Chinese Theatre Works (CTW) was created in 2001 out of the merger of two nonprofit institutions with long histories of bringing traditional and contemporary innovative Chinese performing arts to local New York City, national and international audiences: The Gold Mountain Institute for Traditional Shadow Theatre (founded 1975) and Chinese Theatre Workshop (founded 1990). Chinese Theatre Works carries forth their mission and presents programming drawn from their combined repertoire.
For its work Toy Theater Peony Pavilion, Chinese Theatre Works has won the highest honor in U.S. puppetry, a Citation of Excellence from UNIMA-USA. The company has also been featured at many festivals and conferences across the world. In 2009, the company's shadow puppet production Tiger Tales won three awards at the Shanghai International Art Festival, including Best Directing and Best Puppet Design.
The Gold Mountain Institute was founded in 1975 by Jo Humphrey to perform traditional Chinese shadow theater for U.S. audiences. Inspired by the work of Pauline Benton and her Red Gate Players, who in the 1930s were the first to bring this artistic tradition to the U.S., Ms. Humphrey created duplicates of shadow figures in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History, and developed a repertoire of adaptations of Chinese literary classics and folk tales. That project, the Yueh Lung Shadow Theatre, soon grew into a larger performance and educational company under the Gold Mountain Institute name, introducing audiences of all ages to traditional Chinese shadow puppetry.
Kuang-Yu Fong founded Chinese Theatre Workshop in 1990 to continue her work bringing together Chinese and Western performance styles and techniques, as well as to support the traditional Chinese performing arts in the U.S. and beyond. The company provided educational programming and informative lecture-performances in English, and also produced both traditional original shows on Chinese cultural themes for general audiences.
Its original productions mixed Chinese Opera and shadow puppetry with modern dance, downtown performance art, European folk tales, toy theater and object theater, drawing on Chinese folk tales and literary classics as well as aspects of the contemporary Chinese experience from slowly changing gender roles to immigration to the U.S.
The two companies began to come together in 1998, when Ms Fong, who had previously been a performer and teaching artist with Gold Mountain Institute, became Executive Director of the company. Three years later, the companies merged to create Chinese Theatre Works. The present company carries on both its predecessors’ missions, as well as their commitments to education as a key part of our work. Chinese Theatre Works’ programs cut across ethnic and cultural boundaries, sparking interest in Chinese cultural traditions among the wider public as well as reinforcing it in Chinese Americans who have not had access to this part of their heritage.
Traditional Chinese opera, music and dance is offered in both English and Chinese, depending on the audience.
Programs for Seniors
Age-appropriate performormances at senior centers, as well as special group prices and discounts for caretakers can be arranged.
Company teaching artists offer a variety of long-term residencies, workshops, lecture-performances and seminars in Chinese opera and shadow theater. These sessions help students understand Chinese performance skills, production methods, history and aesthetics. They utilize practical demonstrations, slides and video lectures to introduce the art forms and their key elements and concepts. Shadow theater programs guide students through the process of planning, designing, building and performing a two- to five-minute puppet production. The company has broad experience in working with New York City schoolchildren.