The White Snake

The White Snake

The White Snake

Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
Based on the classic Chinese fable
A co-production with Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Main Season · Roda Theatre
November 9–December 30, 2012
World-premiere production

Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, no intermission

Mary Zimmerman is mesmerizing. From Metamorphoses to The Arabian Nights, audiences have embraced her enchanting adaptations of epic tales. Now the Tony Award-winning director casts a spell with The White Snake, a classic romance from Chinese legend. As she falls for a charming young man, a snake spirit discovers what it means to be human. But a monk objects, and the bride must unveil her magical powers to save their love. With the alluring and hypnotic White Snake, Zimmerman unwraps another exquisite gift for the holidays.

Creative team

Mary Zimmerman · Adaptor / Director
Daniel Ostling · Scenic Design
Mara Blumenfeld · Costume Design
T.J. Gerckens · Lighting Design
Andre Pluess · Original Music / Sound Design
Shawn Sagady · Projection Design
Rebecca Clark Carey · Voice and Text Direction
Joy Dickson · Casting (Ashland)
Amy Potozkin · Casting (Bay Area)
Logan Vaughn · Casting (Chicago)
Adam Belcuore · Casting (Chicago)
Stephanie Klapper · Casting (New York)
Michael Suenkel · Stage Manager

Cast

Keiko Shimosato Carreiro · Ensemble
Gina Daniels · Ensemble
Richard Howard · Ensemble
Cristofer Jean · Brother-in-Law / Ensemble
Emily Sophia Knapp · Ensemble
Vin Kridakorn · Ensemble
Christopher Livingston · Xu Xian / Ensemble
Tanya Thai McBride · Green Snake
Lisa Tejero · Sister-in-Law / Ensemble
Amy Kim Waschke · White Snake
Jack Willis · Fa Hai / Ensemble
Tessa Brinckman · Flutes
Ronnie Malley · Strings / Percussion
Michal Palzewicz · Cello

“Fabulous…Enchanting…A buoyant Armageddon of human and puppet actions…The White Snake has been transformed from evil, man-eating demon to tragic romantic heroine, a history slyly invoked by Zimmerman at every ‘fork’ (get it?) in her tale…Wondrous puppetry delights the eye, the ink clouds of Shawn Sagady’s projections dissolve into Chinese landscapes and Daniel Ostling’s set sprouts cabinets that may open to reveal a boudoir or something more startling.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Wonderful…an epic adventure and an intimate love story…A giant holiday gift just waiting to be unwrapped and savored by audiences…The White Snake is theatrical storytelling at its very best, a fusion of stunning imagery, captivating music and, best of all, characters whose stories cut straight to the heart…It’s all just gorgeous and beautiful and utterly enchanting.”—Theater Dogs

“Intoxicating…A shimmering spectacle about two snakes who dare to cross over into the human world. The seventh Zimmerman creation to play Berkeley Rep, it’s the ideal holiday fare, gorgeously-appointed and whimsical but also quite meaningful…There’s not a moment in this 100-minute visual feast when the eye isn’t entranced and the heart touched.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area News Group

“Terrific…Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman’s moving world-premiere production already has audiences grasping for appropriate superlatives. The work is a remarkable piece of theatrical imagination, the kind Zimmerman has specialized in with productions such as Metamorphoses, Argonautika, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci and Arabian Nights…Zimmerman has created an epic tale of love and sacrifice with spectacular visual appeal, plenty of humor and remarkable emotional depth.”—Sacramento Bee

Open all · Close all

Prologue: from the Artistic Director

Do you remember how old you were when you first contemplated the stars? When you first looked up and tried to grasp the concept of “the infinite”? When your breath was taken away by the majesty of the universe and how you felt both enthralled by your own existence and diminished by how small you were? It was a feeling of wonder and fear, of being in love with the world and overwhelmed by its power. I think I was around 10 years old when I had my first such experience, but the memory of that specific moment has been obscured by time. And yet I’ve always been able to recreate the sensation, because I feel it when I watch a certain kind of play.

During the next several months, we will be presenting The White Snake and The Wild Bride, two plays adapted from fairy tales. Both productions are examples of what I call the Theatre of Infinite Wonder and Desire. Both ask that we watch a series of strange events with the simplicity of a child, that we remain open to the unknown, that we let ourselves be transported to a land where nothing is ever fully explained. This kind of theatre insists that all of life is a terrifying miracle, that human knowledge is always severely compromised and that suffering is the only gateway to redemption and grace.

