Re­nais­sance of a town

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Qi Xi­jia Page Ed­i­tor: heluyi@glob­al­

One of the most renowned stage events in China, the Wuzhen The­atre Fes­ti­val, is re­turn­ing for its fifth year. From Oc­to­ber 19 to 29, 24 pro­duc­tions from 12 coun­tries and re­gions will present 100 per­for­mances at the his­toric scenic town of Wuzhen in Zhe­jiang Prov­ince.

Chi­nese the­ater di­rec­tor Tian Qinxin will be the artis­tic di­rec­tor of this year’s fes­ti­val. Tian will also per­form her own play, Tur­moil, a story based on the pas­sion­ate and rev­o­lu­tion­ary life of Tian Han, who is fa­mously known for pen­ning the lyrics of China’s na­tional an­them.

The­ater troupes from Rus­sia, Ger­many, the UK, the US, Aus­tralia, Switzer­land, Brazil, Ro­ma­nia, Lithua­nia, Le­banon and Ire­land will also con­trib­ute per­for­mances, di­vided into five sec­tions: “Clas­sics Re­vis­ited,” “Fe­male Per­spec­tives,” “Mul­ti­me­dia Pro­duc­tion,” “Phys­i­cal The­ater,” and “New Voices.”

Chen Xianghong, chair­man of the fes­ti­val since its first edi­tion, sum­ma­rized the past five years as “the re­nais­sance of a town,” which has broad­ened the Chi­nese vi­sion of plays and strength­ened the pres­ence of Chi­nese the­aters on the world stage.

He re­called that, when the fes­ti­val first started, many lo­cal res­i­dents couldn’t tell stage plays apart from lo­cal op­eras. “They thought the fes­ti­val was to pro­mote Yueju, a lo­cal opera from Zhe­jiang,” he said.

But five years later he is proud to find that the fes­ti­val is draw­ing more young the­ater lovers as well as for­eign au­di­ences, with some West­ern vis­i­tors telling him that “they first heard about the town (Wuzhen) just be­cause of the fes­ti­val.”

“It is now hard to imag­ine Wuzhen with­out a the­ater fes­ti­val,” he said.

Clas­sic works

This year’s fes­ti­val has at­tracted a num­ber of world-renowned the­ater troupes and pro­duc­tions to Wuzhen, many of them de­but­ing for the first time. Di­rec­tor Ri­mas Tu­mi­nas, from the Vakhtan­gov The­atre in Rus­sia, will per­form Eu­gene One­gin as the fes­ti­val’s open­ing play.

Eu­gene One­gin was called “an en­cy­clo­pe­dia of Rus­sian life” in the 19th cen­tury, with scenes of ev­ery­day life, ideas, moods and habits of the Rus­sian peo­ple as seen through Pushkin’s story lines.

Tu­mi­nas has pro­duced nearly 30 per­for­mances in Rus­sia and Eu­rope, in­clud­ing clas­sic works from Sopho­cles, Wil­liam Shake­speare, Friedrich Schiller, Alexan­der Pushkin, An­ton Chekhov and Thomas Bern­hard. Fan­tô­mas: Re­venge of the Im­age, pre­sented by The CalArts Cen­ter for New Per­for­mance will have its world pre­miere at the fes­ti­val, pro­vid­ing au­di­ences with an in­no­va­tive and pow­er­ful per­for­mance ex­pe­ri­ence.

Based on Fan­tô­mas, the fic­tional phan­tom ban­dit and fig­ure of crim­i­nal­ity from French books and film,

Re­venge of the Im­age ex­plores ur­ban vi­o­lence as a facet of the con­tem­po­rary land­scape. The pro­duc­tion in­ves­ti­gates the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween sen­sa­tion, vi­o­lence and en­ter­tain­ment in con­tem­po­rary vis­ual cul­ture.

Through­out the pro­duc­tion, the au­di­ence moves through space like a rolling camera dolly. The im­mer­sive per­for­mance is viewed en­tirely through this mov­ing aper­ture, not un­like the lens of a camera. Given the lim­ited space for the au­di­ence, each per­for­mance will only ad­mit 50 peo­ple.

Cul­ti­vat­ing lo­cal tal­ent

Apart from invit­ing world-renowned troupes and the­ater di­rec­tors, the fes­ti­val also aims to dis­cover young Chi­nese tal­ents to pro­vide them with an in­ter­na­tional stage to de­but their orig­i­nal works.

Chi­nese di­rec­tor Zhuang Yi, of Hit Please! The­ater Com­pany, will de­but his new play The Leg­end of the

Three He­roes at the fes­ti­val. Based on the Tang Dy­nasty (618–907) novella Bi­og­ra­phy of the Dragon-Beard Man, the play uses a con­tem­po­rary retelling of an old tale to imag­ine for­got­ten bat­tles in his­tory.

With a BA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore and a Mas­ter of Phi­los­o­phy in Modern Euro­pean His­tory from Cam­bridge Univer­sity, Zhuang blends clas­si­cal Chi­nese paint­ings, manga, syn­the­sizer mu­sic, re­al­ity TV and live-stream­ing sen­sa­tions all to­gether, con­jur­ing up a po­etic past that is also flam­boy­antly cur­rent.

To dis­cover more Chi­nese the­ater tal­ents, the fes­ti­val has also set up a Young The­ater Artist’s Com­pe­ti­tion sec­tion for lo­cal youth to sub­mit their works. The fes­ti­val com­mit­tee has re­ceived over 300 ap­pli­ca­tions, the high­est in five years, with 18 short­listed to per­form dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

(From top) An ar­chi­tec­ture in Wuzhen; The Vakhtan­gov The­atre in Rus­sia will per­form Eu­gene One­gin as the fes­ti­val’s open­ing play.

Pho­tos: Qi Xi­jia/GT

Pro­mo­tion for Wuzhen The­atre Fes­ti­val

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