Tak­ing the stage

Global brains nur­ture Chi­nese tal­ents for con­tem­po­rary stage the­ater

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Feng Yu

The In­ter­na­tional Sym­po­sium on Con­tem­pory The­ater Di­rect­ing and The­ater Di­rec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion was held on June 6-18 in Shanghai. Ex­perts nd schol­ars in this field from eight coun­tries at­tended the event and ex­change view­points. Shanghai Theatre Acad­emy (STA) was the spon­sor or­ga­nizer of the sym­po­sium. This year marks th 1 th an­niver­sary the In­ter­na­tional la ini­ti­ated nd ld T MC is pi­o­neer­ing global rain­ing hat in­tro­duces nter tional dis­tin­guished the­ater artists for di­rect­ing an act­ing China. t serves s a long-last­ing plat­form to en­able col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween an East. In the ast 10 years masters from the US, the UK, France, Rus­sia, Ger­man Ocea­nia, North­ern Europe South­ern Europe and the er­i­cas have been in­vited give lec­tures to Chi­nese di­rec­tors.

In the open­ing speech given by the pres­i­dent of Shanghai Theatre Acad­emy, Pro­fes­sor Huang Changyong pointed out that “We are in a new era as the coun­try en­ters the pros­per­ous stage. But in cre­ativ­ity ar­eas in­clud­ing the­ater, film and TV, our im­bal­ance is very sig­nif­i­cant in the so­cial de­mand and sup­ply of cre­ative tal­ents.”

Huang added that “we are not only in bad need of scripts, plays and di­rec­tors, but also chore­og­ra­phy. The lack of tal­ent is an om­nipresent is­sue.” Huang hopes that with more global co­op­er­a­tion, the prac­tice of the In­ter­na­tional Mas­ter Class on Di­rect­ing can solve the problem to some ex­tent.

To­bias Bian­cone, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of In ter­na­tional The­ater In­sti­tute, claimed that “all the ed­u­ca­tional en­deav­ors that as­sist emerg­ing stage di­rec­tors to be­come out­stand­ing stage di­rec­tors are a very well in­vested ini­tia­tive.” Bian­cone asked: What are the chal­lenges are we fac­ing in ed­u­cat­ing young and pro­fes­sional stage di­rec­tors to­day, and are we do­ing enough?

He an­swered that the chal­lenges must be viewed in a glob­al­ized con­text. To­day per­for­mances travel. To­day, videos of per­for­mances can be watched on in­ter­net. This bears the risk that a stage di­rec­tor might think, it is bet­ter if I do my play how it is done in Ger­many or in Rus­sia. This risk is in­her­ent when stage di­rec­tors are at­tend­ing a mas­ter class given by for­eign spe­cial­ists here in Shanghai.

He gave prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to the tal­ent cul­ti­va­tion is­sue in­clud­ing: giv­ing grants to stage di­rec­tors to work for one year abroad as as­sis­tants of ex­pe­ri­enced stage di­rec­tors at dif­fer­ent renowned the­ater venues (as done by ITI Ger­many and Goethe In­sti­tute in the past) invit­ing masters not only once but give the stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue work­ing with the same mas­ter again and again.

Ad­di­tion­ally, invit­ing stage di­rec­tors from abroad to work with stu­dents with the re­sult of staging a pro­duc­tion, for this pro­ject a lo­cal emerg­ing stage di­rec­tor should be se­lected as an as­sis­tant; Giv­ing grants to stu­dents to be able to study stage di­rect­ing at an­other univer­sity abroad.

Win­dow, bridge, plat­form

Pro­fes­sor Lu Ang, dean of di­rect­ing depart­ment of STA, gave a 10-year sum­mary on IMCD. He told the par­tic­i­pants why and how he ini­ti­ated the pro­gram 10 years ago. The objectives to achieve for IMCD: to pros­per China’s na­tional the­ater; pro­mote the­ater di­rec tors’ com­pre­hen­sive artis­tic ac­com­plish­ment and widen their global vi­sion; ab­sorb the most

in­flu­en­tial and cre­ative con­tem­po­rary di­rec­tor.

