The Chinese story of two women both claiming to be the birth-mother of a child is best-known in the West from Bertolt Brecht’s adaptation. That version, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, is considered to be one of the most important from Brecht’s “epic theater” oeuvres. But what about the Chinese original? Where did it come from? How does it different from Brecht’s version? Well, Joanna Chan of the Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America has found it and adapted it into a play. She calls it just The Circle of Chalk, plain and simple. And she is also directing it.
Her adaptation also has a twist: it employs Chinese Opera elements with the heroine played by a male actor (Denver Chiu). No, it is not a drag show. Male actors have played females role on Chinese opera stages for hundreds of years, just like they did in Shakespeare’s time. The tradition continues even today in Chinese Opera. But performances in the Chinese opera are highly stylized. Will it fit the more naturalistic modern Western play convention? Let’s find out.