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.