Michael Ross Award 2022: Xun Huang

The director Xun Huang – Photo courtesy of Birkbeck, University of London.

The winner of the 2022 Michael Ross award is Xun Huang!

“Xun Huang has been studying Chinese opera and Chinese folk dance since he was young. In 2010, he competed with over 12,000 candidates, and won the opportunity to study in the Acting Department of the Shanghai Theatre Academy – one of the top three theatres and drama universities in China, which only admits as few as 25 students each year. During Mr. Huang’s time at the university, he was awarded several scholarships from the academy and national scholarships as well as the titles of Outstanding Graduate and Outstanding Thesis. 

After graduating from the university, Mr. Huang began to engage professionally in the performing arts and theatre. Here is a list of selective works by Mr. Huang between 2014 and 2016, including: 

He played Nasri in ” Guys and Dolls “in Shanghai Academy of Drama Duanjun theatre.

He played the broker in the original musical “The Perfect Work” in Shanghai Commercial Theatre.

He starred in the Beijing Opera “The Covenant of Love.” 

He served as an assistant director at Shanghai Lyceum Theatre. 

He performed the original musical “Hand of Midas” in Shanghai Grand Theatre.

He acted as Co-director of the Mongolian-language musical “Romeo and Juliet.” 

He served as the assistant director of the physical drama “Li Huiniang” at the Shanghai Theatre Arts Centre.

He starred in the body drama “Rage 48” in Costa Crociere. 

In 2017, Mr. Huang set up his own drama and theatre art education institution in Shanghai. Nearly 500 young people were trained by him in musical theatre performance and film and television acting, some of whom are now engaging professionally in the industry having become ‘influencers’ in the field. 

In 2019 Mr. Huang directed the youth versions of the musicals “Les Miserables” and “Cats”, which performed at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The musical had an amazingly large cast of 300 children, between the ages of 6 and 15. The show was very well received and had a genuine positive impact on the education to the public regarding the musical industry. 

In the same year, Mr. Huang starred in the hit comedy show “Evaporating Brains”. The show initially premiered in Shanghai Theatre in 2016, and was rated as the best-selling small theatre drama of the year and recommended by countless drama critics. Mr. Huang played the leading role as a western medical practitioner, Dr. Huang. The fact he could play the leading role is a demonstration of his acting ability. 

Mr. Huang’s work has also received international recognition. In 2019, he co- directed the children’s play “24 Grandmothers” during the 26th International Children’s Theatre Festival in Subotica of Serbia, and it won the award for being the best performance as a whole (the highest award of the festival). 

Xun Huang never stops learning and exploring the world. In 2021, he decided to pursue his further education in the UK and was accepted at Birkbeck, University of London and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, studying for an MA in Text and Performance. 

A performer in one of Xun Huang’s productions – Photo courtesy of Birkbeck, University of London.

Mr. Huang’s MA text and performance course

I feel highly honoured to receive the award. I would like to show my sincere gratitude to Birkbeck and the RADA exam board for recognising my final project: the one-person musical Blossoming (You Undo Me). I am incredibly thankful to the Ross family for their support. Their recognition has helped me to gain more confidence as a theatre director. Moreover, I will always be grateful to my professors for offering me the utmost support to realise my theatre ideas, for giving me much valuable advice, and – more importantly – for their practical and theoretical way of teaching which has opened up my theatrical mind. To be honest, I was very self-conscious in my first semester and was afraid to speak up in class, but the professors offered timely and sufficient encouragement and replied patiently to every email I sent, answering my questions with much care. In addition, I would like to thank my fellow classmates for believing in me and showing me continuous support. They listened to my challenges, understood them, and motivated me to strive harder in life. 

A performer in one of Xun Huang’s productions – Photo courtesy of Birkbeck, University of London.

Mr. Huang’s dissertation project 

Blossoming (You Undo Me) is a straightforward, one-person musical about a young Chinese man growing into his queerness and yet it wove several narrative threads and theatrical forms into a singular experience. For example, the production reflected a coming-of-age tale, an immigrant’s journey, a chronicle of one family’s changing dynamics, and a sexual awakening.

With much Chinese opera training and practicing in my childhood and youth, I have been exploring how to move traditional Chinese opera into a modern musical theatre for audiences from different backgrounds. In my final project directorial and production work Blossoming (You Undo Me), I have made an innovative attempt to incorporate Beijing opera singing, Master Mei Lanfang’s gestures, puppet performance and Chinese opera freehand staging into it, hoping to deliver an exceptional musical entertainment with aesthetic expression of the East. At the same time, as a member of the queer Asian community, I have been trying to be an active voice for this group, and I strongly feel that the disapproval and shunning of the LGBTQ community in traditional Asian values can have a huge impact on their individual development. Blossoming (You Undo Me) is a story of Asian queer self-discovery and identification with their particular identity, inspiring all of us to find our true selves – as I sang at the end of my piece: “To love whoever you want to love and be whoever you want to be”.