In a blend of East and West, Little Red Riding Hood: The Chinese Opera told the Stony Brook community the Brother’s Grimm’s version of a classic tale entwined with Chinese music and dance.
“I thought Little Red Riding Hood would be a good story because everyone knows it,” said program director Kuang-Yu Fong, who is from Taipei City, Taiwan.
Fong worked for months to prepare her performers to adjust to new, English-speaking audiences. With the exception of Qian Ma, who played Little Red, all of the actors had to learn English before they came to the United States. The others still had to use Fong as an interpreter in the post-performance interview.
When show time arrived on Sunday afternoon in the Wang Center Theater, the sold-out crowd witnessed a version of Little Red Riding Hood that they had probably never seen before. Every word and movement moved in harmony with the music from the off-stage orchestra. The seemingly perfect connection between music and motion came from years of training.
“Professional performers are trained from a very young age,” Fong said. “Similar to ballet dancers in the West.”
Nowhere was this more evident than in the final scene when Little Red and the Hunter, dressed in Chinese clothing, as opposed to the lumberjack outfit from Western storybooks, battled with the Wolf. Graceful motions combined with martial arts put an exclamation point on a performance that the audience was already enjoying.
“I started learning martial arts when I was seven years old,” said Xiajun Song, who played the Wolf. “I am still learning.”
The actual performing wasn’t the only difficult part for the performers. Apparently, it took an hour to put the costumes on; That is not to mention the make-up, as well.
However, the aura given off by the performance was by no means negative or serious. The performers drew frequent laughter from the crowd.
The Hunter also produced an ironic twist. He became a hunter because of a wolf who bit him in his childhood but fears wolves above all other things.
In a climatic conclusion, the Grandmother killed the Wolf, by boldly saying, “Life is full of danger, so always keep your broom by your side.”
“I think your encouragement is so important,” Fong said. She said to the audience that they had just as valuable a role in the performance as anyone else.