Lov­ing and Los­ing on Stage

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Zhang Qi­uyue Edited by Mark Zuiderveld

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.”

Pho­tos by Xiu Yuchen

Aiqinglaileni­jiushang (“Lovewrit­ten­in­wa­ter”)

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