TDPS Grad Student Screens Documentary Short at IFTR World Congress

Video by Adam Nixon

School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies doctoral candidate Adam Nixon recently returned from the University of Warwick, England, where he presented a documentary short at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) World Congress, held July 28 to August 1.

“I wanted it to be about how two cultures could mesh together and create something really pretty unique.”

Nixon’s video documented some of the cross-cultural relationships that developed through the bilingual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a collaboration between the University of Maryland and The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in 2012. “I wanted it to be about how two cultures could mesh together and create something really pretty unique,” Nixon said.

A television producer, filmmaker and playwright, Nixon is interested in exploring the intersection of new media, dance, theatre and filmmaking through performance studies. He closely followed the creative process involved in the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which premiered at The Clarice in September 2012 and was also performed in Beijing.

“It’s an interestingly structured play…because it has very specific components, stories that run almost in parallel,” Nixon said. “It makes it easy to divide it that way.”

The Chinese students, directed by Yu Fanlin, portrayed the Athenians, while University of Maryland students, directed by Mitchell Hébert, played the fairies and the rude mechanicals, an acting troupe that performs before the Chinese royal court.

Communicating through three UMD students who spoke fluent Chinese and two professional translators, Fanlin and Hébert put together a pastiche of Chinese opera, aerial dances and American folk music, complete with a few genre-bending parodies. The rude mechanicals, characterized in this production as an American bluegrass band, even parodied Chinese opera in their performance.

“What could have been misconstrued wasn’t…I wanted to capture that,” Nixon said of the parody. “In this film, I wanted to show the risks that they were taking…in the end they did understand each other pretty well.”

Encouraged by Professor Frank Hildy, the head of the M.A./Ph.D. program in Theatre and Performance Studies, Nixon submitted his video to the IFTR World Congress. He received grants from the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies and the Ph.D. program to help fund his travel costs.

Nixon’s video opened the conference and was screened twice on the University of Warwick’s outdoor Big Screen during the Congress.

“It was definitely an honor, and I was grateful that Frank suggested, helped, encouraged us to go to the conference,” Nixon said.

Nixon said he is considering applying for grants to fund the translation of his interviews with Chinese students. After re-editing the video, he hopes to take it to additional festivals in the summer of 2015.