Bringing the iconic plays of Stan Lai to an English-language readership
These volumes feature works from across Lai’s career, providing an exceptional selection of a diverse range of performances.
Volume One contains:
Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land
Look Who's Crosstalking Tonight
The Island and the Other Shore
I Me She Him
Ménage à 13
Volume Two contains:
Sand on a Distant Star
Writing in Water
Volume Three contains:
A Dream Like a Dream
Stan Lai (Lai Shengchuan) is one of the most celebrated theatre practitioners working in the Chinese-speaking world. His work over three decades has pioneered the course of modern Chinese language theatre in Taiwan, China, and other Chinese-speaking regions. He has been declared "the preeminent Chinese playwright and stage director of this generation" (China Daily) and "the best Chinese language playwright and director in the world" (BBC). Lai's works include masterpieces of the modern Chinese language theatre like Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, The Village, and his epic eight-hour A Dream Like a Dream, all of which are in this collection.
Lissa Tyler Renaud (M.A. Directing, Ph.D. Theatre History/Criticism, U.C. Berkeley, 1987) is known internationally as a master teacher, actor-scholar, invited speaker, writer, critic, and 2nd generation editor.
"The major contemporary Asian playwright of his time, perhaps of all time."- Robert Brustein
—Robert Brustein, from the Foreword
Listen: Interview with Stan Lai, hosted by Andy Boyd, on the New Books Network | 06/14/2022
Read: "Book Review: The Bard of Taiwan" on Taipei Times | 03/27/2022
Read: "Selected Plays Of Stan Lai Now Available In English" on Broadway World | 02/24/2022
Praise for Selected Plays of Stan Lai:
“Stan Lai is the most important contemporary playwright in the Chinese-speaking world. Many of his plays are household names, known for their inventiveness, depth, and imagination. With its beautiful English translations and superb, digestible introductions by Tao Qingmei, this collection is essential reading for everyone interested in contemporary theatre today."
—Emily Wilcox, William & Mary, author of Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy
"Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, by the playwright and director Stan Lai, may be the most popular contemporary play in China . . . By the end, Jiang finds Yun, and the laughter gives way to sobs as the audience is left to contemplate the burdens of memory, history, longing, love, and the power of theatre itself."
—Sheila Melvin, the New York Times, 10 January 2007
“I was fortunate to see the original production of I Me She Him in Taipei in 1998, and reading Stan Lai’s own translation of his play aroused wonderful memories and new insights. This long-awaited anthology opens the work of a playwright of worldwide significance, but not worldwide access, to English-speaking readers.”
—John B. Weinstein, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, editor of Voices of Taiwanese Women: Three Contemporary Plays
“The University of Michigan Press has published another milestone book in the history of world theatre! Not only is Stan Lai one of the most important playwrights in the Chinese and Sinophone cultures, but he is also essential in understanding the beauty, potential, contradiction, and complexity in human conditions magnificently expressed in theatre. A must read for all interested in drama, history, society, and the arts.”
—Xiaomei Chen, Distinguished Professor, University of California at Davis. Author of Staging Chinese Revolution
“The God of Laughter reigns over Lai’s Taiwan/PRC crosstalk yielding gnosis born of multigenerational traumas. In crisp dialogue and clear introductions, international readers find all needed to understand the complex literary references, mysticisms, and vexed politics of China and Taiwan as we savor tales of family trauma, corporate greed, and youthful idealism born of the Chinese experience, but resonating far beyond.”
—Kathy Foley, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz
“Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land has been described as 'tragedy and comedy side by side on stage, in plays within a play, with classic and modern intersecting in themes of waiting and searching.' It goes far beyond this, practically employing all the dramatic devices of Western modernism, plus postmodernism. Brecht, Stanislavski, and Mei Lan-fang are all represented here, but what is exemplary is that it is diverse yet not scattered, everything in its proper place. In other postmodernist collage theatre pieces, diversity creates chaos, toward the purpose of deconstruction. In Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, the collage created by placing the two plays Secret Love and Peach Blossom Land next to each other creates, on the other hand, a marvelous synthesis . . . Here the theories of Chinese poetry and Chinese theatre poems give deeper meaning to the postmodern term ‘collage,’ rather than simply pirating the use of the device."
