Drama as Reading: A World Voices Festival Reading List from Si’an CHEN
Drama, first and foremost, is an art of language and performance, which requires face-to-face communication with the audience. However, because of the pandemic, what most people have never witnessed in their whole lives has just happened: theatre around the world remains closed, and it is uncertain when it will return to normal. We still need drama and literature, perhaps now more than ever. Reading the scripts may become the way we get close to drama now.
In this reading list, I have selected five collections of plays, which come from five writers of different styles from different countries. They all have diverse identities, not only as playwrights, but also as novelists and poets. More importantly, the writers all share these characteristics in common: Their plays are full of energy, and their words are profound; readers will find themselves completely immersed even in the form of reading.
These five stories originate from East Asian classical legends, with resplendent imagination, yet are surprisingly modern at heart. The text is incredibly poetic and gorgeous, which draws readers in immediately.
An astonishing long poetic drama by Polish national poet Mickiewicz. It is both romantic and avant-garde, combining the tradition and imagination of the Polish nation, as well as the history of their national struggle.
Camus has only a small number of original plays, and his most important plays are included in this collection. State of Siege is his absurd epic play about the plague, which Camus wrote with profound criticism and foresight.
Bernhard’s outstanding achievements in novels often overlook his creativity in drama. His plays are very elegant in writing, with emphasis on politics and philosophy. This play is one of the most important entry points for understanding his writing.
This collection of plays selected the last four plays created by Lorca before his death. They are passionate, poetic, and dark. The distinct themes fully demonstrate Lorca’s anxiety and provocation against his times.
Si’an CHEN is a playwright, theatre director, poet, short story writer, and literary translator. She has written three collections of short stories and seven plays. Her plays have been performed at the Royal Court Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival, National Theatre Company of China, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, and Beijing International Fringe Festival. She is also the executive editor of Wings Poetry and founder and artistic director of the Sound and Fury Play Reading Festival. She has translated works by Carolyn Gage, Gertrude Stein, E.V. Crowe, Jude Christian, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Eileen Myles, Mary Jo Bang, Nicole Sealey, and John Murillo. She is currently working on a translation of Patti Smith’s Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 and Jeremy Tiang’s novel State of Emergency.