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Art for Communication


Cherylene Lee’s Antigone Falun Gong

For dramaturgy I’ve been working on writing hypothetical program notes for Cherylene Lee’s Antigone Falun Gong.

I don’t quite have the words to describe what I have been through these past two weeks.

It has alerted me to the decade long persecution of Falun Gong practitioners that has been in severe violation of human rights; something I should have but didn’t know anything about. I have read things and seen this that have made me sick to my stomach, but more sick for not having known sooner.

This is not going to be a post about the persecution, it’s about art, but please, for your education as a human do some research. Start here, perhaps.

To summarize:

Falun Gong is a cultivation practice that uses meditation to harness one’s energy in order to find a spiritual and moral center. In 1999 the Chinese Communist Party, fearing the large (over 100 million practitioners) community of those with individual beliefs, declared a movement to suppress Falun Gong.  For fourteen years, the persecution has been continuing, with practitioners taken from their homes or arrested without trial and sent to labor camps where they are forced to retract their beliefs through torture.


Peaceful protests in Washington D.C.

Antigone Falun Gong uses the Antigone story to tell of ‘A’, who practices Falun Gong, standing up for her brother who she saw with her third eye being tortured in a labor camp. She squares off with governor ‘C’ under the potential surveillance of American planes.

I find it very hard to follow American politics, not having a particular brain for it and always feel like I’m missing something and catching up. I often blame growing up overseas, but mostly it’s a hesitancy on my part to take the time to learn what I need to.

I have never understood the power of a political minded play before Antigone Falun Gong. This play made me learn something I didn’t know I was missing. It made me look beyond myself and open my eyes. The morals and discussion behind the themes and content is something I think is so unbelievably relevant.

I have spent days reading news articles and testimony’s about the years of Falun Gong persecution. Also reading about how the news related to these events has dropped over the years. It’s such a taboo subject that journalists often are hesitant to tackle the issue both for lack of information and genuine fear of stepping into something they shouldn’t.

There has to be a way to get the information we need.

That’s where theatre comes in. What Cherylene Lee did is beautiful and important and so inspiring.Landscape

As artist we have the power to reach people not just on an intellectual level, but an auditory, visual and emotional level too.

Antigone Falun Gong is not a political rant that goes “Look at this!” but a story about people, about communication, about the east meeting the west. We can use art as a jumping off point. An audience member can connect on a personal level then leave the show and learn more, continuing to educate themselves on the world around them.

Sometimes it’s hard to read things in the news about far away places and feel like you have a way in. The theatre can be that way in. Especially when Cherylene Lee takes such a staple of the western cannon as Antigone to use as a spine for a play about Chinese characters. It’s important for people to find their personal in.

I am personally extremely drawn to work that explores America’s relation to the east. Since I grew up as an American in South East Asia I love the juxtaposition of cultures and always want to find a way to bring that to a wider audience. There is so much that can be learned from both cultures.

I want to see this play done now. I want to do this play now. I think work like this needs to be done and done again. So thank you Cherylene Lee, and thank you dramaturgy for providing the doorway for important exploration.


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