10th Shanghai International Children’s Theatre Festival kicks off

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/31 18:03:39

As summer vacation goes on, local parents are still busy signing up for summer camps or interest classes for their children or traveling around with them to enrich their holiday time. Apart from that, going to theaters to enjoy stage plays is also an option for local families.

Last Friday, Shanghai International Children's Theatre Festival kicked off at the Malanhua Theatre of China Welfare Institute Children's Theatre (CWICT). The festival, aiming to present plays from different cultures to children and their parents, will run through August 20.

The festival is hosted by China Welfare Institute and Shanghai Federation of Literary and Art Circles, and co-organized by CWICT, Shanghai Theater Association and Shanghai International Children Culture Dep. Co., Ltd China.

During the festival, seven plays from countries including Israel, Brazil, Japan, Poland, Argentina and Lebanon as well as two plays created by local artists will tour Shanghai, Beijing and Jiangsu Province. Over 40 performances will be given in Shanghai.

Titanic, created and performed by CWICT, was presented at the opening ceremony. Using the background of the Titanic tragedy, the play tells a cartoon story about cats and mice, natural enemies that are fighting against the disaster together.

A man who watched the opening play with his wife and daughter said he enjoyed it very much. "It is a lot of fun with witty words and attractive plots, I think it suits both adults and kids," he said.

70th birthday

The selected plays target children aged 3 to 18. "Some people think that children's plays are only for children, but actually it is not," said Cai Jinping, head of CWICT

"We have plays for children of specific ages as well as plays for both children and adults," she said. "Titanic is for all. It is not unusual to find that young mothers or old nannies are touched by the stories."

This year marks the 70th birthday of CWICT. According to Cai, the institution has been changing and growing with the times.

"Compared with before, the festival is covering more activities," she explained. "In addition to professional workshops, we include salons and community activities which welcome experts, parents and children for interaction," she said.

"We used to focus on plays of a specific country or region, but now we invite theater troupes from different countries and regions so as to let our children discover diverse cultures," said Cai, adding that they are also expanding their performance from Shanghai to other Chinese cities in recent years.

The troupes from other countries perform in their own languages, which raises concerns about the language discrepancy. But Cai said that children's plays are usually simple and easy to be understood regardless of language. "And there is no boundary in arts," she said.

"There is a difference in storytelling styles between Chinese and foreign people. Chinese are used to listening to stories while foreigners stress imagination and creativity," said Cai. "Therefore, we want to broaden our children's horizons and make them access something new."

Reflecting goodness

But the institute doesn't choose plays at random. Cai said that they set up a committee comprised of experienced institutional staff, renowned experts, as well as related professionals from the media to choose fine works.

"We want to inspire our children's imagination with plays, so the production shall reflect truth, goodness and beauty and the artistic forms shall be diverse," she said.

This not only applies for foreign productions, but also for works created by local artists. "It is important to understand what children really want. I have been appealing to artists to be more serious about children's plays. We need to bring along fine arts instead of messing kids around with works of poor quality," said Cai.

CWICT creates different plays related to Chinese historical culture, world classics as well as social problems, according to Cai. "Kids are growing up, so we need to change as time changes. The classics are worthy to be updated," she said.

Cai said that, for international communication, CWICT has been bringing Chinese plays abroad since the 1980s. They used to bring Miss Snail, a play created based on rural Chinese myth, to Germany, which was warmly welcomed by kids and elders.

They were also invited to perform Bright Sunshine, a children's play telling story of disabled children, in St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2015.

"We provided several options, but the organizer chose this one as this is a topic drawing worldwide attentions," said Cai.

Cai Jinping, head of CWICT (second from left)




Opening of the 10th Shanghai International Children's Theatre Festival


Stage photo of Titanic

Photos: Courtesy of China Welfare Institute Children's Theatre

Newspaper headline: Summer plays


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