Basement Arts will perform Gao Xingjian”s play “The Bus Stop” this weekend in the Arena Theatre. The play is a loose adaptation of Samuel Beckett”s “Waiting for Godot.” “The play is very heavily influenced by “Waiting for Godot” it”s pretty obvious. It”s the futility of waiting and not making things happen,” said director Claire Conceison, a visiting assistant professor in the Theatre and Drama department.
The play centers around eight characters who, in total, represent a cross section of urban Chinese in the mid 1980″s. They wait at a bus stop for a bus which never arrives, or does arrive but never stops. Their conversation begins light but becomes more desperate and disillusioned as the wait increases. Its subtle criticism of the Communist system caused the play to be stopped after ten performances in 1983 and contributed to the author fleeing China in 1987.
The author, Gao Xingjian, has caused a great deal of controversy in the United States as well as abroad lately. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in October, 2000. Until his award, no Chinese writer had ever won the prize. His status as an exile complicated the Chinese reaction, since they refer to him as a “Chinese-French” writer. “All these years they (the Chinese Government) have been complaining that a Chinese writer has never won a Nobel Prize, and now they finally got one and they”re saying he”s not a Chinese writer because he”s been in France,” Conceison said.
“The reason I chose to do the play is because he just won the Nobel prize and I know most people don”t know his work, and I wanted to give the community and the University a chance to see a piece of his work since he is an important figure right now…I think it”s his most significant play,” she added.
Conceison has adopted an experimental style for the production. The performance will be done in the round and each audience member will be given a water bottle, piece of paper, or stone in order to create the play”s sound effects. She hopes this in combination with an original score by Pei Lu, a Chinese doctoral candidate from the School of Music, will add to the enjoyment of the performance. “The set is very user friendlyit”s a real ensemble piece that lends itself to experimentation and I like to do experimental work,” Conceison said.
Some of the experimentation includes changing the genders of two of the characters. “I think that making “Glasses” and “Supervisor” female enhances some of their personality traits in interesting very ways and it gives some of the lines they have with other characters a new resonanceit calls attention to that type of Chinese citizen who is the female acting in a kind of non-gender specific role in a male capacity,” she said.
Conceison tries to emulate and capture the feel of urban China through costumes. “[We”ve] chosen costumes that are similar to what people were wearing in 1983, but we haven”t made the characters Chinese people, in hope to make it relevant to a University audience in 2001We”ve tried to do both of those things,” she said. “Hopefully Chinese people who come to see the play, or people who”ve been to China will recognize that element, but everybody else can identify with the play too.” Conceison feels these changes keep the spirit of Gao”s message. “I think he”d be really excited about this production. I think he”d like it,” she said.
Performance times for “The Bus Stop” are Friday, March 30 at 7 and 11 p.m. and Saturday March 31 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a discussion after the 2 p.m. show.