Wencong Chen

Translator, Therapist, & Artist

2012 Alumni

Biography

Theater Studies (Major) Film Studies (Minor), 2012
Shanghai, China

Since Emory:

I was married in 2013! After I graduated, I wanted to learn more about traditional Chinese theatrical forms, so I studied Chinese traditional Yue opera with a Chinese theater director in the first four months. Then I became interested in movement therapy and participated in a number of workshops, and I am currently studying to get my psychology-counseling license in China in summer 2014. My after-Emory working experiences include hosting drama therapy workshops for Shanghai juvenile prisoners, acting as director’s assistant for Peter Chelsom in China on his new film Hector and the Search for Happiness, and making a promotional short film for World Cancer Research Fund in Hong Kong. I was very fortunate to participate in the Odin Theater Workshop with Eugenio Barba and phenomenal actors Roberta Carreri and Tage Larsen to learn about physical theater acting and directing. Last year, I applied for Lecoq School in France and MFA of Physical Theater at Accademia dell’Arte in Italy and got into both schools. My interest in physical theater stems from exploring the possibility of cross-cultural theaters through body language. I currently earn my living through translation, tutoring students, and occasionally making short films for companies. , and I am currently applying for Yale MFA in directing for fall 2014 and crossing my fingers and toes for the application.

Current Activities:

During my time in Shanghai, I was able to make friends at Shanghai Theater Academy Winter Institute. Winter Institute is a collection of classes ranging from Peking Opera in performance, Shakespeare text and performance, physical theater, multimedia theater, object theater, design, drama therapy, and theater management by professors from US and Chinese universities. We are currently brainstorming and developing a devised original work that deconstructs Chinese and Indian myths to reflect our present times through amplified lens of history and culture. Our team includes an Indian actress and playwright who had trainings in traditional Indian dances Kathak and Natyashastra, a Chinese modern dance choreographer, a Peking opera actor, a designer/painter, and me as a director and actor with experiences in photography and filmmaking. I have no clues what are we going to achieve, but that is what excites me, and I am sure it will be a great learning experience regardless of the end result. I am also researching and translating Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver, and hoping to direct and stage the play in summer 2014. 

Highlights:

I once timidly approached Tim McDonough as he was entering his office and asked if he could take a look at my audition monologue, and without a second of hesitation, he took me to the Schwartz Theater Lab and worked with me on my monologue which had nothing to do with classes or productions for the next three hours. During my senior year, I was once so distressed about my directing and playwriting project that I was near the point of giving up. As I dragged myself into my mentor Michael Evenden’s office to have our weekly meetings, he rose up from his chair and said, “let’s get some fresh air!” We walked along the quad and sat at a marble bench and talked. After an hour, he gently asked, “how are you feeling now?” I got up, took a deep breath, thanked him, and went straight back to work. He cared more about me as a person than about the project. Because of his encouragement and support, I was able to write and direct a full-length play in the end. In terms of classes, John Ammerman’s movement class is such a gem that I find myself using what I have learn from his class again and again in my directing works. Tim’s Shakespeare in Performance and Speeches and Monologues equipped me with tools to confront two most difficult areas of acting: Shakespeare and soliloquies. In my last year at Emory, with all the support from Emory Theater Department, I was able to establish Emory Chinese Theater with a group of first-time Chinese student actors and crewmembers at Emory. I directed modern Chinese classic Rhinoceros in Love at Harland Cinema in fall 2011. In spring 2012, I wrote, directed, produced a full-length play ZHAO with a fifteen-member cast, and performed as the lead actor. The play centered on a young poetess who was persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It premiered at an adapted office space in former Georgia State Mental Health Institute for seven performances, with pre-show exhibitions of Chinese contemporary history in the adjacent room. Both plays were performed in Chinese with English supertitles.

In retrospect:

Emory Theater Department gave me so much space, guidance, and tolerance to allow me to explore and discover my interests and myself as a person. My education has set a solid foundation for me to stand on my own feet with confidence and unsettledness at the same time to keep experimenting and learning and staying humble. Professors in the department not only set a high bar for professionalism, but also for being great human beings. They are always so quick to respond to my emails to guide me, mentor me, and listen to my frustrations with work and life, and they have written countless recommendation letters for my scholarship and MFA applications during their busiest time in the year and even holidays. Theater has opened my eyes to see, ears to listen, mind to inquire, body to experience, and heart to give and receive.