An Evening of Traditional and Experimental Kunqu

An Evening of Traditional and Experimental Kunqu

Featuring:KE Jun, SUN Jing, TANG Qin, and YANG Yang of the Nanjing Kunju Yuan (A production of Zuni Icosahedron, Hong Kong)
Date:Friday, March 31, 2017
Time:7:30 – 10 pm
Location:Helmut Stern Auditorium, University of Michigan Museum of Art
Free and open to allReservation HERE.

Featuring KE Jun and YANG Yang, and other star performers of Nanjing Kunju Troupe, China, this event presents three fascinating works, contrasting performance styles of traditional kunqu and contemporary Chinese theatre derived from kunqu. The first scene is a traditional rendition of Flee by Night  (“Yeben”), a kunqu favorite. The second is an excerpted performance of the experimental Flee by Night directed by Danny Yung, the internationally renowned director of Zuni Icosahedron of Hong Kong. The third scene is a short and contemporary rendition of the “Strolling in the Garden” (“Youyuan”) scene from Peony Pavilion, the celebrated kunqu drama by Tang Xianzu (1550-1616). The second and the third works are selected from the One Table Two Chairs series of contemporary and pan-Asian theatre that Zuni Icosahedron produced in its Toki Project for sustaining traditional performing arts in globalized Asia.


KE Jun

KE Jun is a National Class One actor specializing in wusheng (combating hero) and wenwu laosheng (civil and military bearded old male) role types in Kunqu opera. He has studied with Zheng Chuanjian,Zhang Jinlong, Zhou Chuanying, Bao Chuanduo. His repertoire includes Flee by Night, The Peach Blossom FanBidding Farewell to MotherNine Lotus Lanterns and Wu Song. He is also devoted to Kunqu opera experimentation, with works such as Faust, Flee by Night and Zang. KE has received prestigious awards included Meihua Award, Wenhua Award and Lanhua Award. KE has been invited to Korea, Japan, India, UK, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Taiwan for exchanges and performances.

SUN Jing 

SUN Jing is a younger generation actor at the Jiangsu Kun Opera Theater, playing the hualian or ‘painted face’ role. His noted for his performances in ‘The Reed Patch’ from The Tacticians, ‘Wedding the Sister’ from Joy for All and ‘The Monastery Gate’ from Cat O’Nine Tails. He also plays a major role in the youth version of The Peach Blossom Fan 1699. He has won prizes at the Kunqu National youth and the Red Plum competitions.


TANG Qin is an outstanding younger generation actress of the Kun Opera Theatre. Born in 1986, in 2005 she graduated from the Jiangsu Drama Academy’s Kun Opera Department, specializing in the xiao huadan role-type (younger vivacious maiden role). She is noted for her performances in “Walking Through the Garden” and “The Spirit Departs” from The Peony Pavilion, “Descending the Mountain” from Ocean of Sin, “Divorce under Duress” and “The Mad Dream” from Lake Mountain and “The Broken Bridge” from Leifeng Temple. She has twice been recognized for her talent at the Jiangsu Red Plum Competition, winning the “Prize for Outstanding Performers.”


Specialized initially in Xiaosheng (male character without beard) and later Wusheng (combating hero), the exemplary actor YANG Yang graduated from the Kunqu Division in Jiangsu Drama School and is now part of the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group. He has studied with Shi Xiaomei, Bei Dongmin, Chen Xiaoliu, Ke Jun, Shan Xiaoming and Huang Qifeng. His regular repertoires include Lui Mengmei in The Peony Pavilion, Gao Chong in Tiao Hua Che, Yang Zaixing in Xiao Shang He etc. He won the Bronze award in Jiangsu Province’s 3rd Red Plum Blossom Opera Competition. Yang has been working and travelled with Danny Yung in various performance and education projects taken place in different cities in the past decade.

About the work – Flee by Night 

Following The Outcast General and the award-winning Tears of Barren Hill, Danny Yung brings a finale to his “Trilogy of Experimental Traditional Opera” with Flee by Night, a one-act kunqu that puts the wusheng (martial male) role to its highest challenge. Kunqu about 600 years old is one of the oldest forms of Chinese traditional theater/opera proclaimed intangible cultural heritage by the UNESCO in 2001. Renowned for the virtuosity of its rhythmic patterns (changqiang), Kunqu has had a considerable influence on more recent forms of Chinese theater/opera, such as the Sichuan or Beijing opera.

Flee by Night is one of the two surviving acts from the play The Legend of the Precious Sword written by the Mid-Ming playwright Li Kaixian.  In the 21st Century, Danny Yung is making another adaptation of Flee by Night, allowing a historical figure to come to life on a contemporary stage. This performance is an elegy on the lingering melancholy and dejection of life, as well as a reappraisal of 450 years of theatre with all the tradition and innovation in between, showing us how resilient performing arts could be through the ages.

Flee by Night tells the story of Lin Chong, one of the famous 108 Liangshan heroes from the Chinese classical novel Water Margin. Lin Chong, an honorable man and the chief instructor of the Imperial Guards, was framed and persecuted by malicious court officials. He was being hunted, and had no alternatives but to join the band of Liangshan outlaws. He was so overwhelmed with desolation and frustration that he started to weep for his star-crossed destiny.