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Grant number like: HR-50020-04

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Wing Chung Ng
University of Texas, San Antonio (San Antonio, TX 78249-1644)

Faculty Research Awards
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2004 – 5/31/2005

Local Theater, Transnational Arena: A New Social History of Cantonese Opera, 1860-1945

This proposal seeks funding from the NEH to undertake the final stage of a project on the history of Cantonese opera from 1860 to 1945. Part of the research is to chart the rise of this Southern Chinese theatrical genre, which began in its home region as a lowly peripatetic occupation with troupes performing on makeshift stages constructed in temple courtyards and rural market fairs. Focusing on the operation of theater companies, this study attempts to delineate Cantonese opera's expansion into a commercialized entertainment in the theater houses of Guangzhou and Hong Kong after the turn of the century. The investigation will further unveil intriguing aspects of theater's relationships with local state authorities, its negotiation with emergent nationalist discourses, and its partaking of larger cultural currents in support of modernity and social change. The last part of my inquiry will place Cantonese opera on a broad global canvas by tracing the itineraries of opera companies and actors to Chinese immigrant communities in Southeast Asia and North America. Hitherto unmapped and unstudied, the transnational circuits were crucial to the vitality of this evolving theatrical genre even as the entertaining performance refashioned the identities and enriched the lives of many in the diaspora.