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Significant Other: STAGING THE AMERICAN IN CHINA ReviewI found this book to be very insightful and enlightening as well as entertaining. Although this book may seem intimidating to those not well-acquainted with theatre criticism, Orientalism, and Occidentalism, her gift for explaining things makes this book accessible to readers who are not theatre practitioners or China scholars.
Claire Conceison's unique background - a Caucasian female, fluent in Chinese, who has been studying Chinese theatre for two decades - and her vast knowledge of Chinese socio-political history as well as theatrical theories presents her readers with a very insightful way of looking at contemporary Chinese theatre where the "West," the U.S. in particular, is represented onstage.
The most laudable attribute of this text (next to the fact that, as Schechner already said, this book is extremely well argued) is that Conceison's research isn't all textual and production analyses. In addition to the necessary textual and production analyses, she draws from countless interviews and correspondences with playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and puts motivations, both personal and official, into consideration in the criticisms. Some of these primary sources truly reflect on human motivation and ego at its very best (and very worst) that one doesn't often see in theatre criticisms. It was refreshing to see a theatre critic place such emphasis on individuals behind the scenes, as plays can be interpreted in vastly different ways depending on whose hands they fall into. In sum, this book is an extremely thorough documentation and analysis on what happened from the moment the very idea of these plays hatched, all the way to the eventual staging, and even the aftermath.
That being said, as unbelievable as it is considering this text falls into the category of theatrical theory and criticism, this book was a page-turner. Once one gets past the theory-heavy chapters, the chapters on production analyses fly by, so to speak.(It is important, however, that one reads these chapters, because she lays down all the background necessary in contextualizing her work. In addition, the chapter on Occidentalism squarely presents everything anyone's ever published on Occidentalism to date, which is a great resource.) She studied some very fascinating people who were involved in the productions, and the ways she connected their motivations and passions to Occidentalism were quite astute.
I would recommend this book to anyone who reads.
By the way, read the endnotes. She makes some very interesting comments in the endnotes.Significant Other: STAGING THE AMERICAN IN CHINA Overview

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