Lu as the ini­tia­tor of the IMCD shared with the au­di­ence the long and not easy way he tried to per­suade in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned big names to squeeze days to weeks to lec­ture in China. At the very be­gin­ning it was hard to con­vince for­eign spe­cial­ists that it will be an award­ing jour­ney to come to China. He used “Chi­nese sto­ries in­spired artists” re­peat­edly to make them nod fi­nally although with hes­i­ta­tion.

But the for­eign schol­ars and masters in­volved ad­mit that the Chi­nese jour­ney and ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired them in their fu­ture creation and achieve­ment. The in­ter­ac­tion with Chi­nese di­rec­tors opens them an­other win­dow of in­spi­ra­tion. With IMCD gain­ing rep­u­ta­tion and recog­ni­tions in world stage, Lu and his team are think­ing big­ger for this pro­ject.

Lu re­viewed that, over the past 10 years, an in­ter­na­tional hub and ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion cen­ter for the­ater di­rect­ing tal­ents has been es­tab­lished. Over 60 in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned the­ater di­rec­tors have been suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced in China. A 353-full-day train­ing course has also been con­ducted, with 1,200 reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants na­tion­wide.

“IMCD is a win­dow through which China and the world can mu­tu­ally un­der­stand each other; it is a bridge where the­ater en­thu­si­asts can gather here sur­mount­ing all bar­ri­ers; it is a plat­form where the West and East meet, ex­plore, ex­per­i­ment and cre­ate. I have rea­son to be­lieve that IMCD can keep de­vel­op­ing and mak­ing progress to be a last­ing base to bring more won­ders.” Lu con­cluded his speech.

Voices from abroad

The theme of this year’s IMCD is “an­cient civ­i­liza­tion.” Be­tween May 14 and June 19, five lec­tur­ers were in­vited to give stu­dents spe­cific train­ing. Hanan Snir, di­rec­tor at the Na­tional The­ater Is­rael, brought with him “Act­ing in Vivo” or act­ing in the here and now.

Isil Kas­a­poglu, di­rec­tor at the Na­tional The­ater Turkey came with A New East­ern-Western Syn­the­sis – fea­tur­ing the tra­di­tional Turk­ish the­ater, Med­dah and Karagoz, whose roots have come from Asia. Ka­malud­din Nilu from In­dia, dis­tin­guished di­rec­tor and independent re­searcher, af­fil­i­ated with Cen­ter for Ib­sen Stud­ies, Univer­sity of Oslo brought with him “Cater­pil­lar Trans­for­ma­tive Game: Cat­alyz­ing en­ergy for ac­tion through trans­mutable po­si­tions.”

Assem Ye­hia Na­gaty, Egyp­tian ac­tor and stage di­rec­tor from the Higher In­sti­tute of The­atri­cal Arts, Egypt lec­tured on Imag­i­nary Char­ac­ters on Stage – A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream. Mo­ham­mad Aghe­bati, Di­rec­tor and teacher of di­rect­ing and the­ater his­tory at Tehran Univer­sity, lec­tured on “the Meet­ing of tra­di­tional Ira­nian The­ater forms and con­tem­po­rary the­ater.”

Fol­low­ing Lu, Pro­fes­sor Zhang Zhong­nian gave a speech of the STA char­ac­ter­is­tics on The­ater Di­rec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion. Schol­ars from Rus­sia, Ger­many, the UK, Iran and the US shared the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in their home coun­tries’ di­rec­tor ed­u­ca­tion.

