ALL HISWORLD’S A STAGE
A new theater fulfills a dream, actor Deng Chao tells Chen Nan.
Deng Chao set a goal for himself 15 years ago: to open a theater. On June 26, Deng announced the opening of Super Theater, and four days later its first play, Child Delivery Guru, was staged.
When he set his goal, Deng was 22 years old— in his third year of study at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. He was just achieving fame from his performance in the comedy play Cui Hua, Serve Suancai, Please.
Soon after graduation, he acted in popular TV series, such as The Young Emperor and Happiness Is Like Flowers, which won him opportunities to star in some bigbudget movies, including famous Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s film Assembly, and Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame byHong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark.
For a time, going off to do plays wasn’t part of Deng’s plan — like many young actors, he was still eager to prove himself at the box office. He starred in more movies, including the critically and commercially successful American Dreams in China directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Peter Chan, and other roles that transformed him into an A-lister.
Then came his 2014 directorial comedy debut, The Breakup Guru, and the second comedy he directed, Devil and Angel. Acclaimed Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Chow invited him to star in the movie The Mermaid, one of the highest-grossing movies this year. But Deng was uneasy. “I could not forgethowgreat I felt while performing in a theater. It’s like a magic box— containing various emotions and carrying my dream as an actor,” Deng said in a recent interview.
“I wanted to keepmy promise and fulfillmy dream.”
Though Deng didn’t perform in the play at his newtheater’s opening, he was there with his wife, Chinese actress Sun Li, to thank the audience.
The theater, which was renovated from an abandoned auditorium, has around 500 seats and is located in a hutong (alley) nearWangfujing Street, a popular commercial area in Beijing.
According to Deng’s longtime friend, famous scriptwriter Yu Baimei, whose real nameisWuTao, opening a theater was also a dream for him.
Deng and Yu had prepared for the theater for nearly three years. They will focus on producing original Chinese plays, especially comedies.
Child Delivery Guru was written by Yu when the movie Breakup Guru was made in 2013.
“Around 10 people in our team became mothers or fathers at that time, including Deng. So I wrote the script of Child Delivery Guru as a gift,” says Yu.
Deng spoke about a theater first Cui Hua, Serve Suancai, Please.
“During the past decade, we often discussed the dream and tried tomapoutaplan,” saysYu. “We have done six comedy productions since we founded our studio in 2009. All the plays have toured the country and sold out fast, whichgave us confidence to open Super Theater.
“We have signed a 10-year rental contract. We hope to open more theaters, not just in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but also in secondand third-tier cities, to allow theater lovers to watch plays and even join our studio.”
They also have a deal with the Central Academy of Drama’s stage-set design department, which will allow young students and graduates to test their ideas in Super Theater.
Deng says that before he studied at the Central Academy of Drama, he wasn’t so much into acting.
Born and raised in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, Deng fell in love with acting after he performed in a drama, Che Guevara, while studying at the Central Academy of Drama.
It was Deng’s first role, though he did not even appear on the stage — he just read a fewlines in a voice-over.
From that simple start, acting became his goal.
Yu says: “Deng and I share a passion for theater. For example, we enjoy the darkness in the theater and we get excited after the curtain is raised. Though we make movies and do other projects, we still care about delivering laughs through dramas.”
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