Siyuan Liu

Siyuan Liu (PhD, 2007)

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?

When I was studying English in China, an American professor teaching at the program directed plays in English, starting with Oklahoma. My involvement with the productions triggered my interest in theatre, which eventually led to the Pitt PhD program. A major attraction for me at the Pitt was Prof. Tom Rimer, leading scholar of modern Japanese theatre, together with Profs. Buck Favorini, Bruce McConachie, Kathy George, and Kiki Gounaridou, from whom I learned a great deal from Greek classics to contemporary American theatre, from kabuki to intercultural theatre.

How did the degree program help prepare you for your career?

Apart from the seminars, I benefited significantly from the practical track requirement for PhD students. I directed two well-known Chinese spoken drama plays, and was able to stage one of them, Thunderstorm (1934) by Cao Yu, as an intercultural production using one table and two chairs, and water sleeves. For my dissertation, I was able to leverage Tom's expertise and write about Japan's influence on the beginning of modern Chinese theatre, which started my publication career.

What is your current position and what does it involve?

I am an associate professor of theatre at the University of British Columbia in Canada and editor of Asian Theatre Journal. At UBC, I teach intercultural theatre, modern Asian theatre and archival research in undergraduate classes, and graduate seminars on research methodology and theatre and the state. For ATJ, I've been responsible for editing two annual issues every year since 2017. My research is focused on twentieth century Chinese theatre, both modern and traditional. My new monograph, Transforming Tradition: The Reform of Chinese Theatre in the 1950s and Early 1960s, was published this year by the University of Michigan Press.


Thoughts and Advice for Current Graduate Students?

I feel truly fortune and grateful for the wisdom and guidance of the professors as well as the design of the PhD program that gave me a solid foundation of Western and Japanese theatre while also allowing me to explore my creativity. I would encourage current PhD students to actively take advantage of the practical track, which will not only be crucial for their job prospects but also make them a better scholar.