Niko­lai Pe­sochin­skii, Head of In­ter­na­tional Depart­ment at Rus­sian State In­sti­tute of Per­form­ing Arts de­liv­ered a speech on Rus­sian The­ater Di­rect­ing and The­ater Di­rec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion. He re­called the hun­dred-year his­tory of ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in his coun­try. Hans-Ge­org Knopp from Ger­many, for­mer Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Goethe In­sti­tute and Di­rec­tor of House of World Cul­tures talked about Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary drama and di­rec­tors in his eyes.

Ni­co­las Barter from the UK, for­mer prin­ci­pal of the Royal Acad­emy of Dra­matic Art shared Bri­tish The­ater Di­rect­ing and The­ater Di­rec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion. Mo­ham­mad Aghe­bati from Iran shared Ira­nian an­cient cul­ture and the method of Ira­nian tra­di­tional sto­ries stage nar­ra­tive. Jose Luis Valen­zuela, artis­tic di­rec­tor of Los Angeles The­ater Cen­ter, head of the post­grad­u­ate di­rect­ing pro­gram at the The­ater Depart­ment at UCLA shared Amer­i­can The­ater Di­rec­tion and Di­rec­tor Ed­u­ca­tion.

Coun­ter­point de­bate

Through­out the two-day event, var­i­ous top­ics in­clud­ing the creation and ex­pres­sion of body, teach­ing meth­ods of di­rect­ing in uni­ver­si­ties, Chi­nese op­eras in the pur­suit of moder­nity, re­think­ing on re­al­ism, the dis­cov­ery and cul­ti­va­tion of mu­sic re­lated the­ater di­rec­tors were shared and dis­cussed by par­tic­i­pants.

Par­tic­i­pants were en­cour­aged to ex­press dif­fer­ent view­points and so­lu­tions to the prob­lems and de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese the­ater art. Hotly de­bated top­ics in­cluded tra­di­tional drama and mod­ern the­ater and the ex­is­tence of drama in the in­ter­net era. All par­tic­i­pants ad­mit­ted that tra­di­tional the­ater ed­u­ca­tion and per­for­mance art face great chal­lenges. The ac­cep­tance by mod­ern the­aters and the in­ter­net de­ter­mine their sur­vival and de­vel­op­ment.

The in­ter­net has changed al­most ev­ery as­pect of mod­ern life world­wide, and the­ater art is of no ex­cep­tion. The gen­eral au­di­ence now has new op­tions to ap­pre­ci­ate art and per­for­mances. In­ter­net celebri­ties also chal­lenge tra­di­tional artists. Some schol­ars ex­pressed mixed feel­ings to­ward them. In­ter­net celebri­ties have noth­ing to do with se­ri­ous art, they said, but they have a huge fan base and can make vast sums of money from their on­line per­for­mances.

Lei Guo­hua, a di­rec­tor based in Shanghai, told the sym­po­sium that now live stream­ing has also been ap­plied in the of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion of se­ri­ous per­for­mance. New tech­nol­ogy has helped ex­tend the lim­i­ta­tion of the arts. But at the same time, Lei claimed that even in the in­ter­net era, all artists should keep in mind their artis­tic in­di­vid­u­al­ity, say­ing “that’s the key fac­tor and dig­nity of a real artist. Don’t get lost by su­per­fi­cial on­line pop­u­lar­ity.”

Zhou Ke, with over 20 years teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, said that in the in­ter­net age, peo­ple are more lonely than be­fore. Peo­ple in real life have deeper feel­ings for need­ing and be­ing needed. In re­al­ity, eye con­tact and face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion have be­come rare. That is the true glamor of stage the­ater, where the au­di­ence can emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally con­nect di­rectly with the artist. So long as artists have tal­ent, skill and de­ter­mi­na­tion, they can still make the the­ater at­trac­tive against the dig­i­tal back­ground.

Pho­tos: Feng Yu/GT and cour­tesy of Liu Ji­aqi

From top: Guests at the event; To­bias Bian­cone, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of In­ter­na­tional The­ater In­sti­tute; Pro­fes­sor Lu Ang, dean of di­rect­ing depart­ment of STA.

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