“Qingqing Yang’s Four Dreams” performed in Segal Theatre, New York

On December 16, 2019, Professor Qingqing Yang, a famous artist inspired by Chinese opera, performed “Qingqing Yang’s Four Dreams” at the Segal Theatre on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York. This is the first time that traditional Chinese opera has been publicly displayed abroad in this unique transmedia format. Yang combined a video of Chinese opera with an ink painting performance, which won her the applause of the audience. Professor Marvin Carlson, a world expert of drama and performance studies, gave high praise for Professor Yang’s transformation of traditional Chinese opera into the realm of contemporary art.

Qingqing Yang’s research focuses on creation through dreams. Her work uses the practice of subconscious painting to evoke a dream-like state in which she is uninhibited to explore the relationship between life, death, and love.

Her creation takes inspiration from the “Four Dreams in Linchuan” by the Chinese playwright Xianzu Tang, consisting of the four plays: “Peony Pavilion”, “Purple Hairpin”, “Handan” and “Nanke”. The first two are about love and the other two treat the subject of society. All four “dreams” are known to be among the most outstanding works of Chinese literature.

Xianzu Tang’s creation follows the concept of “turning love into dreams and turning dreams into theatre”. His drama is an exploration of contemporaneous lifestyle, following the stories of different characters, each representing diverse social situations and reflecting the profound philosophy thinking of the time. Surprisingly, many of Tang’s ideas are ahead of its time and appear to be very relevant to today’s issues, as the play exemplifies care for the world, questioning political power and wealth, as well as creating awareness for women’s subjects.

Through the eyeglass of ghosts, chivalrous heroes, immortals and Buddha in a dream world, we can reflect on the vanity of prosperity and wealth and the ignorance in the world, and express love and desire beyond the confusion of life and death.

Qingqing Yang’s interpretation of the subject is a dreamlike painting performance, setting the stage for a trans-medial conversation between poetry and her calligraphic painting style in the theatrical world of reverie.

Qingqing Yang, a professor at Shanghai Academy of Drama, was the first to put forward the concept and methodology of “Transmedia”, and opened the course of Transmedia Art for undergraduate and graduate classes, becoming an early advocate and practitioner of Transmedia Art. At an early age, Qingqing Yang was admitted to the Shanghai Theatre Academy and was influenced by the art of traditional opera. The beauty and mystery of opera inspired her to study and challenge this media. Her research on the digital inheritance and development of opera art has been successfully supported by many national art funds and national social science funds. Qingqing Yang believes that the essence of these opera stories can be abstracted and transformed into other media. She began this practice by creating paintings that break out of the traditional understanding. “Chinese traditional opera is so wonderful and insightful, the wisdom of the ancients has inspired and led me. I find freedom in it – this is my interpretation of Chinese opera.

The Segal Theatre and the City University of New York have supported Qingqing Yang’s innovative performance. Dr. Frank Hentschker, director and exhibition planner at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center presided over the discussion after the performance. This unique art performance – combining projected visuals, music and her gestural acts of calligraphy on rice paper scrolls – created an illusionary atmosphere that allowed the audience to “transition” into this poetic dream. 

(Video, Performance Painting by Qingqing Yang, created and curated by Frank Hentschker, Chinese opera video directed by Xuekun Teng)

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