Professor Martin Brings China to the Theatre

Dr. Deborah Martin

Dr. Deborah Martin, Chair and Professor of Theatre

At Berea College, it takes many hands to make a rich and vibrant Asian Studies curriculum happen for our students.  While not every department has trained Asianists among its faculty members, some departments work hard to make sure that our students benefit from a multicultural perspective on their field that includes Asia.  One such department is Theatre, whose chair, Professor Deborah Martin, has been accepted to participate in the Asian Studies Development Program’s “Infusing Modern China into the Undergraduate Curriculum” Institute.  This faculty development program, which originally was scheduled for summer 2020 but now has been postponed to summer 2021 due to pandemic concerns, aims to help educators develop curriculum materials and strategic plans for expanding undergraduate Chinese studies offerings on their campuses through a rich, multidisciplinary exploration of modern Chinese history, art, literature, religion, politics, and contemporary social dynamics.

Dr. Martin’s plans for her engagement with this program include creating a course that focuses on “ghost plays” in Chinese literature and opera.  “Using the ghost character will not only introduce our students to contemporary Chinese theatre and opera,” says Dr. Martin, “but it will also allow them to see how this character has been an element of more ancient forms of Chinese theatre and story-telling.  Certainly, the political and social changes of 20th century China will also enhance the study, giving our students a fuller context of why this character was so contentious and how it prevailed.”  As part of an upcoming theatre season that will feature a number of non-Western plays, Dr. Martin also hopes to direct a production of Gǎn tiān dòng dì Dòu É yuān 感天動地竇娥冤 (The Injustice to Dou E that Touched Heaven and Earth) by “China’s Shakespeare” Guān Hànqīng 關漢卿 (c. 1241-1320), which uses the motif of ghostly visitations to protest social injustice.