Symposium on GOLDEN CHILD

Transcultural Performance:  True Heart Theatre’s Production of GOLDEN CHILD discussed.

Theatre Studies Research Centre

University of East London

Monday October 7, 2013

Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, London E15 1BX

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Free but limited. Book a place with Dr Luis C. Sotelo at

Schedule and Speakers:

12:30 – 13:00              Arrival and Coffee


13:00  – 14:30              Section 1

Dr. Luis C. Sotelo, University of East London

Welcome note


True Heart’s Performance of an excerpt from GOLDEN CHILD

David Henry Hwang, the playwright

On GOLDEN CHILD (live via skype)

Veronica Needa, Artistic Director, True Heart Theatre

Making Our Stories Visible

Why GOLDEN CHILD? Why here? Why now? A review of the production process.



14:50 – 15:50              Section 2

True Heart’s Performance of an excerpt from GOLDEN CHILD

Dr. Gerda Wielander, University of Westminister, Principal Lecturer in Chinese Studies

Missionaries and China’s Modernisation.

Dr. Matthew Cohen, Royal Holloway University, Asian Performing Arts Forum

Modernity, the Chinese and the Performing Arts in Southeast Asia



16:00 – 17:00  Section 3

True Heart’s Performance of an excerpt from GOLDEN CHILD

Parie Leung, University of British Columbia

Between Community-Formation and Personal Agency: Two frameworks through which we can read British iterations of David Henry Hwang’s auto/biographical play GOLDEN CHILD?

Dr. Luis C. Sotelo, University of East London

Does it matter for whom you perform? Issues of transcultural performance research.

Q & A and conclusion



The Theatre Studies programme at The University of East London has moved to its new purpose built facilities at University Square Stratford. It is part of our vision to bring together global theatre and performance practitioners with local peers, audiences and academics to share and discuss practices of both local and global resonance. To celebrate the move to the new building and to launch its newly created Research Centre, Theatre Studies (UEL), True Heart Theatre, and the Asian Performing Arts Forum invite you to take part in a research event that explores the use of oral history in connection to performance in a transcultural, intercultural, and intergenerational setting. Using True Heart Theatre’s current production of David Henry Hwang’s Tony Award-winning play GOLDEN CHILD (2-12 October at New Diorama Theatre as a case study, the event aims at facilitating a discussion about how global audiences might read auto-biographical stories from a specific cultural context and time (China, 1918) presented to them through the medium of theatre.

GOLDEN CHILD presents the story of a Chinese businessman who in 1918 returns to his home in a village near Xiamen, after a three years absence and brings with him not just gifts from the West but a new mindset that will have a transformational and profound impact on his family and even on his entire town.  The story illustrates not just the tensions that Chinese migrants and their families have experienced historically through their transnational engagements but also how those tensions have both driven further migration and come to play a significant part within wider processes of cultural, economic, and political changes in their country of origin.

In his search for cultural identity, American-born Chinese playwright David Henry Hwang interviewed his grandmother, documented that interview in the form of a novel, and many years later adapted the original novel into GOLDEN CHILD – a play. The plot of the play is consistent with David Henry Hwang’s family history. Thus, as the performance of a dramatised version of an auto/biographical true story captured through an oral history method, True Heart Theatre’s current production of the play activates a debate about how immigrants and their descendants (in this case Overseas-born Chinese) might use oral history in connection with performance as a means to collectively remember, construct and present their identity and what such a process might do in and for the context in which the performance takes place.

More specifically, the play triggers a debate about how by sharing family history in the globalized public context of performance, descendants of immigrants might reconfigure family memory into part of what might be called ‘transnational history’, that is the history of families and individuals who have lived and continue to live between multiple sites. Over the last two decades or so, the transnational approach to studying migration has gained currency. It challenges the previously held and to some extent still dominant tendency to situate the country of origin of a migrant and her adopted country as two separate spaces with no linkages between them. The acting power of those linkages needs to be revealed, and by using True Heart’s performance of GOLDEN CHILD as a case study, this research event aims to do just that.