance, but through theater, the artistic form embodying the normative ideals of gender roles become formalized. This is true both in terms of acting technique and the social values contained within the system of gestures. This is especially evident in the role of the female or male impersonators in opera performances in whose art the ideal form is essentialized. However, gender ideals and stereotypes vary with time and place. At the same time, these “essences” also change over time, and theater is the ideal platform to challenge the inherited conventions, while often reaffirming their underlying values. True to the spirit of theater, its license of playfulness also gives it a subversive potential. The issue of gender performance is likewise tightly linked to identity. The performance of gender roles on the theater stage of Chinese diaspora communities, for example, also engages with the issue of gender in the context of race and Asian identity.

This workshop explores the issues of performing gender identity on stage. Topics may include: gender impersonation – fanchuan 反串; actor training in genderized roles; subversion of gender norms on stage; gender performance, identity and ideology in times of national upheaval, migration and social change.

Xu, Peng, Assistant Professor of Chinese Theatre, University of Hawai’i
Emily Wilcox, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, University of Michigan
Eileen Cheng-yin Chow, Lecturing Fellow of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University
Catherine Yeh, Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, Boston University
Matthew Sommer, Professor of Chinese History, Stanford University
David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University
Claire Conceison, Quanta Professor of Chinese Culture and Professor of Theater Arts, MIT
Ted Hui, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Wai-Yee Li, Professor Chinese Literature, Harvard University
Ellen Widmer, Mayling Soong Professor of Chinese Studies, Professor of East Asian Studies, Wellesley College
Thomas P. Kelly, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Check back soon for a registration link and other important information!


April 23
9:00 am - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies