Making a scene

By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-3 17:23:01

Festival celebrates student theater


Many of us fondly recall rehearsing for school plays, and may even wonder what the drama scene is like in universities today. For theater fans and erstwhile performers, it's a delight to see the young and amateur - and it's that time of year when Shanghai's university troupes compete among themselves to take their productions to stage.

The College Drama Festival of Shanghai, now in its 13th year, will come back next Monday through May 22, with nine long plays and six short plays by student troupes from 13 local universities.

The works, mostly original, were selected from 46 entries (30 long plays and 16 short plays) from 24 universities, through a preliminary competition last month.

The elimination round was judged by four actors from the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre (SDAC). The center launched the festival in 2004, aiming to offer university troupes a platform to play for the public and celebrate the diversity and creativity of university students.

Productions were judged on scriptwriting, directing and acting. One of the judges, Huang Chen, told the Global Times that he found the plays "thoughtful and full of imagination."

A scene from Another Play Photos: Courtesy of SDAC

No restrictions

Festival producer Deng Junlei said the expo has no restrictions on subject matter.

"Within the 14 plays, there are discussions of life and death, coming of age, suspense stories and others. All of them are opinions and voices that university students wish to express to the public through stage performances," Deng said.

For example, Death of a Young Man, by students from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, looks into the suicide of a postgraduate student - a tragedy commonly repeated in the news every few months.

The script tells the story through the perspectives of people who knew the student, including his tutor, parents and girlfriend.

Silence, by East China Normal University's troupe Jingshuangyu (Dueling Dialogues from a Mirror), is a portrait of a complex mother-daughter relationship based on the director's personal experiences.

The daughter, who simultaneously craves her mother's attention and wishes her to disengage, feels she is about to explode as mobile ringtones signifying her mother's calls fill her brain.

Hongying (Red Sakura) from Tongji University is the only troupe among the finalists to stage two plays. It will present Lemon, a gangster and murder story spanning over 10 years, and Duet Dance, a love story between a new graduate and a middle-aged architect.

A scene from Peony Pavilion

Playing up specialties

Some troupes clearly based their plays on their universities' specializations.

From the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qingyuan Theater Troupe will present Night Shift, which revolves around the doctors, nurses and patients on the Chinese New Year's Eve in a hospital's TCM department.

Deposit by Donghua University, which is known for its textile and fashion design programs, is a humorous and sarcastic story that takes place between an eatery owner and executives at a nearby garment factory when the former wishes to secure the business's catering account.

Continuing the classic

The theme of this year's festival is "continuing the classic," making nods to the 400-year anniversaries of the deaths of William Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu, the great playwrights of the English and the Chinese languages.

Two adaptations of their works are in the final round. Dream Factory Troupe from the Shanghai University of Engineering Sciences will offer a minimalist rendition of Hamlet, while Shanghai Normal University revisits the classic Peony Pavilion with a story set in 1910 in a noodle shop taking the title name.

A scene from Night Shift

Brevity is the sole lacking

Huang said that the biggest room for improvement this year are the dialogues.

"In general, the students have some brilliant ideas, but they tend to let the core message slip because they have so much that they want to say," he said.

He added that the students are very enthusiastic about drama and receptive to the judges' advice.

Live streaming

This year's opening and closing ceremonies, on Monday and May 22, respectively, will be shown live on the Internet for the first time, on kankannews.com and the platform's app.

During the preliminary round, troupes that were willing to share with the public had their performances streamed live.

Deng said the organizer would consider livecasting plays during the final round in the future, to broaden audiences beyond physically going to SDAC.



Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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