Coco Zhao is a veteran jazz musician, and a great one at that – he has earned world renown for his smooth blend of Chinese tunes and Western elements, and is a fixture in international jazz festivals.
This week, he mixes it up, starring in David Henry Hwang’s Pulitzer Prize winning M. Butterfly, directed by Daniel Roy Connelly, about a torrid affair between a French diplomat and a Peking Opera star, who… spoiler alert…happens to be a spy (among other things). Performances of the show are from November 25-28.
Where: The Ke Center for Contemporary Art No. 613-B, Kai Xuan Rd, Changning District 可当代艺术中心 上海市长宁区凯旋路613号B座
Starts: Wednesday, November 25 to Saturday, November 28
Cover: 200RMB at the door or 170RMB pre-sale.
We chat with Coco about the career change and how his life as a musician prepared him for this role.
Congratulations on M. Butterfly – we think it’s the first time it’s been performed in Shanghai. What pushed you do this project? You are usually a musician….
I think it is the first time for M.Butterfly to be performed in Shanghai, China, and yes, it’ll be my first time doing theater as well. Very excited! I never knew I could do this actually, Zuloo was doing casting for M, and my friend Ben Denton from JZ school asked to try it, so I did go, and I got it!
I’m not even sure who had the initial idea to ask me. I guess it’s fate, there are too many things in this world that can’t be explained, we just have to go with the flow, and make the best out of it!
So fate inspired you to act?
I have appeared a few times in some friend’s movies, but I was often playing myself as a jazz singer, and I didn’t have to say any lines. I just sung. M. Butterfly is the first real acting experience I’ve had. And it came very fast. So, yes, I’d say this is FATE.
How has your musical background helped (or not helped) with this role?
I think all art forms are connected somehow, so my musical background has helped me with my first theater play indeed. And I am sure this theater experience will help me with my future musical development also.
Your parents were prominent members of the Peking opera — have you channeled them at all in your role?
Yes, my parents are Chinese opera musician and performers, but they are in the Qi style, one of more than 150 different local opera styles. Very different. But yes, I grew up with a lot of Chinese opera elements around me, and that definitely helps me with my role as M. As I said earlier, I do believe that all art forms are connected, so all those little things, these feelings, can give big help!
What message would you like the audience to come away with?
Enjoy the monologue and dialogue, it’s an excellent script! All messages are in the text. You tell me what messages you got by watching the play… I don’t like to give messages before the performance, it’s better to leave the space for the audience’s own imaginations, don’t you think so?
Before we go, we’ve got to ask: where do YOU go to listen to jazz?
JZ Club, Cotton Club, and The House of Blues and Jazz, and Melting Pot…
Watch Coco in Zuloo’s M. Butterfly, 7:30PM, Ke Centre for Contemporary Art, No 613-B Kiai Xuan Rd, Changning District, Near Yan’an West Rd. Email [email protected] or call 138-1837-9554 for tickets.