Wilde About Kabuki at Queens College
in the Oscar Wilde centennial last November 30, the Drama Department
at Queens College broke new theatrical ground with an October production
of Wilde's highly stylized, sexually charged biblical play Salome, which
later provided the subject for Richard Strauss's hair-raising opera.
The horrific image of the biblical Salome, dancing in the blood of John
the Baptist, whom she has requested to be decapitated, provoked fierce
controversy when Oscar Wilde's tragedy was first performed in the 1890s.
The production was
conceived and directed by Queens College and Graduate Center professor of drama
Dallas McCurley, a specialist in Chinese theater who previously taught for 10
years at the University of Hawaii and two years at the National University of
Singapore (she still owns a farm in Hawaii, where she grew up). Speaking afterward
about the performances, Dr. McCurley felt her concept had proved successful, Wilde's
sensational play adapting easily to kabuki, which had its beginnings in erotic
Seen under the moon that presides over the action-here it is blue, in Wilde it
is "blood-red"-is the Salome of Guyanese-born Ushvani Persaud, below,
and the frantic, sex-obsessed Herod, of Dan Fodera. This is just before Salome's
climactic demise, which McCurley changed from being crushed by a soldier's shield
to the swoosh of a samurai sword.