Loving and Losing on Stage
If you were born a loser and presented with a rare opportunity for all your dreams to come true at the expense of losing your personal belongings, what would you do? Alan’s Studio’s Aiqing laile ni jiushang (“Love Written in Water”) tells that story.
If you were born a loser and presented with a rare opportunity for all your dreams to come true at the expense of losing your personal things, what would you do? Aiqing laile ni jiushang (“Love Written in Water”), a fantasy/tragicomedy produced by Alan’s Studio, tells this story. Although the lead character Born Loser (Baidi in Chinese) lucks up and transforms dreams into reality, he finds himself in a dilemma of losing more. Since its premiere in December 2007, every year, Love Written in Water is staged at Alan’s around Valentine’s Day.
When Long-cherished Dreams Come True
“Born Loser” is an ordinary nine-to-fiver. In his company where the logic of survival, interpersonal relationships and promotion rules prevail, it is hard for him to find his feet. Fortunately, one of his colleagues, a girl named Zhen Zhu, cares for him and helps him in secret. A whirl of failures has dealt a heavy blow to his confidence, driving him to deep despair. Yet, at this very moment, he receives a mysterious phone call which throws his life into confusion. Following this phone call, Born Loser is greatly surprised to find all his “dreams” have come true. However, as these dreams gradually come true and intertwine, he finds that his life is immersed in confusion and spinning out of his control.
Love Written in Water is a both a fantasy and romantic comedy. Its producer, Shen Fei, said, for such a genre, the difficulty in conception lies in its persuasion. “Drama is unlike film, as film-making techniques such as editing and visual effects remain foreign. When taking audiences to explore a fantasy world and lay bare Born Loser’s joys and sorrows, we make a logical run through it so that unimaginable plots lines appear
natural. Subsequently, the more confusion and difficulties Born Loser suffers at the start of the drama, the more arrogant he becomes after his dreams come true. “It’s acceptable to have outlandish plots, but don’t challenge the mainstream mindset. The drama must throw light on this process and make audiences witness it, or this drama may be reduced to an unwanted farce.”
Since Love Written in Water isn’t based on an original script, Alan’s Studio has taken pains to glean material from sensationalist news media. By virtue of its sensitivity, it has successfully staged the drama by honing in on the feelings of youth. “When socially inexperienced youth begin a job, they tend to subordinate their feelings to their careers and dreams. So, when someone ‘translates his dream into reality’, he may lose sight of the heartfelt feelings surrounding him.” Liu Shuo, a young man and director of this year’s drama, elaborated, “For the majority, turning dreams into reality is most desirable. But, throughout the drama, we hope to express the idea that if you’re underprepared to face your dreams, life can get messy.”
Joy and Sorrow on Stage
On stage, Love Written in Water is a hybrid of fantasy, romance and tragicomedy; off the stage, this drama has also borne witness to joys and sorrows Alan’s Studio has experienced in the course of its development. Lei Zixin and Shen Fei went to the length of selling their cars and houses to raise money to stage this drama. Despite that, they still didn’t have enough money to market it on a large scale after it’s produced. “For about a month and a half after its debut near the end of 2007, we sold fewer than eight tickets each day.”
If we call its flop at the box office “a sorrow,” “a joy” for it, so to speak, lies in the audiences who sat through the drama and in Kappa Sport Products Co., Ltd. who sought cooperation at that time. In early 2008, Kappa, its costume provider, came to the rescue. The company was prepared to offer funds to help Alan’s Studio stage its dramas in Beijing, Tianjin, Xi’an, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing and Guangzhou. Needless to say, this was a rare opportunity. Yet, for the newly-founded Alan’s Studio, lacking a strong brand, this was also a challenging task. Alan’s Studio adopted “Happy Valentine’s Day Together— Drama Honey Moon,”“we planned to simultaneously stage Love Written in Water in seven cities at 7:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. No matter what reasons hampered lovers from staying together on this special day, we offered topics to discuss and opportunities to express our love to each other through drama,” Li explained.
By virtue of its marketing, on February 14, 2008, Love Written in Water was staged simultaneously in seven cities with every theatre packed fill with people. After the simultaneous stagings, it generated new praise. When Lei Zile returned to Beijing, the Poly Theatre showed interest in cooperating with Alan’s Studio and expressed readiness to set aside time to stage the show. On March 27 and March 28, Love Written in Water was nothing less than a big hit. Even though Poly Theatre was sold out, there were 500 people outside. What’s more, promoting Alan’s Studio aroused heated debate in drama circles and became a hot topic of the year among advertisers.
Change and Adherence
Since the premiere of Love Written in Water, a decade went by. Over the past ten years, answering the call of quickly -evolving modern society and ever-changing hot topics, the drama has to change some things, ‘some jokes’ in the drama spring from topical news, so the audiences may no longer find it interesting some time later. Every time a drama like this comes around, we need to modify and polish its topics and the details of the subplots.” Shen Fei explained that since the drama was staged in different cities, it was necessary to make other changes also. “For example, in Beijing, when we say Wudaokou and Sanlitun, we receive positive responses from audiences. When we visit other cities, we need to use places of equal measure to replace them.” Love Written in Water will launch its namesake film project in the first half of 2018. This somewhat time-honoured work will hit the big screen, offering audiences an opportunity to watch it in theatres.
Over the years, although there have been changes in the script and performance, its essence remains unchanged. Committed to producing urban light comedy about youth, Alan’s Studio has stuck to its concept of “telling stories about the young from their perspectives.” Shen Fei explained, “We need to know what young people like and lack, and find what in the drama has kept abreast with the times so we can answer the call of the times and remain rooted in daily life situations. Only in this way can audiences savour life and be encouraged to deal with problems that they face in real life.”