Find­ing dra­matic respite

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HOULIQIANG

De­spite their num­bers con­tin­u­ing to rise, China’s 20 mil­lion do­mes­tic work­ers have few ways of mak­ing their voices heard. How­ever, a small group of do­mes­tic work­ers in Bei­jing is at­tempt­ing to com­mu­ni­cate through drama.

Most of the mem­bers of the Vi­ola Lac­t­i­flora Drama Club are do­mes­tic work­ers. They hope to tell their sto­ries through the plays they write, which are base­dontheir ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Drama is a good way to ex­press emo­tions,” said Yan Cheng­mei, who founded the club in 2011. “Body lan­guage and good lines make it eas­ier for peo­ple who know lit­tle about do­mes­tic work­ers to learn about the con­di­tions they work in.”

Yan, who also di­rects the plays, has sought out­side help. “I in­vite schol­ars who care about do­mes­tic work­ers to give lec­tures,” she said.

She re­called how a Chi­nese stu­dent from Har­vard Univer­sity con­tacted the group and in­tro­duced the mem­bers to a pro­fes­sor of per­form­ing arts from Duke Univer­sity in North Carolina, and how the aca­demicvis­it­edChi­naand­helpedthem re­hearse Shake­speare’s Night’s Dream.

Re­hearsals are dif­fi­cult to ar­range, though, be­cause most do­mes­tic work­ers only have one day off a week.

“Al­though we have nearly 100 mem­bers, only 10 to 15 can at­tend re­hearsal­sreg­u­larly, sothe­ac­tor­shave to be changed con­stantly,” said Yan.

Alack of funds poses an­other chal­lenge. “We try to get free re­hearsal venues with help from friends and col­leagues, and have to move con­stantly,” she said.

The club has staged eight plays in the­aters, but a lack of fund­ing and high costs mean they can no longer af­ford to rent pro­fes­sional spa­ces. “I bar­gained with a the­ater in a Bei­jing sub­urb. They gave us a good price be­cause they knewwe were per­form­ing for a char­ity, but it still cost 7,000 yuan ($1,050) to stage a mati­nee and an evening per­for­mance,” she said.

The rent in the­aters down­town is more than 8,000 yuan for each per­for­mance, even those staged dur­ing the day­time, al­though vol­un­teers help with the light­ing and other jobs.

In ad­di­tion to giv­ing do­mes­tic work­ers a voice, the club also gives A Mid­sum­mer

Thanks to the club, we have a place to go on our rest days.”

Jia Huifeng,

a mem­ber of the Vi­ola Lac­t­i­flora Drama Club the women, most of them mi­grant work­ers, a sense of be­long­ing.

Mem­ber Jia Huifeng has nick­named the club the do­mes­tic work­ers’ ni­angjia, lit­er­ally “the home of the mar­ried woman’s par­ents.” In China, women tra­di­tion­ally tend to turn to the ni­angjia for help when they en­counter dif­fi­cul­ties.

“We cal­lYanour mother. Thanks to the club, we have a place to go on our rest­days. Wecom­mu­ni­cate, share­our ex­pe­ri­ences and give ad­vice to those who work for ter­ri­ble clients. We can re­lax here,” the 55-year-old said.

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