Tonight 'Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden' at The Huntington

Published : Friday, September 21, 2018 | 4:46 AM

Stan Lai, the award-winning US-born Taiwan-based playwright and theater director who helped revolutionize modern theater in Taiwan in the 1980s, will be presenting his “Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden,” a site-specific play which he wrote exclusively for the Huntington’s Chinese Garden, starting on Friday, September 21.

The play, a contemporary theater production staged in the Huntington’s magnificent setting, runs through October 26.

Set against the mystical backdrop of the garden, lake, and pavilions at night, the play weaves together elements of the famous 16th century Chinese romantic tragicomedy “The Peony Pavilion” with tales of early 20th century California. During the month-long run of the show, a small audience of 40 individuals each night will be able to immerse themselves in the performance, moving through the garden as the story unfolds around them like scenes from a Chinese scroll painting. The play is performed in English with some passages from “The Peony Pavilion” sung in Chinese to the original music.

The Huntington is presenting the play in association with CalArts Center for New Performance and the Shanghai Kunqu Troupe. The cast includes CalArts students and alumni, Chinese performers from Kungu Tropue, and other actors, dancers and musicians.

Speaking with Pasadena Weekly, Lai says the play is about “what it means to collect art. What it means to be an artist. What it means to be Chinese. What it means to be Chinese in America.”

Stan Lai is recognized as one of the preeminent voices in contemporary Chinese theater. His work has influenced a new generation of artists and theatergoers throughout mainland China. His 35 original plays include many acclaimed Chinese-language works, including “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land (1986),” “The Village (2008),” and the epic, eight-hour “A Dream Like a Dream (2000).”

Lai and his wife, Ding Nai-chu, founded the contemporary Performance Workshop theater group in Taiwan. He earned his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1983 and was a professor and founding dean of the College of Theater at Taiwan’s National University of Arts.

Performances of his work in the United States have included a production of “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, and his direction of “Dream of the Red Chamber” for the San Francisco Opera in 2016.

Weeknight tickets are $85 for The Huntington members and $95 for non-members. On weekend nights, tickets are $140 for members and $150 for non-members.

Performances will be from 7:30 through 9 p.m.

For more information, visit www.huntington.org.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is at 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino.

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