The author, actress and wife of Edgar Snow (for many years Communist China's token American journalist), offers an intimate account, based on her own experience, of the country's revolutionary theater, often incomprehensible and/or terrifying to many Americans. Here are the texts of four productions, including the ""heroic ballet,"" The Red Detachment of Women, which was seen by Nixon and his party this year. Mrs. Snow also traces the evolutions of various forms, from ancient traditions through early Communist works and the Cultural Revolution; and she reviews the thoughts of Chaing Ching (Mao's wife) and her efforts to rid the revolutionary theater of revisionism -- the plays are written for ""workers, peasants and soldiers, who are the real creators of history"" and their object is to praise and serve the same. Mrs. Snow also devotes some time to her own impressions of the mixtures of ""drama, music, dance, poetry, propaganda and revolutionary history,"" the vigor and grace of the performers, the curious but pleasing music, the staging fashioned to highlight hero and villain, and the gusty audience participation. These explications of the scripts are essential in understanding these lines which to Western eyes smack of early American melodramas and a Menotti parody. With Mrs. Snow alongside, an informed Chinese theater tour.