• UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    .@UCSB_Baseball is shut out by Sac State in series finale. RECAP: https://t.co/dVAtNSgOFN
    15 hours 15 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    We’ve got spirit! How about you? Joining Gaucho Social is an easy and fun way to spread Gaucho pride through your s… https://t.co/y3Hqr8xMEq
    22 hours 30 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    RT @brainpicker: So looking forward to my conversation with the wonderful @PicoIyer at the University of Santa Barbara @ArtsandLectures ser…
    1 day 11 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Andrew Martinez (3-5, 4 RBI), Ben Brecht (5 IP, 1 H, 0 K), and Armani Smith (3-5, 3 RBI) team up to take down Sac S… https://t.co/uaCjUxpsEc
    1 day 13 hours ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Current #UCSB physicist Gary Horowitz got to experience Stephen Hawking’s brilliance firsthand, and recalls Hawking… https://t.co/c19uuFTXbK
    1 day 14 hours ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    The 19th Annual UC LEADS Research and Leadership Symposium brought together undergraduates from across the… https://t.co/1gfuDbw8xd
    1 day 22 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    UCSB MVB became just the second team this year to take a lead on No. 1 and undefeated Long Beach State, but the Gau… https://t.co/faB34xJskD
    2 days 9 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: Harvard at UC Santa Barb. (3/16/2018 2:00 PM EDT) Rain Day Leads to Cancellation of UCSB vs Harvard https://t.co/K0rSjkMka2
    2 days 10 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    .@UCSB_Baseball opener vs. Sac St suspended due to rain. Gauchos and Hornets to play two tomorrow. https://t.co/JpJxFxXmbV
    2 days 14 hours ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Here’s the problem: the bigger the parts in a satellite, the more expensive it is to build, launch, and operate. Lu… https://t.co/KLmIBg84Rb
    2 days 14 hours ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Considered the world's greatest mezzo-soprano, @JoyceDiDonato entrances audiences across the globe with “a warmth i… https://t.co/L3YuZv7m88
    2 days 16 hours ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Protecting marine mammals, turtles, and birds by rebuilding global fisheries: #BrenUCSB and @sfgucsb post-docs rele… https://t.co/0HTXyi7Mjg
    2 days 16 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Logan Hotchkiss and Billy Mullis will represent @UCSBSwimming at the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Swimming Championsh… https://t.co/e92apKJm4f
    2 days 19 hours ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    #deadweek means you'll have to wait just a bit longer to celebrate #worldsleepday. You're almost there, Gauchos!
    2 days 19 hours ago

West Meets East

The Royal Shakespeare Company to produce a UCSB playwright’s adaptation of a 13th-century Chinese play
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 10:30
Santa Barbara, CA

snow in midsummer.jpg

Snow in Midsummer

“Snow in Midsummer” performed by the ChaoYang Teochew Opera Company, China.

Photo Credit: 

ChaoYang Teochew Opera Company

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is introducing China’s Guan Hanqing to William Shakespeare. This is a neat trick, given that the two playwrights are separated by more than 300 years and 5,000 miles.

Cowhig, an assistant professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Theater and Dance, has adapted Guan’s 13th-century tale of injustice, “Snow in Midsummer,” for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), which will perform the play at its Swan Theatre in the Bard’s Stratford-Upon-Avon in February and March. The production is the first in the RSC’s Chinese Translations Project, which will bring Chinese classics to the West.

It’s a singular honor for Cowhig, a playwright who came to the attention of the RSC with the production of her “The World of Extreme Happiness” in 2013. The company approached her in late 2015 about adapting a Chinese play and offered her some options. “Snow in Midsummer,” with its tale of a wronged woman who is killed and returns as a ghost, stood out. A fan of contemporary horror and thriller stories, Cowhig jumped at the opportunity.

In Guan’s original story, a father sells his young daughter as a child bride to satisfy a debt. After the husband of the girl, Dou E, dies, she is framed for his murder. Before her execution she says her innocence will be proved when, among other things, it snows in midsummer. After her predictions come true, she appears to her father as a ghost and tells him what really happened. In the end, Dou E is exonerated and the real killer executed.

With the help of translator Gigi Chang, Cowhig adapted “Snow in Midsummer” in a way that was true to the language but tweaked the story in unexpected ways. “I told her I wanted a super-literal translation,” Cowhig explained, “kind of word-for-word so I could preserve the strangeness and the poetics when I adapt it to contemporary language, because there’s a lot of really interesting figures of speech.”

The first draft, “an extremely liberal adaptation,” Cowhig noted, caught the RSC off guard. “The artistic director, Gregory Doran, said to me over dinner, ‘It was as if I had asked for a translation of “Hamlet” and you gave me “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead.” ’ ”

Adapting “Snow in Midsummer,” Cowhig said, demands some creative work to appeal to a modern audience. The original is highly repetitive because it was common for the audience to eat, chat and sleep while they watched the play. “Thus, in the original play, you essentially hear the same plot several times, mostly through song. So to translate, adapt and modify that core story into a two-hour play required I write a new play around the core story that held onto some of the spirit and theme of the original, but is a very different piece.”

Cowhig’s new version, while still reworking the original, was a better fit for the RSC and its Chinese Translations Project, she said. “It’s not quite at the level of working with a commercial producer who knows exactly what they want and what will sell, because that’s not [the RSC’s] concern,” she noted. The RSC is “more concerned with how to preserve the essence of this project, because it’s not just about this one play; it’s a 10-year-long initiative and they’re launching the project.”

Rehearsals for “Snow in Midsummer,” which will feature an all-Asian cast, began Jan. 9. Cowhig is on hand. The play runs Feb. 23 through March 25.

Meanwhile, in Chicago

Another play by Cowhig, “The King of Hell’s Palace,” was featured as a developmental production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Based on a true story about an AIDS epidemic in rural China among peasants who sold plasma, the small-scale production was a kind of test before the theater commits to a full-scale production. Cowhig expects to hear in January what the next steps will be in developing the project.

Contact Info: 

Jim Logan
(805) 893-3071