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The Rise of Cantonese Opera$
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Wing Chung Ng

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039119

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039119.001.0001

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Theater and the Immigrant Public

Theater and the Immigrant Public

(p.170) Chapter 8 Theater and the Immigrant Public
The Rise of Cantonese Opera

Wing Chung Ng

University of Illinois Press

This chapter delineates the history of Chinatown theater as a public space for social interaction and community building in migrant societies. With Chinese migrants living under highly circumscribed conditions without much access to resources and amenities in mainstream society, the theater acquired extra significance within the enclave. Especially noteworthy is the active involvement of traditional organizations in promoting Cantonese opera and cultivating patronage with the touring companies and itinerant actors. On the one hand, the close-knit personal and social networks, and the group affiliations and loyalties associated with these organizations, were critical ingredients for the success of the theater business. On the other hand, the theater personnel and the spectacle of the stage became available to aid the organizations and the leaders in furthering their agendas by gaining visibility and public support. On the overseas stage, the enthusiastic reception afforded to actresses unleashed interesting dynamics of gender in an overwhelmingly male population. Aside from an entertainment venue enjoyed by many, the immigrant theater was acted upon by those concerned as an important site for the negotiation and inscription of power relations, normative behaviors, and community politics in exclusion-era Chinatown.

Keywords:   Cantonese opera, Chinatown theater, migrant communities, social interaction, community building, immigrant theater

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