Marianne Moore: Poetry

July 12, 2010

Mei Lan-Fang, Chinese Theater

Filed under: Marianne Moore — by moore123 @ 2:49 pm
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Moore wrote to Monroe Wheeler that she had enjoyed a performance by Mei Lan-Fang in New York (SL 502). Lan-Fang made only one tour of New York, in 1930 when his company played at the 49th Street Theater. A two-week run had been planned but so popular was the program that it was extended to five weeks and moved to the much larger National Theater. Among the pieces performed were “The Suspected Slipper,” “The End of the Tiger General,” and “The King’s Parting with His Favorite.”

In 1935,  Sergei Eisenstein met Lan-Fang in Moscow and persuaded him to permit filming of “The King’s Parting with His Favorite.” The film was never completed, but a short clip survives, a taste of what Moore would have seen. Lan-Fang,  following the custom of classical Chinese theater where only men acted, as always took the woman’s role.

Moore’s assessment of the performance she attended: ” I liked [Mei Lan-Fang] so much the one time I saw him in New York, that I was well satisfied not to go to anything else at the theatre afterward that season.” (SL 502)

Coincidentally, Bryher would publish Bertold Brecht’s article on Lan-Fang in Life and Letters Today in 1936, after Brecht had met the Chinese actor in Moscow.

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