Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig//October

Snow in Midsummer: A Parable of Global Capital



Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, playwright

Christine Mok, University of Rhode Island

Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson, Northwestern University



“Men were born with mouths that could right wrongs with a few words. Why are you too timid to speak?” In Snow in Midsummer, playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s contemporary adaptation of a Yuan Dynasty classic, a young woman in a factory town is executed for a crime she did not commit. Her body, now property of the state, is scavenged and auctioned across the world. At her execution, Dou Yi vows that if she is innocent, snow will fall in midsummer and a drought will devastate the town. In the world of the play, the injustice to Dou Yi moves heaven and earth, but justice can only be wrought by human hands and truths spoken by human mouths.  Playwright Cowhig and co-editors Christine Mok and Joshua Takano Chambers-Letson will delve into the play to discuss four crises (pandemic, ecological, human, racial representation) and present on the newly published collection, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Trilogy: Three Parables of Global Capital.


Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is an internationally produced playwright whose work has been staged in the United Kingdom at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hampstead Theatre, the National Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2 [West End] and the Unicorn Theatre. In the United States her work has been staged at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theater Club and the Goodman Theatre.

Her plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the David A. Callichio Award,  the Keene Prize for Literature and a United States Artist Fellowship.

She has benefited from artist residencies at Yaddo, Macdowell, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, the Sundance Playwright Retreats at Ucross and Flying Point, and the Santa Fe Art Institute.  Her work has been published by Yale University Press, Glimmer Train, Methuen Drama, Samuel French and Dramatists Play Service. 

Frances was born in Philadelphia, and raised in Northern Virginia, Okinawa, Taipei and Beijing. She received an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, a BA in Sociology from Brown University, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre.  She was formerly an Associate Professor of Drama at UC Santa Barbara, where she had the pleasure of mentoring undergraduate playwrights and directing the New Works Lab.

Christine Mok is a dramaturg, designer, and scholar. Her work, in scholarship and practice, focuses on the people, places, and performances where the limits of representation rub up against the limits of racial representation. She is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island. She has published in Journal of Asian American Studies, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and PAJ: A Performing Arts Journal. A founding member of Wingspace Theatrical Design, she received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Brown University and holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama. She is currently completing her first book project, which charts a genealogy of Asian American performance as an un-disciplining aesthetic and political strategy to imagine affiliation in inauthenticity and failure.


Joshua Chambers-Letson is Professor of Performance Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and, for the ’21-’22 academic year, a Presidential Fellow and Visiting Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Yale University. He has published in the areas of contemporary art and performance, critical race theory, and queer of color critique and is the author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, 2018) and A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2013) as well as other edited volumes, articles, and art writing.

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