The Ugly Town: Metaphor from History, Discussion on Current Sino-US Relationship


It has been a noticeable phenomenon that Chinese students in the US have been producing theatre works in university theatre associations. Some of these productions are based on Chinese contemporary plays available in theatres, while some are adapted from international classic scripts by students themselves. The diversity of the productions are also impressive: the adapted plays may adopt Mandarin as the main language, or translated from other languages to English. While these students may not come from a theatre background, their passion and insistence for theatre has attracted a wide range of audiences, including their US classmates

Why do these Chinese students spend so much time on theatre associations in their extra-curriculum life? How do these theatre associations work? Here Lotus Lee Foundation would like to introduce a series of drama productions featured by School Theatre associations.

About Windmill Chinese Drama Club
Windmill Chinese Drama Club was founded in October, 2011 by a group of UChicago students who have passion for Chinese theater. The club produce two to three plays every year, mostly performed in the FXK theater. Until now, the club have successfully produced 13 plays including 2 original plays. Last year in May, we were proud to collaborate with UT for the first time, to stage the immersive theatrical play Night of January 16th by Ayn Rand. It was an exciting production for us to experiment interaction with the audiences. The show was a great success with 120+ audiences at each show, and received extensive good reviews.


Our repertoire varies widely from famous Chinese works such as Love Letter, and Mr. Monkey, to Western plays like No Exit, and Measure for Measure, and to our original scripts The Butterfly Effect and Dark Matter. We have traditionally chosen these plays by reading scripts as a group and put all ideas to a vote. This gives us an opportunity to learn from the whole community, discuss our thoughts, and pool our ideas together to discover new plays. As a result, we were able to get exposure to a great variety of works and bring these to our audience.


Trailor of Rhino in Love, produced by Windmill Drama Club


About the production:

Background of the Play
The Ugly Town is the 2nd play of the Dark Comedy Trilogy originally produced by Joyway Drama, a professional drama group that has gained extreme popularity in China since founded in 2010. Known for its Dark Comedy Trilogy, Joyway Drama has produced 23 original plays, and performed 600 shows with an accumulated audience of more than one million people in 7 years. The Ugly Town has been presented in 8 cities in China since 2013, and has ranked the top 1 on Patchwork Drama Box Office Ranking for three consecutive years. Windmill Drama Club produced the 1st play of the Trilogy, Mr. Donkey, at the FXK Theater in the University of Chicago in 2015, and received a considerable amount of great reviews from the Chicago Chinese drama fans. This semester, Windmill will be the first group ever to present the 2nd show of the Trilogy, The Ugly Town, to the audiences in the United States. We have already obtained the copyright authorization from the author and Joyway Drama [Appendix 1].


Theme and Symbolism
This play discusses the topics of immigration and the following problems of cultural identity, which are currently sensitive topics both in US and China.

The author ironically sets the background of the story in ancient China, but discussing a modern problem. Ruled by Han Chinese, the Northern Song, at that time, was considered the “real” and “central” China surrounded by a few nations ruled by other ethnics, of which Liao was a powerful one. In this play, Song is symbolic for current China, and Liao is symbolic for another dream country where many Chinese people want to immigrate, analogous to the modern United States rather than what Liao really was historically.

The characters in the play represent people from different social classes: government officials, soldiers, local landlords, scholars, and butchers. They diverse in wealth, power, and educational backgrounds but synchronize in behavior when it comes to personal interests. In this context, even though immigration itself is the main focus of the play, it also serves as a “common interest” for people from different social classes aspiring better lives. Therefore, the themes of the show can be interpreted at two levels. At the surface level, the author depicts the phenomenon of immigration in China and the struggles of cultural identity of those who gained residency or citizenship of another country. At a deeper level, the author also uses the “immigration mania” as a representative of all desires that stimulate madness and hidden evilness of human beings.



Performance Information


 May 11 7:30PM

May 12, 3:00PM

May 13, 3:00PM


UChicago Reynolds Club 3fl

FXK Theater

5706 S University Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

Free Admission


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