xi's moments
Home | Newsmakers

Building a cultural 'railroad' between East and West

By Oasis Hu | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-07-10 14:41

Clockwise from top left: More than 40 industry insiders, including Broadway composers, musicians and journalists attended the staged reading. The musical was created by a group of ethnically diverse artists. Tony Stimac (director of the musical, middle row, fourth from left) and Don Frantz (co-producer of the musical, middle row, fifth from left) posed later with students, after a lecture at the Central Performing Arts Academy in Beijing. CHINA DAILY

When Stimac returned to the US in 2014, he stumbled on a book about early Chinese immigrants. He was deeply moved by how they had helped build the country's first transcontinental railroad, with their blood, sweat, and tears but how, in return, they were repaid with little other than racism, exclusion, and violence and he felt compelled to bring the story to life, inviting Louis to join him on the journey.

Louis accepted the invitation without hesitation. He was later joined by playwright James Racheff, and the trio soon began the painstaking research and creative process needed to make the story into a musical.

They logged countless hours writing and refining the script, worked tirelessly on draft after draft, and brought in numerous actors to try ideas, over and over again.

Songs were written and discarded. Music composed and abandoned. And, after rewriting the story more than 50 drafts of the script in seven years, tragedy struck: Louis died weeks after completing the score. His death in March 2021 left the world with the music for Railroad!, which was to be his swan song.

Battered by the "devastating loss", Stimac refused to give up.

"Few people are aware of how incredible the Chinese contributions were to building the transcontinental railroad, which helped America achieve its manifest destiny," said Stimac, who added that the story is an essential one, for both Americans and Chinese people.

Zhang Kemin subsequently became the musical's producer. A Chinese Canadian, Zhang, who had been an apprentice under Louis, had followed the creative process of Railroad!, from its inception.

Louis' passing was a wake-up call for Zhang, who realized he could not afford to wait any longer and that it was time to complete the project.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and rising anti-Chinese sentiment in North America, Zhang felt it was a crucial time to foster understanding and empathy among diverse communities. As executive director of the Li Delun Music Foundation — a Canadian nonprofit that promotes cultural exchange between East and West through musical events — Zhang has long believed that non-violent demonstrations, such as artistic expressions, are more effective in promoting understanding among ethnic groups than marches and protests.

|<< Previous 1 2 3 4 Next   >>|
Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349