Amy Tan’s books about China, and Chinese Americans who connect with their past, have a huge popular following. This weekend and next, you can see a show that transfers one of Tan’s stories from page to stage. That’s because the script is quite literally the text of Tan’s original story, which the actors perform word for word – with the addition of elaborate costumes, music, action by the actors, and more. It’s an uncommon form of theater, staged by the Word for Word Performing Arts Company of San Francisco. The original production premiered in 2004, and it’s entirely based on the Tan story “Immortal Heart,” published by the New Yorker in 2001, which became a section of Tan’s novel “The Bonesetter’s Daughter.” The show was a hit, and picked up several Bay Area Critics Circle awards. But I couldn’t resist asking actor Michael Cheng about Amy Tan’s reaction when she saw the show.
“Well, that’s a really good question….”
The story, told through memories, takes place in a village in pre-revolutionary China, about 80 years ago. Onstage, it sounds like this.
(soundbite from show)
Staging an author’s printed text presents a number of challenges, but Cheng feels the theatrical experience that results is truer to the original than most adaptations, especially when a book is transferred to the silver screen.
(“I think sometimes you can see a movie…)
“Immortal Heart” will be presented Thursdays through Sundays, until February 4th at the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City, sponsored by Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra.