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Spoleto alum Chen Shi-Zheng and his new film called Dark Matter, about a school shooting, is featured in today’s New York Times. He returns to Charleston in May for his music theater production of Monkey: Journey to the West, which he created with the help of Blur’s Damon Albarn and a 26-foot tall statue of the Buddha. . . .

THE innovative opera director Chen Shi-Zheng is looking not-so-fresh after the red-eye flight from Los Angeles, where he screened his intentionally disturbing film, “Dark Matter,” a fictionalized version of a 1991 shooting by a distraught Chinese graduate student who killed five University of Iowa colleagues and himself at a physics department meeting. The stunned audience at Caltech clapped and cried. Perfect.

He is ever the provocateur, only this time he is not presenting a 19-hour production of “The Peony Pavilion,” the landmark 1999 opera that had its premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival; or the unconventional “Monkey: Journey to the West,” a child-friendly circus opera bound for the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in May. “Dark Matter” (in cosmology, dark matter is the unseen substance whose gravitational force shapes the universe) is Mr. Chen’s first foray into filmmaking and lasts just 88 minutes.

“I wanted to create the cinematic equivalent of a Chinese scroll painting,” he says. “To many Chinese students in the early 1990s, the tragic shooting that spawned the idea for this film mirrored their own struggles to thrive in a new and unwelcoming culture. These students had shrunk their American dreams to fit American realities.”

Full story . . .

(Image above courtesy of The New York Times)