The stories themselves are not very complicated. But while the plots are not hard to follow, they are fantastical, full of astonishing transformations and surreal landscapes. And so it falls on the artist to reimagine those events, using imagery and action to invent a unique brand of elemental theatrical magic. Both The White Snake and The Wild Bride do precisely that: they invent their own theatrical language. We become rapt, cheered and inspired by the sheer creativity on display. And when it works, it feels like that first moment we encountered the wonder of life itself.

The White Snake marks the seventh time we have presented a play by Mary Zimmerman. She is easily our most frequent guest director, and I am happy and proud to say that she considers Berkeley Rep a second home. Our time with Emma Rice has only just begun, but I have great hopes that she and her company Kneehigh Theatre will form a long-lasting relationship with us that will reap many artistic rewards. Both directors are fearless in their pursuit of beauty and their belief in the primacy of the actors. Both know when to let the power of the story reveal itself and how to amplify its mysteries. And both invite us to have a seat around the ancient campfire, to let our adult predispositions melt away and to simply listen like a child to what the storyteller has to say.

Sincerely,

Tony Taccone

Prologue: from the Managing Director

Greetings and good wishes for a joy-filled holiday season. What a pleasure it is to spend the holidays in the company of Mary Zimmerman and her remarkable team of designers and actors. This is not the first time a piece created by Mary has captured our imaginations during the crazy, hectic months of November and December. Remember The Arabian Nights? Argonautika? Metamorphoses? Journey to the West? Maybe it is the way she sees beauty in every human emotion, or the fanciful quality she brings to her stories, or the exquisite moments of emotional clarity. Perhaps it is the way she so comfortably allows us to embrace stories from other parts of the world. Whatever it is, Mary’s plays so often seem like the perfect gift that Berkeley Rep can give our audience for the holidays.

Yes, it is that time of year when gift-giving is on our minds. If you’re like me, you look at that vast pile of solicitations on your desk (and an equally dense set logged in your iPad) waiting for you to sit down and prioritize the nonprofit organizations you value. Every year the pile gets higher and the need gets more urgent.

We here at Berkeley Rep are honored by the thousands of families that make us part of their year-end gift-giving tradition. Whether we receive gifts of $5 or $5,000, we are so grateful to all of you who recognize that the work we do is not self-sustaining, that ticket revenue covers less than half of our operating budget. Oh, if only we could perform each night for an audience of two or three thousand people. We’d be able to cover the full cost of the production. But we’d lose the intimate, immediate experience that is at the heart of what people so value at Berkeley Rep. Or our ticket prices for every production would be more like those on Broadway, where a bargain-price ticket is $100 (and then most of our audience could not afford to attend). Our commissions and development of new work, our thousands of hours of inexpensive and free work in area schools, the thousands of tickets that we contribute to other nonprofit organizations are all contingent upon the donations that supplement our ticket revenue. Without those donations, all of those programs would evaporate.

So as you contemplate your holiday gift list, I hope you will think about the pleasure you’ve enjoyed here at Berkeley Rep. I hope you’ll help us to continue doing our good work by making a tax-deductible contribution by December 31.

Warm regards,

Susan Medak

Slithering into stories: Mythology and snakes

By Madeleine Oldham

No creature elicits extremes of feeling quite like the snake. Throughout human history, snakes have been reviled and revered, but generally do not inspire much in the way of middling response—many people fear them; those who do not tend to love them. It’s a rare person that has no opinion about them at all. These perplexing reptiles touch us at such a deep level that we have featured them repeatedly in our stories, and imbued their presence in our world with extensive and often contradictory symbolism.

In myths from all over the world, snakes represent dual meanings and they often stand for both good and evil. The ancient symbol of the ouroboros—a serpent eating its own tail—dates back to the 14th century BC and signifies both an end and a beginning. (Dictionaries tell us that the words “snake” and “serpent” are interchangeable. In common parlance, however, “serpent” is rarely used to describe a snake in the physical world—it’s usually reserved for mythology and folklore.) In this way, snakes also came to suggest fertility and a cycle of death and rebirth. They also simultaneously embody both male and female qualities: their phallus-like shape and their venom are commonly thought to be masculine, while their skills of coiling and embracing are often associated with the feminine.

