West Meets East

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is introducing China’s Guan Hanqing to William Shakespeare. This is a neat trick, given that the two playwrights are separated by more than 300 years and 5,000 miles.

Cowhig, an assistant professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Theater and Dance, has adapted Guan’s 13th-century tale of injustice, “Snow in Midsummer,” for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), which will perform the play at its Swan Theatre in the Bard’s Stratford-Upon-Avon in February and March. The production is the first in the RSC’s Chinese Translations Project, which will bring Chinese classics to the West.

It’s a singular honor for Cowhig, a playwright who came to the attention of the RSC with the production of her “The World of Extreme Happiness” in 2013. The company approached her in late 2015 about adapting a Chinese play and offered her some options. “Snow in Midsummer,” with its tale of a wronged woman who is killed and returns as a ghost, stood out. A fan of contemporary horror and thriller stories, Cowhig jumped at the opportunity.

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