Dance and the Railroad

Part of NFT’s Ethnic Heritage Series during the 1980-81 Season
From Frank Rich’s Review in the New York Times

”Railroad,” now at the Henry Street Settlement’s New Federal Theater, tells of two Chinese laborers who are toiling to build the transcontinental railroad in 1867.

Lone, the more worldly of the pair, has been in America two years. In China, he had spent his childhood studying to be an actor in the Chinese opera – only to have his promising career cut short when his impoverished parents sold him into servitude. Even now, after putting in 10 hours with his work gang each day, Lone goes to a vacant mountaintop at night to practice his theatrical gymnastics. He believes that as long as he makes his muscles work for himself as well as the railroad, he will not be merely another coolie slave.Cooking: Daily inspiration, delicious recipes and other updates from Sam Sifton and NYT Cooking.

If Lone is proud and cynical, his companion is a naive dreamer. Ma has been in California only four weeks, and he still believes all the propaganda. Ma thinks that American mountains are made of gold, that the ”white devil” can be ”civilized” by the Chinese, and that he’ll soon amass a fortune that will send him home in luxury. He never doubts that his new life is ”the best of both worlds.”

”Railroad,” which runs about an hour, consists of a series of encounters between the two men as they wait out a strike. Ma admires Lone’s acting acrobatics and asks his newfound friend to teach them to him. Lone finds Ma something of a fool, but he tries to teach him anyway. As the two men whirl and leap about the stage in their informal practice sessions, they talk more and more about their past lives in China, their visions of the future and the progress of their ongoing revolt against their white bosses.

Presented as part of the 1980-81 Season

Artist Credits

Credit Artist Photo
Playwright David Henry Hwang David Henry Hwang
Director John Lone
Stage Manager Alice Jankowiak
Set Designer Andrea Zakin
Lighting Designer Grant Orenstein
Costume Designer Judy Dearing
Actor John Lone
Actor Tzi Ma
Actor Glenn Kubota

All 1980-81 Season productions: