Chinese Press Examined in Play “Wild Boar” at Silk Road Rising

By: Roxane Assaf-Lynn

Freelance Journalist | Adjunct Professor | Video Reporter - School of the Art Institute of Chicago

11/23/2017 12:09 am ET

A controversial professor is missing. An editor aims to print the truth. The unmistakable scent of fake news wafts through reignited flames of romance.

Impassioned by the evident erosion of press freedoms following the Chinese army’s attack on protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Hong Kong’s award-winning Candace Chong wrote “Wild Boar” to sound an alarm. “I thought to myself, if we turn a blind eye to the problem, we won’t recognize the city [of Hong Kong] twenty to thirty years down the road. In my play, I tried to imagine such a scenario set some time in the future. Thus as a fable … a cautionary tale.”

Paired with Helen Young’s introspective approach in directing “Wild Boar” at Silk Road Rising, F. Karmann Bajuyo delivers a compelling, authentic and intense protagonist who is both interesting to watch and gratifying to trust as the lead character Ruan.

What strikes the pro-democracy playwright now, however, is the reality her play has come to represent. “The press in Hong Kong has become merely the mouthpiece of the government and big business. Threats facing the mass media have become more real and more brutal,” she writes in her artistic statement.

Any American theatre-goer awake and aware today will surely see the parallels in this country’s media climate. Jamil Khoury, Silk Road Rising’s Chief Programming Officer & Mission Trustee, addresses the similarities. “That the play is set in Hong Kong and is yet so analogous to the United States is testimony to worldwide encroachments on democracy and personal freedoms. It would seem authoritarian impulses know no borders.”

The play’s the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of Beijing.

“‘Wild Boar’ specifically asks whether the government has the right to withhold information from its citizens — especially when the government believes that the information would prevent people from acting in their best interests,” according to Dramaturg Carol Ann Tan. “‘Wild Boar’ isn’t simply preaching that government secrecy is never desirable; rather, it’s asking: when does secrecy turn into paternalistic overreach?”

The adaptation by David Henry Hwang for the US premiere at Silk Road Rising attempts to bridge the cultural divide by first relying on a literal translation from Chinese, then contouring the beats for the American stage – all the while keeping the focus on a common thread: creeping self-censorship.

“‘Wild Boar’ feels even more relevant today than in 2012, when it premiered in Hong Kong,” Hwang writes. “Since its return to China in 1997, Hong Kongers have wondered if Beijing would curtail civil liberties and freedom of expression in the former British colony.”

Candace Chong answers the quandary. “Journalists in Hong Kong have had to resort to demonstrations and leaving their columns blank as a means of protest. As a playwright, I share their dejection and anger. I want to give voice to this vital pack of wild boars so that their roars resound in the city.”

“Wild Boar” plays through December 17th at Silk Road Rising, 77 W. Washington St, Chicago.

Creating Across Cultures: Candace Chong's 'WILD BOAR'

This chapter is taken from Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

This chapter is taken from Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

CANDACE CHONG is a prolific, award-winning Hong Kong playwright, whose timely plays have captured the essence of the complicated Hong Kong Chinese identity. Written in Cantonese, her works have resonated deeply with a new generation of theatergoers in Hong Kong.

A Playwright Puts the Hong Kong Story on Center Stage

By Clare Tyrrell-Morin

Candace Chong Mui-ngam is one of Hong Kong’s most important new voices. The young playwright creates powerful, insightful plays that capture the Hong Kong zeitgeist, taking issues from the city’s headlines and weaving them into mesmerizing plot lines.

Her plays jolt her audience into wakefulness, demanding that they sit up and look deeply into all of society’s contradictions. With razor-sharp, black humor and a nuanced understanding of the human condition, Chong has been pulling a new generation of young Hong Kong intellectuals into theaters.

It is to Hong Kong’s credit that the city’s leading playwright is a woman. While theaters in the United States and Europe grapple with major gender imbalances, Hong Kong’s cultural scene has many women in top jobs. Candace Chong is rarely discussed as a woman playwright in Hong Kong; she’s simply known as the best of her generation.

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Wild Boar

I want to remind you all: journalism is the first rough draft of history. Please do not use your title as journalist in the prolonged illusion of free speech. Do not remain in this profession just to be a collaborator in burying the truth. — Prologue, Wild Boar, 2012

Chong’s play Wild Boar, commissioned and produced by the Hong Kong Arts Festival, debuted at the intimate Drama Theatre of the APA in February 2012 as protesters were camping out less than a mile away below the headquarters of HSBC, Hong Kong’s largest bank. They were reacting to record-high property prices and projects like the high-speed Guangzhou–Hong Kong Express Rail Link that was pushing families off their farms.

