Banner exhibition of influential Chinese dramatist comes to Kennesaw State

Exhibition showcases Cao Yu, the “Shakespeare of China”

For media inquiries: Scott Singleton
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Cao Yu

KENNESAW, Ga. (September 27, 2012)

The banner exhibition “Cao Yu – The Pioneer of Modern Chinese Drama” will be visiting Kennesaw State University from Sunday, October 14 through Friday, October 19, in the Social Science Atrium. Cosponsored by the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and the Asian Studies Program, the exhibition will also feature film clips of Cao Yu’s work (with English subtitles) showing in the Stillwell Theater on Tuesday, October 16, at 11 a.m.


The exhibition was created by Ruru Li, Cao Yu’s stepdaughter and a senior lecturer at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and it details the life and works of Cao Yu, the foremost figure in the development of modern drama in China. The exhibition has toured successfully through the last two years in cities including London, Beijing and Toronto.


Born in 1910, Cao Yu lived through many of the great upheavals experienced in 20th century China, and the exhibition presents his life and works as a way of giving audiences a more profound understanding of China’s recent history and culture.


Modern drama in China is known as “spoken drama” to distinguish it from the traditional Chinese song-dance theater. Often compared to playwrights such as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov and O’Neill, Cao Yu is credited with helping this non-indigenous type of drama reach a degree of maturity in both form and audience reception in the mid-1930s. His early plays gained canonical status due to their artistry and skillful fusion of contemporary political and social themes.


“Crowned with glory in public, Cao Yu however remained deeply troubled by inner torment, particularly by his inability to write more plays in his later years,” explains Ruru Li. “His life and career exemplify the dilemmas and difficulties faced by generations of Chinese intellectuals in the 20th century, offering us a vivid narrative of modern China.”


Although Cao Yu died in 1996, he continues to influence Chinese drama. Jude Kelly OBE, artistic director of the Southbank Centre in the United Kingdom, said of Cao Yu: “Anyone involved or interested in theater will be fascinated by his life and career and how he navigated the twists and turns of the Chinese political regimes and, in particular, the communist ideology and Cultural Revolution. His writing has influenced two generations of young Chinese artists and has been the catalyst for the burgeoning state run theater industry in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities.”


For more information on the exhibition and presentation, please contact Professor Ming Chen.


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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,100 students from more than 130 countries.

The KSU College of the Arts is one of only four Georgia institutions to have achieved full national accreditation for all of its arts departments.


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