By Ju Yon Kim
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Extra info for The racial mundane : Asian American performance and the embodied everyday
He makes an appearance, for example, in Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 drama Marco Millions, the Charlie Chan detective films that were popular from the 1920s to the 1940s, and a range of recent martial arts movies. Whatever comparisons might be made between Benrimo and Hazelton’s drama and the Chinese opera, The Yellow Jacket’s most significant distortion is the fixity it ascribes to Chinese theatrical practices and forms. 48 Although each enactment of The Yellow Jacket might have exhibited live performance’s immediacy and ephemerality,49 Benrimo and Hazelton arrested Chinese theater’s diverse and changing performances into a single, comprehensively scripted show that envisioned the East as perpetually archaic.
In convoluted language, Wu Sin Yin, like the Chorus, speaks directly to the audience and takes for granted their lack of familiarity with the performance. Consequently, although The Yellow Jacket implies two possible audiences, Chinese spectators who would have assimilated its conventions as the norm and Western spectators who would find them strange and incomprehensible, it assumes that the latter constitutes the actual viewership of the performance. ”64 Yet even as The Yellow Jacket defamiliarizes discursive and theatrical norms by deviating from established conventions, the overt acknowledgment of a disjuncture between the assumed (Western) audience’s perceptual habits and those of imagined Chinese theatergoers also affirms the former’s disorientation as natural and encourages a sense of tangible cultural difference.
Much like its juxtaposition of a blank stage with the minutiae of geographic coordinates, the play splits possible answers between the abstract and the specific. Although Our Town opens with the birth of twins to a “Polish mother” (6), this family remains at the periphery of Grover’s Corners: offstage and “by the tracks” (6), they await incorporation into a community that is mostly populated, a character later explains, by those who come from “English brachiocephalic blue-eyed stock” (22). ”2 What mediates between the specificities of life in Grover’s Corners and the drama’s more centrifugal tendencies are the quotidian activities that allow the audience to “see” the town without props or scenery.