For this new live work to be presented at the Astra Theatre in Turin, Cao Fei embarks on the challenge of not only creating new chapter of RMB City but also working with avatar-actors and various staging elements to create a new drama based on the “model dramas” (Yang Ban Xi) of Cultural Revolution period. Yang Ban Xi were the only politically-approved performance form at the time, as traditional opera was banned by Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing. They were series of propaganda productions (movie musicals, ballets, operas) that got later adapted to cinematic form, therefore getting more entrenched into the visual and symbolic imagination of a certain era of Chinese history. Their integration of elements of the then-banned Chinese traditional opera, ballet, propaganda songs, and popular music, featuring ballerinas pirouetting with rifles and male proletariat dancers executing landlords rendered in boldly-colored costumes against kitsch-inflected sets is what has continuously fascinated Cao Fei, who has been exploring the potential of the operatic medium every since. (Please refer to her theatrical stage production “PRD Anti-Heroes (2005).
Cao Fei’s concept of performance in RMB City will make a clear reference to the aesthetics of the “Yang Ban Xi” but putting it into a contemporary perspective with iconic styles and movements that have now become “classic” and highly symbolic. Cao Fei will use the RMB City and its multi-venue nature for an experimental theatrical stage and instead of solely recreating the old performance techniques in the virtual space of RMB City, she will create a new kind of a “RMB Yang Ban Xi,” a non-linear, partially interactive drama that will contain some of the classic Yang Ban Xi characters and elements now complemented by our contemporary reality. Various characters will interact, through dialogue, song, and dance, creating spectacular tableaus in the different locations and will bring to life various plots (dances, movements, and symbols) that are taken from daily life. Considering the dynamic and interactive nature of Second Life, the audience will also be able to explore and experience the specially-created Yang Ban Xi environment in Second Life via personal computers, and/or via specialty computer-access terminals, and interact with performers through customized avatars, creating a large online performance space.
As both a real and virtual stage, the Teatro Regio and RMB City respectively, will provide a place for discussion about the past, the present, and the future, with a new formula that combines an extraordinary show with live interaction between the virtual world (the present), the “Yang Ban Xi” opera with its encoded language (the past, but still comprehensible to the generation of Chinese who grew up with this mythology) and a reinterpretation of this work in constant evolution (the future).
Ms. China Tracy, Cao Fei’s avatar, will play the lead role in the performance, accompanied by other actor-avatars on the screen, and on stage, who will be wearing highly imaginative costumes designed by the artist for RMB City and specially made by the Teatro Regio costumiers for this unique presentation.
For the the time table of all theatre-related projects please click here.
The perfect city with Chinese characteristics. Cao Fei’s RMBcity project for Artissima 2009, “Blinding the Ears”. An interview by Davide Quadrio, translated into English by Honora Shea, Fan Zhen and Coco Kwok.