Friday, July 17, 2015

The Ingenious Judge Dee gets an airing

Some years ago, I asked around about Chinese detective stories and discovered that these were immensely popular in the vernacular literary form. In the eighteenth century, for example, stories were published about a Judge Dee. A print version was found by Robert van Gulik. During WW2, he used his leisure to translate them into English as The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, first published in 1949. He wrote then in an essay appended to that translation that he could easily imagine the Judge in new detective stories.

Thus he wrote The Chinese Maze Murders, The Chinese Bell Murders, and The Chinese Lake Murders. He had these translated into Japanese and Mandarin and published in the early 1950s before publishing them in English in 1957. These stories and several more subsequently attracted a loyal following fond of the cozy murder stories with the clever judge.

The Ingenious Judge Dee, a play, is an adaptation of The Celebrated Cases. I published the play in 2013 thinking that this would bring fresh appeal to the stories and also with the fond hope that fans of Judge Dee might some day be able to attend a performance and, as often ensues after such a group experience, be able to share their experience of the performance. I understand that a movie or two have been made based on the character and am aware that a video game featuring the Judge has recently been introduced in to the market.

To my knowledge, the dramatic reading of Judge Dee will be the first such performance. It will take place in Nevada City, CA, on Thursday July 23, at 6.30. The venue is the lovely Miners Foundry.

I have immodestly cast myself in the title role (pictured on the right) but have been fortunate that some friends from the local theater community will help playing the other roles in the play. Some of them will have more than one role, hence the various colored stoles or belts that we wear.

Photographs were taken by David Wong of David Wong Photography.

From left to right, Rene Sprattling, Dinah Smith, Brett Torgrimson, Hock, Drue Mathies, Lois Ewing and Eric Tomb.

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