—Tian Benxiang, Professor, Chinese National Academy of Arts, in am Post, Hong Kong, July 2007
“To read a play by Stan Lai is to encounter an entire universe, one that escapes any cultural definition, as much as it defies all the prerequisites of national identity. Lai’s Eastern heritage is infused with Western values. His craft as a writer is matched by his theatrical acumen. His exploration of dramatic traditions is shaped by his contemporary sensitivity. Therefore, this selection of plays is not only a timely publication, but a tribute to an author whose wisdom and creativity are truly unique. Between China and America, between the East and the West, between the real and the imaginary, Stan Lai is not only a global, but a universal playwright.”
—Octavian Saiu, Professor Theatre and Comparative Literature at the National University of Theatre and Film, Romania
“The publishing of Stan Lai's Selected Plays in English is a major event! These plays describe a phenomenal artistic trajectory, outlining the work of a major international literary and theatre figure. Deeply felt and formally complex, the plays in these volumes comprise a profound journey—one that is only possible through the combination of poetic insight with a deep knowledge of the theatre and its practice. Stan Lai's dual identity as a writer and director informs every drama with a nuanced relationship to the stage and its visual landscape. Through these works, I discovered how completely Stan Lai bridges the consciousness of East and West—resulting in remarkable compassion and beauty. These translations are a boon to the English-speaking world.”
—Travis Preston, Dean, CalArts School of Theater, and Executive Artistic Director, CalArts Center for New Performance
"In an age where poetry and rock ’n’ roll have lost their power, the rather offbeat Millennium Teahouse lets us feel the strength and hope that live theatre can bring us. With an intricate structure and powerful tempo, high-pitched sections like ‘Feather Duster Party’ bring us to bellyaching laughter; understated sections like ‘Endology’ lead us to deep reflection, and even tears. This is difficult material for anyone who has not pierced through the human condition to write, or who has not mastered human emotions to perform."
—Wang Yi, Beijing Youth Paper, 27 November 2001
"After seeing The Village, [Taiwanese film superstar] Bridget Lin, who grew up in one of the military dependent villages in Taiwan, wrote: 'It was as if I were drunk or mad, suddenly sad, suddenly gleeful, sometimes laughing out loud, sometimes weeping uncontrollably, like a fool.' If I hadn't been in the theatre myself, Lin's words sound like some incoherent babbling. But being part of this play's audience, I must say that these words are the most precise description of last night's performance"
—Pan Yu, Shanghai Eastern Morning News, 28 January 2010
“At certain moments in history, courageous artists arise to lead the way. Stan Lai is one such artist. His theatre addresses the central issues of our time while helping to escort us, via rich theatrical landscapes, into a better understanding of community and individual responsibility. His work is poetic but always on a human scale. This volume of his selected plays provides a welcome addition to the growing appreciation for his remarkable accomplishments.”
—Anne Bogart, Columbia University School of the Arts, and Co-Artistic Director of SITI Company
“Stan Lai, one of the most prolific playwrights and brilliant theatre directors in the Chinese-speaking world during the past four decades, has constantly reinvented himself. Never resting on his laurels, he has untiringly innovated, inspiring numerous artists working in theatre and film with everything from his improvisational techniques to his themes of deep cultural significance and universal resonance. In this beautiful translation, the bilingual playwright makes a wide selection of his plays exploring memory, cultural identity, humor, and the cycles of death and rebirth available to an English audience for the first time. These poignant plays will be read and performed for many decades to come.”
—Tze-lan D. Sang, Professor of Chinese Literature and Media, Michigan State University
"There is no doubt in my mind that A Dream Like a Dream is a major milestone in Chinese theatre, possibly the greatest Chinese-language play since time immemorial. It is just not the most accessible play from Stan Lai. The transcendent wisdom and innovation have combined to create a cultural event, as well as a viewing experience that is at once singularly challenging and endlessly rewarding."
—Raymond Zhou, in China Daily, 15 April 2013
“Playwright, director, cultural ambassador, and internationally renowned theatre artist, Stan Lai is a global visionary. He is not only a singular leader in the formation of modern Taiwanese theatre, but also an artist who uses the space of performance to forge historical and geographic connection. This collection is a gift to anyone who cares about the transnational relevance of the theatre in the 21st century.”
—Shannon Jackson, University of California, Berkeley
"In Ago, one of Asia’s most important theatrical voices, Stan Lai, has brought to life yet another illuminating theatrical spectacle. This unique experience, in the words of Shannon Jackson, who invited Lai to compose the piece at Berkeley, is 'a new kind of theatre, one equipped to respond to the pressures of the 21st century.' It certainly shows us the difficult path ahead for our fragile and increasingly conflicted world."
—Yu, Kuo-hwa, Taipei National University of the Arts, in Critical Stages, June 2020