Student-written Original Musical Blends Chinese Theatre and Broadway

Published: June 3, 2014

Blending classic Chinese musical theatre and Broadway, The Evergreen State College presents The Blooming Season, an original, student-written production, to be performed on Friday May 30th, and Saturday May 31st at 7:30 p.m. in Evergreen’s Communications Building Experimental Theater, at 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW in Olympia. Tickets are $5 at the door. Parking is $2 on Friday and free on Saturday. For more information, call 360-867-7444 or visit evergreen.edu/performingarts.

The Blooming Season was born out of an interdisciplinary program that blends China studies and performing arts called “Theatre of Fantasy: Performing Chinese Drama on the Western Stage.” It has been taught by Evergreen faculty members Rose Jang and Zhang Er, who helped direct and produce the show. Nick McCord, one of Jang and Li’s students, wrote the script and lyrics during winter quarter as his senior project, and will be playing one of the lead roles.

Greg Youtz, music and China studies professor at Pacific Lutheran University, and son of Evergreen founding faculty member Byron Youtz, has also played a critical role in the production. Youtz has composed original music for the show, and provided traditional Chinese instruments and instruction on playing them. The music mixes the conventions of Chinese music and Broadway. The student musicians have come up with original arrangements for Youtz’s compositions.

“A production like this is unprecedented at Evergreen,” said Rose Jang. “It’s a big medley of Western and Chinese traditions—movement, music, poetry, stage fighting, literary themes. The plot references three famous stories from Chinese theatre, but presents it in a Broadway style, and still feels fresh and familiar. It’s a very original and organic production, and the students are really the seminal creators for the whole project.”

“What amazes me is that twelve weeks ago all we had was Nick’s original script,” said Greg Youtz, PLU professor and composer for The Blooming Season. “Now we have a full-fledged musical production with student-originated arrangements and choreography. The 42 students in this program have dedicated so much time and energy to this project, and I’ve seen them grow so much. It’s really an incredible piece of theatre and a testament to a lot of hard work and vision.”

The Blooming Season focuses on a young woman—in the afterlife—who is on trial and is repeatedly convicted to hell. The crime she supposedly committed was loving too much and fighting against tradition. The play follows her as she is reincarnated and lives former lives she’s had, repeating her crime of love. Each of her three reincarnations mirrors the plots of classic, traditional Chinese drama. The play is a drama, a comedy, and a musical with Western and Chinese influences.