Former Head of Playwriting Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig Publishes China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital

The UCSB Department of Theater and Dance's former head of playwriting Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig published a trilogy of her plays: Three Parables of Global Capital. What's very special about this collection is that every play is set in contemporary China, every role is for an Asian heritage actor, and Chinese State Security tried to halt the production of one of the plays in this collection, The King of Hell's Palace. To read more about the Chinese State Security attempt to stop the production, please read this The Guardian article.

Three Parables of Global Capital

The World of Extreme Happiness; Snow in Midsummer; The King of Hell’s Palace


"Some playwrights have a gift to amuse; Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig has a darker gift. Anyone with romantic notions of Chinese culture will be unsettled by the jagged, unsentimental portrait of modern urban China."(Chicago Reader)

Poetic and devastating, sensuous and politically acute, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's China Plays explore the forces of global capital as they explode within the lives of everyday people in contemporary China.

This volume collects together the three plays in the series, including Cowhig's exploration of the human cost of development in China's socialist market economy (The World of Extreme Happiness), of justice and revenge amidst ecological and economic catastrophe (Snow in Midsummer), and the tale of the trade in blood that brought the AIDS crisis to rural China (The King of Hell's Palace).

In addition to Cowhig's plays, the volume includes a host of supplemental materials including an editorial preface and three (previously published) brief essays responding to each play by the editor, Joshua Chambers-Letson; a new introduction by theatre/performance scholar and dramaturg Christine Mok that explores the key themes in Cowhig's body of work; a summary discussion between Cowhig, Chambers-Letson, and Mok, on Cowhig's process and the political and aesthetic currents animating her work.

The World of Extreme Happiness

"Fearless, zippily-paced, and satirical . . . Cowhig forces us down the long hard look path" (Independent)

Snow in Midsummer: 

“Gripping and affecting… graceful and impassioned” (Times)

The King of Hell's Palace: 

"A medical-scandal drama that we can't afford to ignore" (Telegraph)


Table of Contents

1. Editorial Preface (Chambers-Letson) – A brief preface introducing the volume and its structure.
2. General Introduction (Mok) – An introduction to Cowhig's work and the process behind the China Plays
3. The World of Extreme Happiness (Cowhig)
4. World Afterword (Chambers-Letson)
5. Snow in Midsummer (Cowhig)
6. Snow Afterword (Chambers-Letson)
7. The King of Hell's Palace (Cowhig)
8. King Afterword (Chambers-Letson)
9. Transcribed Conversation w/ Cowhig, Chambers-Letson, and Mok


Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig