Siyuan Liu


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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Modernist visions beyond the horizon of history: the theatricality of Bai Wei's rarely staged plays (2022)

Bai Wei 白薇 (1894-1987) is one of the most prolific women playwrights in early 20th-century China. From 1925 to 1934, she published fifteen plays that expressed concerns for common people’s (especially women’s) living conditions, reflected on the drawbacks of the national revolutions, and, later, championed leftist ideals, many of which garnered huge popularity and were frequently reprinted. Despite their considerable quantity and popularity, these plays were rarely staged. Due to the lack of staging opportunities, their unconventional modernist style, and the paucity of production records, these scripts have been largely deemed unproducible and low in theatricality by theatre scholars and critics both now and then. In this thesis, I aim to challenge the arbitrary correlation between Bai’s small number of staging records, unconventional style, and the assumed lack of theatricality. Through a detailed production analysis of four aspects of Bai’s plays (acting, casting, set design, and stage effects) based on historical records found in Bai’s original works, Republican China newspapers and journals, as well as biographical and autobiographical accounts of Bai’s life, I argue that Bai’s rarely staged neo-romantic scripts are embedded with rich theatrical intentions and implications. They represent a cutting-edge vision of modernist theatre that could not be accommodated by the social and material conditions in Republican China. Furthermore, in her later realistic plays, Bai, instead of completely discarding the early style, hones the rich theatricality in her neo-romantic plays into an integral part of her realistic theatre that allows her to fully engage the general public fully without compromising her feminist politics, her impulse for subjective representation, or artistic visions for a holistic theatre. I thus challenge the stereotypical conceptualization of the early 20th-century Chinese spoken drama history as wholly dominated by social realism and an androcentric nationalist ideology. Further, I seek to interrupt a critical tradition that disavows the theatricality inherent in Bai Wei’s plays, a tradition that continues to marginalize her work and keep it from production.

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Culture and identity: language use in intercultural theatre (2017)

In the practice and production of intercultural theatre, language has held a variety of functions. However, the connection between language and culture in the theoretical models of intercultural theatre has been largely unexplored. The theories of linguistic anthropologists Dell Hymes, Richard Bauman, Joel Sherzer, and Charles Briggs postulate that language is a fundamental component of culture and that performative events present ideal sites for analysis. Mary Bucholtz, Kira Hall, and Norma Mendoza-Denton theorize that identity is a performative act of the self and other through language. Given these theories, this research asks: how does language function as a property of culture and identity in intercultural theatre? To answer this question, I have examined the role of language in two intercultural theatre productions which previewed in Vancouver, Canada in 2016. The analysis of these two works, Kayoi Komachi: A Noh Chamber Opera and Lady Sunrise, includes live and video-recorded performance analyses, script analysis, and interviews with the participating artists. This thesis demonstrates that language in intercultural theatre both informs cultural representation and influences the identities of the performers and their characters. With these findings, this research suggests that future models of intercultural theatre frame culture within a linguistic context.

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Arts Umbrella's theatre troupes: A history of theatre training for children and youth (2013)

Arts Umbrella is a not-for-profit arts education centre for children and youth ages two to nineteen. Its Theatre program has been providing artistic theatre training to young people in the Metro Vancouver area for almost thirty years. This study's objective is to present the history of the Theatre Troupes within a historiographical methodology that takes into account all the contributing factors towards the program's successful development. The material archive resources of Program Guides, Reports to the Board, Newsletters, Show Programs and the original Business Plan are documented in a chronological exposition of the Theatre Troupes' history along with interviews with Arts Umbrella co-founder Carol Henriquez, the influential Troupe directors Sarah Rodgers, Paul Moniz de Sa and Susanne Moniz de Sa, other artist-instructors and a summary of survey questionnaire responses from parents and alumni. The young theatre students at Arts Umbrella have experienced a rich and diverse history of theatre artists in Vancouver, in a safe and nurturing environment that has been consistently funded and stable administratively since inception of the Theatre Arts program in 1984.

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Railroad Plays: Performing reconciliation in Asian North American Theatre (2013)

Railroad plays: performing reconciliation in Asian North American theatre is a study into a specific sub-genre of theatre coming out of the Asian Canadian and Asian American demographic. I use the term "railroad plays" to describe a body of work that gives voice to immigrant experiences working on the railroad. In a nutshell, railroad plays allow us to revisit and better understand historical prejudices of the late 19th and early 20th century. Additionally "performing reconciliation" is a term I use to suggest how contemporary theatre can help minority groups to engage in social activism, by imagining new ways of looking at history while reconsidering intercultural relationships. I argue that playwrights employ a variety of dramatic techniques - storyline, language and symbols, characterization, genre, and references to historical events - in order to encourage readers and audiences to reconsider intercultural relationships in North America. In this thesis, I analyze the dramatic text of two railroad plays: Forbidden Phoenix by Marty Chan, and lady in the red dress by David Yee. Both playwrights make references to historical moments and use the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway as a way to discuss broader issues such as human rights, inequality, and immigration. Additionally, I analyze a third railroad play by American playwright, David Henry Hwang. I provide a literary analysis to the play text coupled with a performance review of a 1998 Vancouver production, paying close attention to physicality, intercultural elements and audience reception. The purpose of my thesis is to draw meaningful connections between theatre practice and social justice, by asking: How do railroad plays contribute to a more nuanced knowledge and understanding of theatre history and intercultural relationships in Canada?

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