Sha Yexin

b. 1939, Nanjing
Theatre director
The Director of Shanghai People’s Art Theatre from 1985 to 1993, Sha Yexin is known for blending sharp social criticism with artistic innovation, both testing the limits of and enriching post-Mao theatrical expression.
Sha disrupted the media-promoted optimism about post-Mao Chinese society with his play If I Were Real (Jiaru wo shi zhende, 1979), that satirizes the Party bureaucracy. The plot is based on a news report: someone pretends to be the son of a high-ranking official to secure a job transfer from a farm to the city. Sha accentuates the tragic aspect of the fact that his protagonist is arrested for assuming a false identity yet was compelled to do so by circumstances beyond his control. Moreover, the other people involved in the plot go free. Sha uses Gogol’s The Inspector General as a framing text to add a historical dimension to the phenomenon. He also repeatedly interrupts the action to highlight the artificiality of the staging in a Brechtian manner, thus expanding the theme to something larger than the play itself. The play gave rise to heated debates on the positioning of post-Mao China and the use of an anti-hero as the protagonist. Because of the controversy, the audience for the play was restricted after three months. Sha’s noted theatrical experiments also include his socio-psychological play In Search of the Manly Man (Xunzhao nanzihan., 1984) and the absurdist Jesus, Confucius, and John Lennon (Yesu, Kong zi, Pi-tou-shi Lienong, 1988).
Chen, Xiaomei (2002).
Acting the Right Part: Political Theatre and Popular Drama in Contemporary China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Sha, Yexin (1983). ‘If I Were Real’. In Edward Gunn (ed.), Twentieth Century Chinese Drama: An Anthology. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 468–74.
——(1995). ‘Jesus, Confucius, and John Lennon’. Renditions 43 (Spring).
——(2003). ‘Jiang Qing and Her Husbands’. Trans. Kirk Denton. In Chen Xiaomei (ed.), Reading the Right Part: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Drama. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 282–335.
Vittinghoff, Natascha (2002). ‘China’s Generation X: Rusticated Red Guards in Controversial Contemporary Plays’. In Woei Lian Chong (ed.), China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Counternarratives. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 285–318.
Wang, Xinmin (1997). Zhongguo dangdai xiju shigang [Compendium of Contemporary Chinese Drama]. Beijing: Shehuikexue wenxian chubanshe.
HE DONGHUI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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