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Building bridges to Beijing

By : Elaine Kelly

Qianghua Wang, scenic artist and assistant technical director for the Department of Theatre, sculpts effigies for the set of an upcoming production of A Macbeth.
Qianghua Wang has tried to bridge the gap between East and West through a lifetime of creative expression. He left an illustrious career as the scenic designer at the Shanghai Shaoxing Opera Theatre to become the scenic artist and assistant technical director for the Department of Theatre at Binghamton University.

“I wanted to learn Western- style scenic design,” he said. “I worked in traditional Chinese opera for 15 years and I needed to grow in my profession.”

Wang discovered the master’s degree program at Binghamton during his research for schools at the Shanghai Library. He applied and was accepted in 1987.

He has been trying to build other bridges between his native country and his adopted country, the United States, ever since, especially by encouraging friends and colleagues to visit China.

“We can promote peace and understanding through the exchange of creative ideas and cultural knowledge, and shared life and educational experiences,” Wang said.

Don Boros, associate professor of theatre, said Wang’s suggestion that he visit China has grown into almost an obsession. “Once I saw China, it was like I fell under a spell,” Boros said. “When I realized how truly remarkable the country was, I just knew our students had to experience it. I have been lucky to have traveled a lot, but I was never affected as profoundly as I was by China.”

Wang and Boros agreed that offering students an opportunity to see and study Chinese theatre would be invaluable. In summer 2004, the two led their first fourweek educational tour, The Total Art of Chinese Theatre. Nine students received academic credit for their studies of Chinese culture, art, history and theatre through onsite tours and hands-on experiences involving Chinese theatre professionals.

Boros and Wang received the Chancellor’s Award for Internationalization for their work in creating the program. Another group will go to China this summer, and theatre majors or minors who participate will receive a Qianghua Wang Chinese Theatre Award of $100 to help pay for the trip. Wang established the scholarship with the University Foundation earlier this year.

Wang’s interest in cross-cultural arts and education started small and grew remarkably. His contacts in Shanghai led to contacts in Beijing and developed into the summer experience.

Then, in April 2005, six representatives from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing, including its president, visited Binghamton. In September 2005, another delegation of top administrators came to campus, joined by performers who sponsored workshops for students and a performance for the general public. An agreement was signed committing both institutions to explore further opportunities for interaction.

Most recently, Wang was invited to accompany Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Ann Swain, Katharine Krebs, director of international programs, and Associate Professor Zuyan Chen from the Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages to the ceremonial opening of the State University of New York office in Beijing on Feb. 27.

Wang said he’s pleased SUNY is gaining greater international recognition.

“Everyone knows the Ivy League names,” he said. “Now it’s time to make SUNY a wellknown name in China.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08