Property developers are a controversial species in Hong Kong, where seven million people live upon 427 square miles—one of the highest population densities on the planet. While the city has an exceptionally low income tax rate, its land tax is colossal. With extremely high rents, young people see the possibility of buying their own apartment to be increasingly remote. This has led to an atmosphere of simmering desperation.

Wild Boar, set in an unnamed city, opens with the news that a local historian has disappeared. “Our city and its culture are entering a period of regression,” says Ryan Yuen Man-san as he announces his resignation.

The veteran news editor is launching an independent press in a bid to protect the public’s “right to know.” When Wild Boar was rerun two years later in the summer of 2014, its themes of property developers and media censorship turned out to be shockingly prescient.

For more than a century, Hong Kong has enjoyed a free press and permitted newspapers of all persuasions—communist, nationalist and religious. Yet since the Handover in 1997, these freedoms have become murkier; journalists in 2014 experienced a wave of media intimidation.

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The most horrific of these was a violent ambush on Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, one of Hong Kong’s most respected, liberal Chinese newspapers. Lau was viciously attacked on the street, and severely injured, by men wielding cleavers. A week later, thousands of journalists and members of the public marched for press freedoms, holding placards that read: “They Can’t Kill Us All.”

Editor: Michelle Vosper

Publisher: Muse (East Slope Publishing Limited)
Publication Date: February 27, 2017
ISBN: 978-988-16047-0-5
Website: www.CreatingAcrossCultures.com

All Rights Reserved

Chicago Tribune: Silk Road Rising announces 2017-18 season

by Morgan Greene  Chicago Tribune

by Morgan Greene 

Chicago Tribune

Silk Road Rising has announced its 15th anniversary season, which includes two world premieres.

First up is "Wild Boar" (Nov. 9-Dec. 17), written by Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong, translated by Joanna C. Lee and Ken Smith and adapted by David Henry Hwang. Helen Young will direct the thriller about the investigation that follows a controversial professor's disappearance.

The premiere of Novid Parsi's "Through the Elevated Line" (March 8-April 15, 2018) follows. Carin Silkaitis will direct the Chicago-set story about a gay Iranian man who ends up at his sister's home, as the Cubs are on the cusp of making history.

Another premiere follows with the one-woman show "Hollow/Wave" (May 17-May 27, 2018), written and performed by Anu Bhatt and directed by Barbara Zahora. Bhatt, a South Asian actor working in Chicago, explores issues of body image and identity.

The season also includes a number of staged readings: "Twice, Thrice, Frice" (Aug. 5-6), written by Fouad Teymour and directed by Kareem Fahey; "Jihad Against Violence: Oh ISIS Up Yours!" (Aug. 19-20), written by Fawzia Afzal-Khan and directed by George Potter; and "We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War" (Sept. 9-10), written by Mona Mansour and directed by Anna Bahow.

And in summer 2018, Hwang will curate staged readings of plays translated from Chinese to English.


Chicago brings a foreboding tale of fake news in U.S. premiere of WILD BOAR

Patch.com By Sharon Krome

Patch.com

By Sharon Krome

“Post-Truth” was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2016. Though over a year later, the term is as relevant as ever. No doubt, theatre throughout Chicago, and the rest of the country, will reflect the tense political climate. Few are as fearless as Silk Road Rising’s Wild Boar. Though set in Hong Kong, it is frightening how relevant and translatable the topic of censorship is.

Bringing Wild Boar to the stage for the first time is Silk Road Rising, a company focused on making stories of/by Asian Americans and Middle Eastern Americans accessible to audiences of all cultural communities through live theater, education, and video.

In a post-factual society, what role does journalism play? In the world of Wild Boar, the blank columns in reputable newspapers say it all. Censorship, whether self-imposed or forced upon us by advertisers, journalists, or government agencies is dangerous.

What is real? What is the truth? What is left out?

The disappearance of an acclaimed, but controversial, professor brings that danger into the world of Wild Boar as colleagues try to uncover the truth.

Candace Chong’s writing captures the manipulation of journalism by political, economic, and social forces in Hong Kong. Between the White House media blackout and China’s censorship of Cambridge University’s academic articles, these issues transcend cultural barriers to wake English-speaking audiences. Adapting this bold piece is David Henry Hwang, a Tony Award-winning playwright known for M. Butterfly and Yellow Face.

