What is the “texture” of a Chinese body? How are Chinese bodies presented on stage? Starting from these questions, Little Red Book, or Plural Body is an experiment of bodies in performative spaces to look carefully at the interactions in which individual bodies, collective identity, and ideology are connected within the cultural space of China and beyond.
Having received both Chinese and western physical trainings, director Xiaoyue Zhang called together a mini-collective of performers with similar experiences. Together they learned or revisited body practices like Chinese ethnic dances, radio calisthenics, Tik-Tok dance, as well as more traditional practices such as Tai-Chi and massages. Through deconstructing such practices and disciplines that Chinese bodies must undergo in the process of socialization, modernization, and globalization, Xiaoyue and her onstage collaborators explore the political and cultural pressures and conflicts within their bodies, and how they, as artists and movers, take them in, rebel against them, and move forward with them.
The development of this work saw the outbreak of COVID-19 in China and the global pandemic. When the reopening of theatres was nowhere in sight, we decided to present it as a collage documentary film for REDCAT New Original Works festival, 2020. While the rehearsals and improvisations switched to online or non-theatrical spaces, the designers explored new methods that blurred the lines between props, scenic, costume, and technology such as projection, green-screen, and beauty cam, to construct a lustrous and dazzling world of cultural symbols, performativity, and ideology for them to move through, visualizing their intrinsic textures and their learned performativities.
Now, the performers and creators of Little Red Book are scattered in the US and China, separated by the Pacific Ocean. China insists on a zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19, making the fight against the virus a new event for the mass. While the pandemic continues to challenge our relationship with our bodies, the collective, and our understanding of theater space, we want to acknowledge and present the tension between memory, discipline, and liberation: Are individualism and collectivism the two ends of a spectrum, or two things that could co-exist?
ROY AND EDNA DISNEY/CALARTS THEATER (REDCAT )
Producers – Xiaoyue Zhang & Yue Wang
Director – Xiaoyue Zhang
Scene Design – Amy Chiao
Costume Design – Xiyu Lin
Sound Design & Mixing – Kai-Luen Liang
Dramaturgy – Brittney Brady & Yue Wang