Charles Ruas adds another rare find to his historical archives, courtesy of the author, with a recording of Chinoiserie. Ed Friedman’s performance piece took place on May 5th and 6th, 1977 at The Kitchen. In this one act, four Orient-obsessed New Yorkers tell their life stories over a game of Mah Jong.
Ed Bowes, Ellie Karanauskas, Rochelle Kraut, and Robert Kushner played the roles of Swan’s Flesh, Violet Shade, Lingering Snow, and Black Jade. The Music was written by Peter Gordon and performed by Robert Sheff and Dave Van Tieghem. WBAI broadcast an excerpt shortly after the performance.
The original playbill states:
“Chinoiserie is a verbal decoration for four characters who are playing Mah Jong and Talking. Mah Jong is a Chinese game that is played with tiles. Payers call out the names of the tiles. Players call out the names of the tiles they are discarding, and call out “pung,” “chow,” or “kong,” when they can complete a set by taking one of the tiles discarded by another player. The call of “ready,” by a player means that she is one tile from completing a winning hand. The first player to complete a perfect hand calls “Mah Jong,” wins the hand, and is then paid by the other players on the basis of how many “points” are awarded to the winning hand.”