Ballard Institute to host Symposium on Chinese Shadow Theater, October 26-27

In conjunction with our current exhibition Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater, the Ballard Institute will host a two-day popular and scholarly symposium on Chinese shadow theater as a global cultural artform, on Friday and Saturday, October 26th and 27th.  This unusual and exciting event will feature the following scholars:

Dr. Fan Pen Li Chen, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Albany.  Dr. Chen is the acclaimed author of numerous books and articles about Chinese shadow theater, including Chinese Shadow Theater: History, Popular Religion, and Women Warriors, and Visions for the Masses: Chinese Shadow Plays from Shaanxi and Shanxi, and will discuss three different Chinese and American shadow theater productions of the classic play Whitesnake.



– Annie Katsura Rollins, a puppeteer, scholar, and most recently a Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry.  Annie holds an MFA degree in theater design from the University of Minnesota, and has been studying traditional Chinese shadow theater in various regions of China over the past year.  She will talk about her first-hand experience with contemporary versions of these ancient puppet traditions.





Bradford Clark, Professor of Theater and Film at Bowling Green State University, and Curator of Collections at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia.  Professor Clark will present video and photographs from his recent travels in rural China documenting regional traditions of shadow performance.





Dr. Kathy Foley, Professor of Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Editor of Asian Theater Journal.  Dr. Foley, whose considerable experience with Asian puppetry includes training as a dalang of Balinese  wayang golek rod puppet theater, as well as directing, teaching, and curating exhibitions, will moderate a closing discussion with all of the symposium participants.



– Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin, co-directors of Queens-based company Chinese Theatre Works, and curators of Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater.   They will give guided tours of the exhibition, as well as a talk about Chinese Theater Works’s experience presenting traditional and non-traditional Chinese shadow performance in the United States, including a ten-minute excerpt of their new Powerpoint Whitesnake production.


– Mary Hirsch, independent scholar, translator of Chinese shadow theater, and former Curatorial Assistant at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.  Ms. Hirsch will discuss how and why the misidentification of puppets and misunderstanding of Chinese traditions of shadow theater has come to characterize the majority of  Chinese shadow figure collections in museums and libraries in the United States.


Symposium Schedule:

Friday, October 26

3:00 – Welcome; refreshments

3:30-4:15 – Guided tour of “Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater
in the United States,” with exhibition curators Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin of
Chinese Theatre Works

4:15 — Presentation by Puppet Arts Program graduate student Xing Xin Liu, about her work with shadow theater in rural China this past summer.

4:30 – 6:00 Presentation #1: Annie Katsura Rollins

6-7:30 – Dinner Break

7:30-9 – Presentation #2: Mary Hirsch

Saturday, October 27

9-9:30 — Coffee

9:30-11:00 – Presentation #3: Fan Pen Li Chen

11:00-11:30 – Presentation #4: Stephen Kaplin and Kuang-Yu Fong

11:30-1:00 – Lunch Break

1:00-2:30 – Presentation #5: Bradford Clark

2:30-4:00 – Roundtable Discussion: Kathy Foley, Chair

All symposium sessions will take place at the Ballard Institute on UConn’s Depot Campus.  Accommodations are available at the Nathan Hale Inn.

 This event is free.  For more information, please contact the Ballard Institute at, or 860 486 0806.


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