J.K. Rowling has clearly done her homework about the rich legacy of snake mythology. She called the house at Hogwarts that serves as ground zero for the dark arts “Slytherin.” When Harry Potter discovers he is a Parselmouth (a person who can speak the snake language, Parseltongue), he is forced to confront the fact that there might be evil as well as good living inside him. This coexistence of dark and light in the form of a snake traces back thousands of years. In the Garden of Eden, the snake symbolizes wisdom and knowledge as well as temptation and downfall.

Greek mythology is full of serpents that offer both negative and positive connotations. They can be found in three of Hercules’ 12 labors. Medusa and the Gorgons, who would turn anyone who looked directly at them to stone, had hair made of snakes. A serpent that required no sleep guarded the Golden Fleece. A lesser-known god, Asclepius, lent his name to a universally recognized symbol today: the rod of Asclepius—the symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff used to denote medical care. Ascelpius recognized in snakes a healing power that made them immortal; the Greeks sometimes even invited non-venomous snakes to slither under the beds of the sick.

A Norse myth tells of a giant serpent that encircles all of human civilization. (Sea monsters are snakes of the sea that have a mass of stories unto themselves. The same goes for dragons, the snakes of the air.) In India, Vritra the snake was thought to control and bring on droughts. Some Native Americans believe that rattlesnakes must be paid respect, because they can change the weather from fair to foul.

We still find ourselves using stories today to try and explain these strange creatures; myths of a different kind have sprung up in recent years around snakes. They feature in many an urban legend, ranging from a love of milk, to a penchant for living in toilets, to an ability to jump two feet. Contrary to popular belief, most snakes cannot spit (only the spitting cobra can), and they do not chase people when angry—they are far more apt to crawl away. Reports of unsuspecting gardeners discovering snakes in their recently purchased potted plants can, however, be true: a prospect which is enough for some people never to visit the nursery again.

From ancient civilizations to the present day, these mysterious creatures have captivated the human imagination. We fear them because we don’t understand them—it’s inconceivable that something moves as quickly as a snake does with no arms or legs. It’s incomprehensible that it swallows food whole, literally sheds its skin and can kill with the tiniest of punctures or by coiling itself like a spring. Some believe that snakes can charm people, likely due to the fact that they can’t blink and their stares seem to penetrate. Perhaps this fixed gaze has in fact hypnotized us into yielding them such a prominent position in our stories.

An ever-changing story

By Nora Sørena Casey

A five-story-high pagoda stands on the West Lake of Hangzhou and, according to an ancient Chinese legend, trapped beneath it is a white snake who once took the form of a beautiful woman. The pagoda stood until 1924, but the story never stopped changing. When the tower was first constructed in 975 AD, the white snake was known as a fearful demon. By the time the pagoda was rebuilt in 2002, the legend of the white snake celebrated her valor and love. Over the centuries details were lost, replaced or embellished, but two iconic elements of the tale endure: the white snake that appears as a woman, and the relationship between this mythic female and a mortal man.

The legend was published for the first time in a folktale anthology from 981 CE, in which a man visiting the city has an amorous encounter with a woman in white. Upon returning home, he becomes ill, and that night his body melts into his sheets. When the man’s family seeks out the woman, they learn that her home has always been uninhabited, except for a white snake that lives in the locust tree. The bizarre and tragic fate of the man, and the alluring but deadly shape-shifting woman, were transcribed from a popular oral story of the T’ang Dynasty (618–907 CE). Part of the bianwen genre, translated as “stories of metamorphosis,” this was one of many tales told in the vernacular that introduced Taoist and Buddhist ideas of unity, opposition and multiple deities to the larger population.

The influences of religious philosophies helped to focus the details of this hazy legend. In the next major re-telling, the 16th-century “Story of the Three Pagodas on West Lake,” a young man named Xi Xuanzan visits Hangzhou’s West Lake during the Qingming Festival. He accompanies a young girl and an old woman to their house, where a beautiful woman in white invites him to their feast. It quickly becomes apparent that the women fall into the class of she-demons, alongside mythic figures like succubae or sirens, when they slaughter a man and devour his heart and liver. After witnessing this, Xi Xuanzan is intimidated into becoming the woman in white’s new husband, and it is only with the young girl’s magical aid that he escapes the same death. A Taoist priest intervenes to help Xuanzan and to restore the natural order, compelling the women and young girl to reveal their true shapes. The old woman becomes an otter, the young girl transforms into a black hen and the beautiful woman turns into a white snake. In spite of their protests (and the young girl’s reminder that she actually helped Xuanzan), the Taoist priest imprisons them all under stone pagodas on the West Lake. The lake remains central to this story as more than just a location—once considered the home of nymphs, lakes became associated with female demons in Buddhist mythology during the medieval period, in opposition to mountains, which were the home of ascetics.

