Lovers and Madmen play retells ancient Chinese myth
February 23, 2017
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Lovers and Madmen’s winter play, “The White Snake,” hopes to prove that love will always prevail, even for snake spirits.
The play, which opens Friday in the Louis Room of Norris University Center, is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend. The White Snake, a spirit who resides in the mountainside, transforms into a human to explore the mortal world and falls in love with peasant Xu Xian. Theater Prof. Mary Zimmerman wrote the play.
Producer Ele Hagermoser said the show is a “culturally literate rom-com,” in that it depicts the love and doubts of White Snake’s relationship with her husband Xu Xian, and the struggles she experiences while hiding her identity as a snake spirit.
“It’s something that you see as a rom-com on the weekends with your best friend,” the Communication sophomore said. “It’s a story that really makes me happy, but also really exciting intellectually as well.”
As someone who did not grown up in a Chinese family, director and Communication junior Tatiana Dalton said an important part of putting the show together was ensuring the proper representation of Chinese culture. Dalton and Hagermoser said they consulted colleagues of Chinese heritage, including stage manager Faye Oyang, to avoid misrepresentation.
Communication senior Mari Uchida, who plays the role of White Snake, said she is passionate about the play and hopes it will inspire more representation for all ethnicities and races, as well as let people of color know they have a place in the performing arts.
“Where we come from and our heritage is a strong part of everyone’s story, and if this show can also inspire others to tell their story or their heritage’s story or where they come from in general, I think that would be a huge honor,” she said.
Uchida said she was eager to play a character who is resilient, passionate and loving. Hagermoser also emphasized White Snake’s strength, from saving her husband from death numerous times to overcoming the fear of her cosmic mismatch with a mortal.
“(White Snake) makes her own destiny and doesn’t always do things that people say she should do,” Hagermoser said.
Dalton said she hopes the audience empathizes with the complex emotions White Snake must confront. Navigating complex feelings plays a key role in White Snake’s attempt to understand herself.
“That’s something I think about a lot, especially in terms of when are my flaws a liability to those who I love?” Dalton said. “When will I hurt people that I love? What will I do about that? She ends up taking the plunge anyways; she goes for it.”