Reactive Theater: State Theater and New Voices in China and France

  • Todd J. Coulter


The chapter concentrates on the relationship between theater and the state and how this interaction influenced aesthetic innovations during the twentieth century. The chapter shows how the Chinese state used theater and performance to put forward specifically political goals and how playwrights in France steered theater toward politics. The rise of Absurdism in both countries is detailed. It is in this chapter that I discuss aesthetic influences on Gao like Samuel Beckett. Emphasis is placed on the freedom artists found in Absurdism to work within and beyond prescribed aesthetics. The chapter provides the reader with an understanding of the political consequences of playwriting in Gao’s career.


Chinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Reactive Theater Chinese Theater Contemporary Chinese Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Chen Xiaomei, Acting the Right Part (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002), 33.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Haiping Yan, “Theater and Society,” in Theater and Society, edited by Haiping Yan (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1998), x.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Ma Sen, “The Theatre of the Absurd in China: Gao Xingjian’s The Bus Stop,” in Soul of Chaos, edited by Kwok-kan Tam (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2000, 78.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    He Wen, “On Seeing the Play Bus Stop,” in Trees on the Mountain: An Anthology of New Chinese Writing, edited by Stephen C. Soong and John Minford (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1984), 388.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Ted Freeman, Theatres of War: French Committed Theatre from WWII to the Cold War (Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1998), 6.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Martin Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd (New York: Vintage, 1961), 13.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, translated by Justin O’Brien (New York: Vintage, 1991), 17.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Sidney Homan, Beckett’s Theaters: Interpretations for Performance (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Press, 1984), 9.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Michael Hardt and Antonio Negiri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 14.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    See Dudley Andrew and Steven Ungar, Popular Front Paris and the Poetics of Culture, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). This book offers an in-depth investigation of the emergence of politically engaged art—that is, film and literature—as it gained momentum in the interwar years of the 1930s.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Eugène Ionesco, “Toujours sur l’avant-garde,” Notes et contre-notes (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), 40.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Todd J. Coulter 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd J. Coulter
    • 1
  1. 1.Colby CollegeUSA

Personalised recommendations