Wild Swans

Wild Swans

Adapted by Alexandra Wood from the memoir by Jung Chang

Directed by Sacha Wares

Originally produced at American Repertory Theatre , Cambridge, MA .

February 11, 2012 through March 11, 2012

About the Premiere Production: Wild Swans is a new adaptation, by playwright Alexandra Wood, of the internationally renowned memoir by Jung Chang. It brings to life the journey of three generations of women: a Confucian grandmother, a mother who is a former revolutionary, and the daughter who both inherits and narrates a tale “bursting with drama, heartbreak and horror.” (Publisher’s Weekly) Set during China’s Cultural Revolution, the violent socio-political upheaval that led to at least 30 million deaths from 1966 – 1976, Wild Swans carries the powerful message that, even in the midst of cataclysm, family is what endures. It eloquently expresses how women act as their families’ memory, by maintaining and bestowing meanings on keepsakes, rituals and recipes. This story is one such memento.

Jung’s memoir was first published in 1991; it has since been translated into 30 languages, and has sold over 10 million copies. It won the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year. The Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote, “(Jung) vividly evokes China’s sights, sounds and smells to create what must be one of the grimmest, yet most perceptive accounts of growing up middle-class in the maelstrom that has swept China since the 1920’s.”

Artistic Statement: 
This production will bring Jung Chang’s bestselling novel to life on stage for the first time. The story of how one family survives a century of cultural and political revolutions, Wild Swans will give A.R.T. audiences opportunities not only to engage in a dialogue about twentieth-century China, but also to explore the relationship between personal memoir and historical writing. During the run of the production, the A.R.T. will be collaborating with the Fairbank Center at Harvard on an extensive post-performance discussion series. Panelists for these talkbacks will include historians, writers, psychiatrists, and artists who will be discussing the experience of the Cultural Revolution, its legacy in China and the world today, and the ways in which history is represented. We also hope to broaden the discussion and invite audiences to share their own family stories on a special blog devoted to this production.

The A.R.T.’s partnership with the Young Vic Theatre Company on this project has allowed us to bring together leading artists from the U.S. and the U.K. After premiering at the A.R.T. in February and March of 2012, Wild Swans will transfer to London, where it will perform in the Cultural Olympics.

Grant Statement:
Support from the Edgerton Foundation provides valuable added rehearsal time that will be critical in the development of this production. Adapting a book that spans three generations and nearly a century of turmoil is an enormous undertaking for writer Alexandra Wood and the rest of the creative team. This grant will give the writer, directors, designers, and performers much-needed time to continue to shape the story and how it is told.

Director: Sacha Wares

Additional Funders: 
The Shubert Foundation, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust


Subsequent Productions:  A Co-Production of the American Repertory Theater and the Young Vic Theatre Company