But Wild Boar is not specific to the Hong Kong community or those who are well-versed in its complex history.

Dramaturg Carol Ann Tan helps anchor the piece through her deep understanding of Hong Kong politics. A few important facts going in: “Hong Kong has a history of being colonized," stated Cat. Originally controlled by the British, an agreement was reached with China in 1997 where all parties determined that Hong Kong and China would operate within two different governments but still be considered one country.

Underneath the politics and distinctly Hong Kong culture, are relatable relationships that one cannot help but connect with. Carol Ann Tan’s hope for the piece is to provoke the “audience to think about their relationship to truth”.

This goal of self-awareness is shared by director Helen Young. “ I think we have to be more vigilant in reexamining ourselves and how we contribute when deciding what gets to be said about the truth”. No matter where you stand on current events, this piece will leave you with much to discuss, as good art should.

If you want to be part of the conversation, the U.S. premiere of Wild Boar will run November 9th - December 17th at Silk Road Rising’s Downtown performance venue. 

Where:
77 W Washington St
Pierce Hall
Chicago, IL 60602

Tickets are available at 312-857-1234 or www.wildboarplay.org

Silk Road Rising Presents WILD BOAR Preview – Noir Leaps onto the Chicago Stage

Picture This Post By Sharon Krome

Picture This Post

By Sharon Krome

Silk Road Rising Goes Noir

Ask Helen Young, director of the upcoming Silk Road Rising production Wild Boar what noir is and she’ll advise that it’s far more than venetian blinds, detectives, and damsels in distress. More, think beyond the classic Hollywood flicks in that genre --Sunset Boulevard, Double or Indemnity Noir, she says, isn’t just for Hollywood; it belongs on the contemporary Chicago stage.

Written by Hong Kong playwright Candace Chong and adapted by David Henry Hwang (Tony Award winning playwright), Wild Boar is not just specific to one culture, or country. Its bold dialogue and Casablanca-worthy former flames strives to elevate the classic whoduneit mystery.

Producing the piece is Silk Road Rising, Chicago’s theater company dedicated to expanding representation of Asian American and Middle Eastern American.

Admittedly, some of us (this writer included) know little to nothing about Hong Kong’s political structure.

Because the themes of fake news and the current struggle of journalists are so universal to American audiences, the experience of seeing Wild Boar is geared to not be dependant on pre-knowledge of Hong Kong’s political scene. Still, taking the time to leaf through the program and dramaturg statement certainly won’t hurt.

Before Bogart or Hayworth, noir came from the twisted psyche of post-WWI Europe and the haunting light schemes of German Expressionism.“Noir came from worry and the uncertain fate of the world.. and from not knowing who is watching who”, observes Young.

As the investigation of a missing professor spirals, extreme shadow and overall design of Wild Boar externalizes the eerie tone within the story. The harsh contrast between light and shadow illuminate that classic struggle between good vs evil. “I’m interested in the way this play creates an inner dialogue. The questioning of ourselves, the questioning of how we use our voices and how we prevent voices. Who is doing the shadowing and who is being watched. That is what I’m intrigued by with Noir”, says Young.

Jamil Khoury, Silk Road Rising Artistic Director elaborates, “By pulling from this artistic style and strong Noir visuals, Wild Boar stands apart from everyday life. This divergence from realism allows the themes, the true fear that Tricia and Ruan face to wash over us. It is not your ordinary lighting design to match ordinary life. We are thrown into a hostile world of jagged shadows, of ‘journalism under siege’.. “

“The sound design is equally commanding as the stage design/lighting. The use of original music and more diegetic sounds bring the chaos of Hong Kong streets right to us. Sounds of chatter, construction, and daily life buzz around the space somehow quickening the pace of scenes.

“We do not live, write, or work in a vacuum. There are always news stories and background noises drawing us in. This bold use of sound adds a richness to the experience as it reminds us that theatre does not operate in a vacuum either. And neither do the characters. Even when Johnny wants to escape the chaos and sounds of the city, he can’t.

If we strip away the Hong Kong politics, the Noir visuals, the rumbling audio, Wild Boar still has that compelling hold over viewers as we savor the undeniable heat and biting repartee that only former lovers can have.

“We all want to believe that we’re doing art that matters and yet if you were to divorce this play from current politics, it would still be an absolute powerhouse of a story”.

When:

November 9th - December 17th

Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 4:00pm
Sundays at 4:00pm.

Where:

Silk Road Rising. Theater in the Chicago Temple Building
77 W Washington St
Pierce Hall
Chicago, IL 60602