Purloined coins, magical charms and lost umbrellas are just some of the new elements that develop the legend in Feng Menglong’s story from 1624, “Madame White forever confined under Thunder Peak Pagoda.” A novella with a more realistic style, it adds details to the characters, setting and events to highlight social, civil and personal relationships. Instead of the young girl and older woman, a green-clad woman, who is a transformed green fish, serves the white snake (Madame White).

Little Green’s presence emphasizes a shift in the story towards a portrait of domesticity, with the most drastic change in the relationship between Madame White and the man, now named Xu Xuan. They get married, and unlike the deadly romance of earlier versions, this marriage serves as a binding agreement that keeps White and Xu Xuan together, even as the community suspects the uncanny woman of stealing and shape-shifting. Menglong’s novella also adds complexity to the religious portrait: reflecting a shifting religious landscape, he introduces a new Buddhist monk, Fa Hai, whose mission is to expose and imprison Madame White.

In portraying her as a sympathetic figure guided by human needs, this novella plants a seed that grows wildly throughout the next century. Madame White becomes female not only in form, but also in a cultural sense: wooing Xu Xuan with a home-cooked meal and using Green as an agent to arrange their marriage in accordance with tradition. But is it a love story? Madame White no longer devours her husband’s internal organs, but when he becomes suspicious and abandons her, she appeals not only to Xu Xuan’s love but to his duty as a husband to stay with her. A triangle emerges between Madame White, Xu Xuan and Fa Hai that sets up an opposition between duty to marriage and to religion. And ultimately, when Madame White and Little Green are trapped under the pagoda, Xu Xuan is allied with Fa Hai and lives happily ever after all on his own.

Feng Menglong’s work provided a written basis for many later authors, who developed these themes with new events, characters and narrative forms of their own. When the story transitioned onto the Chinese stage during the 18th century, the tensions between characters led to new, dramatic plot points. Ill-will between the monk Fa Hai and the shape-shifting Madame White escalated to a full-out water battle in a 1738 play, while another had Madame White give birth to a son, making her not only a dutiful wife, but also a loving mother. Little Green transitioned from a servant to a major character, which sparked an actual transformation—she became a green snake in Fang Chengpei’s play from 1771 and never changed back.

The color of the snakes in the legend took on new significance when the story moved to the stage, as classical Chinese drama takes a representational approach to storytelling rather than a strictly realistic one, using elaborate costumes, makeup and a codified set of gestures to convey meaning. Ornate costumes were not only beautiful, but also sent a message: green is associated with healing and benevolence, while white symbolizes the unknown and is used for spirits, ghosts and death. Strong make-up colors define the character types for the audience from the moment actors appear onstage; a red face indicates bravery while yellow make-up indicates duplicity. With minimal scenic design, characters may indicate a long journey by walking in a circle and announcing to the audience where they have arrived. This presentational speech combines with music, singing and physicality to create a rich and unique storytelling form.

The formal elements of these folktales and early plays embody a philosophy very different from America’s ideal of rugged individualism: they emphasize society, rather than the individual, and this can result in unromantic endings that audiences raised on Cinderella may resist. By the 19th century Madame White was a compassionate and sympathetic protagonist, but more often than not these stories end with her locked underneath the pagoda. The monk Fa Hai, who became increasingly arrogant and insensitive to White’s virtues, changed from a rescuer to an antagonist. Yet when he prevails the result is not a classic case of tragedy. In spite of the shift in personalities, the legend upholds Madame White’s confinement as the proper outcome.

Huang Tubi’s 1738 play incorporates a prologue and epilogue that contextualize what might strike audiences as an unsatisfying conclusion. These bookends resemble the Buddhist practice of storytelling with huatou, an opening statement that guides the student’s understanding towards awakening, and huawei, a closing statement that focuses the student’s contemplation of the finished tale. Tubi’s prologue explains how the story is guided by a Buddhist idea of balance. The protagonist Xu Xuan begins the play as an attendant to the Shakyamuni Buddha, but he is reincarnated as a human to fulfill his unfinished karma with Madame White. Fa Hai is instructed to contain White and Green and to bring Xu Xuan back onto the Buddhist path to Nirvana, but only after their karma is completed. Just as White and Xu Xuan’s meeting is destined to occur, so too is their separation.

