A new theater ful­fills a dream, ac­tor Deng Chao tells Chen Nan.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

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.”

Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­

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