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Reinterpreting Shakespeare

By Ena Schlorff

Renaissance Venice is reimagined once again, this time in distinctive East Asian grandeur as the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies (CCS) presents a performance of “Bond,” an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” by the Taiwan Bangzi Company. The free event will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

“Bond” is based on a new translation of “The Merchant of Venice” by U-M alumnus Perng Ching-hsi (PhD ’77), one of Taiwan’s foremost Shakespeare scholars and former dean of the National Taiwan University’s College of Liberal Arts. The opera, which originally premiered in Taipei in 2009, retains the story line of “The Merchant of Venice.” It transports audiences to a medieval Chinese city, and explores the double-edged meaning of “bond” – protection and restriction. The opera offers an updated, lyrical perspective on important issues such as race, law, justice, friendship, love, gender and, most of all, marital fidelity.

“U-M audiences are very sophisticated, and ‘Bond’ will further broaden their horizons,” said Mary Gallagher, CCS director and associate professor of political science. “The blending of dramatic traditions makes it entertaining for audiences to watch.”

“Bond” will feature 40 performers, a live orchestra and will be presented with Chinese and English subtitles. The leading Taiwanese diva Hai-ling Wang will transform herself to play the male role of Shylock, which incorporates the complex Chinese opera roles of “lao-sheng” (sympathetic older male), “jing” (younger male) and “chou” (clown). Wang also sings, dances, and juggles. She has been named Best Artist in Asia and has received Taiwan’s national Award for Literature and the Arts.

The world-renowned Taiwan Bangzi Company has performed on stage at King’s College in London, at the Lincoln Center in New York City, as well as in Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong and several Asian countries. In addition to the Ann Arbor performance, its tour in the United States will include just three other venues: the annual conference of the Shakespeare Association of America in Bellevue, Washington; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

PLACE: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 North University

SPONSORS: The tour is made possible by generous grants from the Taiwanese government and the assistance of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in New York. Additional support has been provided by the U-M Department of English, the U-M Department of Comparative Literature’s Year of Comparison, and members of the Taiwanese American community of Ann Arbor and Greater Detroit.

CONTACTS: For more information about the Taiwan Bangzi events contact CCS at (734) 764-6308 or




DATE: Sunday, April 10, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

DESCRIPTION: In addition to its performance of “Bond,” the Taiwan Bangzi Company will also present a Bangzi Family Night. The event will include a demonstration-lecture of the best of Chinese Opera, video screenings of four essential opera roles that will appear in the performance and brief opera lessons on body movement and martial arts. The event is free and open to the public.

PLACE: Auditorium A of Angell Hall, 435 S. State Street


DATE: Monday, April 11, noon

DESCRIPTION: Members of the Taiwan Bangzi Company and academics of the genre will lead a Bangzi Workshop providing an insightful introduction to bangzi opera with the aid of live performances. The event is free and open to the public.

PLACE: School of Social Work Building, Room 1636, 1080 South University Ave.

The Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan was founded in 1961 and has maintained its leading position among centers nationwide for more than 40 years. Situated within the International Institute, the Center for Chinese Studies provides students, specialists, and the public at large with expert resources and a deeper understanding of contemporary and historical issues related to China. For more information, visit

The University of Michigan International Institute houses 18 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes. The institute develops and supports international teaching, research, and public affairs programs to promote global understanding across the campus and to build connections with intellectuals and institutions worldwide. For more information, visit