As an oral story, the variations of Madame White’s tale told throughout China are innumerable and untraceable. Today, the list of novels, plays, storybooks, films and television series based on the story provide a more concrete testament to the ability of the legend to transform. A 2003 staging of The Legend of the White Snake opera dazzled audiences by employing lasers, dry ice and approximately 100 tons of water that were sprayed over the crowd for a battle scene, while an anime version inexplicably includes the adventures of two pandas. Different endings to the story have evolved to reflect the sensibilities of modern audiences. As individual characters have grown more defined, Madame White has been hailed for her increasingly empowered role. Looking back, it is hard to believe that the romantic story of an immortal and a young man fighting a prejudiced monk began as the legend of a heart-devouring shape-shifter. Yet there is strength in the figure of Madame White, marked by the mystery her color symbolizes, that holds these disparate tales together. As her character entwines the demonic with the domestic, immortality with vulnerability and deception with love, the story that builds around her is able to adapt across centuries.

Designing a legend

By Julie McCormick

The work of designers begin months (or even longer) before rehearsals start. In close collaboration with the director, it is their job to create the world of the play through the physical set, the lighting, the music and the costumes. In some ways, their mission is the hardest, because it requires both aesthetic and technical mastery as well as a certain amount of clairvoyance. A production’s design must not only have sensory unity, but also anticipate the needs of the performers, something that often only becomes clear during rehearsals. You might know in advance from the script, for example, that the female lead needs to sweep gracefully down a flight of stairs in a feathered gown, but you might not know until the third week of rehearsal that an ensemble member needs to pop out of a cleverly concealed trap in the stage floor.

This pre-rehearsal process is tricky enough when you have a script to consult, but what if there isn’t one? Mary Zimmerman is well-known for her intuitive approach to directing: she begins without a script, and then writes new material at night to be used in rehearsal the next day. We decided to ask the designers for The White Snake (most of whom have worked with Mary on many projects over the years) about their perspectives on this unique process. Here is what some of them had to say.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you approach a script that you are going to work on?

Daniel Ostling, scenic designer: After reading the script, I generally move on to research—there are whole new worlds you work with in every play that you need to discover for yourself.

Mara Blumenfeld, costume designer: In general, it’s all about reading the script over and over again, talking to the director about his or her ideas and doing tons of research. The research can take many different forms depending upon the particular project and the world of the play. It can be looking at other forms of art (painting/sculpture/architecture), historical photographs and vintage fashion plates/magazines/catalogs, or just observing people on the street if it’s a contemporary setting. Each piece requires a different way into it, but in general I just try to allow myself to be open to the story and characters and to listen to what the director and the other designers are bringing to the table.

Andre Pluess, sound designer and composer: With any given script, I first try to identify and to understand in what moments music and sound are enabled to really breathe, be it in transition or underscore. Once I’ve identified these starting points, I begin to create a toolkit of themes and motifs that can be expanded and integrated into the play. I take into account the historical and cultural context of the play and reference those elements (instruments, scales, etc.) in the creation of the score. Attenuating these fragments in terms of their emotive, lyrical or rhythmic qualities is an ongoing process with the director, musicians and actors that continues through the rehearsal period and previews.

How is the process of designing a show with Mary Zimmerman different than working on projects that start with a script?

Daniel: With Mary you often begin with a book, or in this case, a folk tale that has many different versions. In the early meetings, the design team talks about the book, and the different versions that we find ourselves attracted to. It’s really about mixing it up and talking about what you like, or what seems really vibrant to you, or which moments are your favorite (not scenic design-wise necessarily, but story-wise).

Sometimes the design conversation starts with a big scenic idea (as with Metamorphoses—she knew she wanted it put in water); with The White Snake, she knew she was really interested in the medicine cabinet. After these initial conversations, I start to work up pretty rough models. With Mary she definitely likes to play with models and take them apart. It’s a little bit like pin the tail on the donkey, or hot-hot-cold.

