Personal stories of transformation

first_imgJung Chang’s successful memoir “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China” chronicles her family’s often heartbreaking journey through the cultural and political transformation that defined 20th-century China.The work, which has sold more than 13 million copies in 36 languages, recounts her grandmother’s plight as a concubine, her mother’s struggles as a prominent Communist Party member, and the author’s own experience as a member of the Red Guard and her eventual exile to the countryside during the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution.Now, “Wild Swans,” the world-premiere stage adaptation of the book, is on view at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) through Sunday. But once the show is over, an innovative collaboration between the A.R.T. and the metaLAB (at) Harvard, inspired by the new play, will continue to engage audiences with stories related to the world’s most populous country through an interactive online memoir.Intrigued by the idea of melding the physical and the virtual realms, A.R.T. outreach and education associate Brendan Shea turned to metaLAB researcher Joana Pimenta and co-founder Jesse Shapins. Using Shapin’s software Zeega, an open-source Web platform designed to make collaborative multimedia documentaries and exhibitions, Shea and his A.R.T. colleagues helped to develop a mosaic of sound, images, video, and text inspired by the compelling source material for the new show.“The courage, the ability to share your story, and the personal details of your life for the purposes of making people aware of what you went through … definitely inspired us,” said Shea. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is the memoir of this community as it relates to China or Chinese history or Chinese culture?’ ”“I want to give to other kids what had been given to me. I want to go back and sort of pay it forward,” says Harvard freshman Tian Kisch in her online diary.To find his answer, he turned to people like Harvard freshman Tian Kisch, a member of Harvard China Care, a student-run organization at the College that supports abandoned, orphaned, and special-needs children in China.Born in Guangzhou, China, Kisch was adopted by an American family when she was 8 months old. In her online memoir, she discusses her life growing up in Seattle; her first trip to China at age 11 — where she met her foster mother, the woman who nursed her back to health after Kisch was abandoned as a newborn; and her own volunteer work with Chinese orphanages.“I want to give to other kids what had been given to me. I want to go back and sort of pay it forward,” Kisch says in her online diary.Being part of the collaborative project, she said, offered her an opportunity to highlight the breadth of the Chinese-American experience.“There are so many different backgrounds that we all have,” said Kisch. “I think that is a really important concept to grasp.”For the project, Shea and his team reached out to other Harvard organizations, including the Harvard Chinese Students and Scholars Association and Harvard Chinatown Citizenship, a naturalization assistance program for the Boston area that is part of the Phillips Brooks House Association. They also connected with several Boston communities that have ties to China.The work is an example of the A.R.T.’s ongoing efforts to expand the boundaries of theater, the operating ethos of artistic director Diane Paulus, who challenges the conventional notion of theatergoers as passive observers. Residencies, workshops, panel discussions, and community engagement programs — including a recent outreach effort that asked local high school students to create miniproductions based on the A.R.T.’s staging of  “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” —  have all been part of recent programming.The new collaboration echoes a trend in other regional theaters around the country, said Shea, one geared toward engaging audiences by harnessing the power of the Internet and “the different social and technological aspects of the world around us.“What we are doing here at Harvard is at the vanguard of this sea change that is happening in theater.”Shapins called the project a “fantastic example” of how the arts at Harvard can operate as a catalyst for engaging the University with a broader community.Media and storytelling, said Shapins, “are one of the most powerful ways for those connections to be made.”last_img read more

Suarez: Football helps me escape

first_img The Uruguay striker hailed the Anfield club’s supporters as crucial to his rehabilitation after the ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. But the 26-year-old said a rhinoceros hide formed during a troubled childhood in his native Uruguay has helped him overcome a string of controversies in European football. Suarez admitted his Liverpool career would have been over had the supporters not welcomed him back into the Anfield fold. The Salto-born forward collected the 2013 Player of the Year award at Monday’s William Hill Football Supporters’ Federation Awards at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. He said: “When I was a child I had too many problems, but I could try my best on the pitch. “Once I was playing football I could try my best, because I just love to play football, I play with my heart.” Thanking the Liverpool faithful for warming to him again this season, Suarez rated “coming back to play at Anfield” as his 2013 highlight. He said: “After so many difficult moments for me I was able to win the supporters back, and that was unbelievable when I came back to play. “They helped me, and that was important for me, for my confidence, and for my family, because they are together with me in this. “It’s very special for me (the award) because my hard work on the pitch is recognised. Luis Suarez credits a thick skin hardened on the streets and football pitches of Salto and Montevideo for his Liverpool redemption. “Everybody knows about my problems and my difficult year, but after that I forgot everything and have been able to get back on the pitch. “Liverpool are starting to reach their potential and we can play our best on the pitch. “It’s very important that we stay together, we keep going, this is very important. “If Liverpool don’t have these players I cannot continue my level, because it’s too much. “They know I am important, so they try everything to stay together, that’s important for me, but it’s more important for the club.” Suarez will face a host of Liverpool team-mates when his Uruguay side take on England in World Cup 2014 in Brazil. After the World Cup draw, Suarez revealed Steven Gerrard texted joking that England were “lucky” to face Uruguay. Banter aside, Suarez knows how tough it will be to reach the knockout stages of the summer extravaganza. He said: “Before the draw I hoped we would not face England. “But when it said we would face England it was unbelievable for me. “Stevie sent a message to me saying ‘we are so lucky’, and we were laughing because it’s so funny. “But now we are concentrating on the league and Liverpool. “I think it’s more difficult at the World Cup, it will be very, very difficult. “Italy, Uruguay, England: they all have good players. “But I think in the World Cup if you want to win, then in every game you must concentrate, and you must focus against every country.” Press Associationlast_img read more