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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

Honorary degree for jingju artist

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Advertiser staff

Jingju expert Shen Xiaomei, right, will be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Hawai'i at tonight's premiere of "Women Generals of the Yang Family," directed by Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, left.

Sandra Finney

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Shen Xiaomei, an expert in jingju (Beijing opera), will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in a ceremony before the opening performance of "Women Generals of the Yang Family."

Shen will be lauded for her exemplary leadership, mentoring and stewardship of the Jingju Resident Training Programs at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa campus. The programs, which she has directed with resident jingju scholar Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak, have garnered UH acclaim for its Asian Theatre Program.

Shen has been active in jingju in China for more than 50 years, as an actor, teacher and leader of the Jiangsu Province Jingju Company. She has been instrumental in establishing jingju internationally, restoring the traditional repertory to the stage and creating new, nonpolitical works with widespread audience appeal.

She retired from the stage in 1995 to devote her energies to training new audiences for the traditional arts, establishing and running the Jiangsu Province Program for Promoting Jingju Appreciation in Education. It is China's first artists-in-the-schools program, and it was modeled on Hawai'i's program that she admired during her many visits to the Manoa campus. She has been involved in six of the resident training programs here, including "Women Generals of the Yang Family."

Tonight's ceremony, to be attended by senior UH administrators, marks the first time a Chinese xiqu (indigenous theater/opera) artist will receive a doctorate since Mei Lanfang was so honored by Pomona College during his 1930 U.S. tour.