We ended up with a set that is pretty minimal and open. Some of the ideas I came up with initially were very architectural and very heavy, but we quickly realized that we needed an aesthetic that would give us a lot of freedom. The solution for storytelling issues relies on the actors and props, rather than on set pieces that would weigh us down.

The general geometry of the set came from scroll paintings: a long, horizontal blank space with very carefully chosen details. Those paintings are deceptively simple, I think. They use a finite number of strokes; what’s most impressive is what those painters leave out. They’re very beautiful, very humble, those paintings.

Mara: With a Mary show, a lot of the design process has to remain really flexible. It’s a really exciting and creative process, but can also be a really challenging one for a costume shop that has to adhere to the realities of time and money. I often describe the design as falling into three categories: the knowns, the partial knowns and the unknowns. The knowns are characters that we know for certain will be in the story, and we know who will be playing them—these are the central characters that Mary casts with a specific actor in mind. I can design looks for them and we can begin building for them in advance. Then the partial knowns are usually secondary characters or groups of characters that we know will likely be in the story—and I can design a look for them in advance, but we won’t know who will be playing those roles until we get into rehearsal. The unknowns are pretty self-explanatory—things that just evolve out of the rehearsal process that you always need to leave a little of your budget and resources aside for.

Andre: Essentially on a show of Mary’s, much of the music and sound is created during the rehearsal process. I like to be on hand for as much of the rehearsal process as possible, experimenting with the actors and musicians and responding in a more instinctual as opposed to a premeditated manner. I also try my best to surround myself with the most talented musicians I can find who have a flare for improvisation and a collaborative spirit.

What is your favorite part of your design for The White Snake?

Daniel: The overall geometry feels very elegant and spare, and is very satisfying to see in the space. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in the details, I think there’s something powerful about the set receding and allowing luscious colors and textures to be in the costumes, props and lighting. It’s like looking at a diamond on black velvet—it makes it all the more glittering. The set can be a frame that things explode out of.

What I admire about Mary is that she doesn’t fill everything in. In the theatre I find that really exciting, because it makes the audience an active part of the equation. They fill it in. They end up seeing things that aren’t even there, and walk away having had a very full experience of filling in the negative space.

Mara: I think one of the things I’m most proud of with the design for The White Snake is the use of color and pattern; in looking at a lot of the research for traditional Chinese costumes, I was struck by the amazing combination of textiles, which is so different from our Western aesthetic. The Chinese use pattern upon pattern in different scales and colors that I wouldn’t necessarily think of combining together. It really forced me to look at fabric in a different way, and I think some of the combinations are really surprising and beautiful. And Dan’s set provides this really gorgeous but neutral platform for showcasing all of that color and pattern.

Andre: I’m very proud of the integration of the live music in the show, and of the work created by myself and our three musicians, Ronnie, Tessa and Michal. Working with live musicians (as opposed to prerecorded music) is not something I do very often, and there is no substitute for the immediacy of having music performed live in dialogue with stage action.

What was the biggest design challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Daniel: I guess it’s always the one you’re working on. It’d be easy to say the water in Metamorphoses, and we just did one in a tent where the audience was on benches and we wanted the tent to just fly outward. But, really it’s always the current project.

Design is about creating something for a particular use. It’s in service of the play and the actor. You’re trying to anticipate all of the millions of variables that exist in terms of what the materials do and how the actors walk, what the costumes look like, lights, how the director will use the set, the sightlines of the theatre…

You’re trying to pay attention to every variable and anticipate the whole experience and all the problems. Mary’s work is simple, but it’s a huge amount of effort to make it look that way.

Andre: There is a lot of music in the play and the band is active for over 80 percent of the show playing a very programmatic score. Ensuring the legibility and clarity of the text in relation to live music was and is a constant negotiation between the actors, band and sound technicians.

Additionally, The White Snake is an ancient Chinese legend. I am not an expert in Chinese music by any stretch of the imagination. Finding a hybrid vocabulary (curated via research and from the immense dexterity of my collaborators in the band) that paid homage to the vast history of Chinese music yet also melded with my Western sensibilities and background was very challenging but incredibly fun.

Watch now

A sneak peek of The White Snake

The White Snake has charmed audiences and critics alike. Check out a preview of this exquisite show.

Our TV ad for The White Snake

Our beautiful new TV spot really shows off Mary Zimmerman’s stunning imagery. See why she has tens of thousands of Bay Area fans!