Winter Journey to the crazy days of China in the 1960s and 1970s

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-6-6 18:08:09

Lee Li-chun to step into the past next month at Stan Lai’s Theatre Above

Wearing a loose striped T-shirt, faded jeans and sport shoes, award-winning Taiwanese actor Lee Li-chun (pictured below) could've been a familiar uncle in the neighborhood on Saturday, when he was at Theatre Above with Ting Nai-chu, the administrative executive of the venue.

From July 15 to 17, Lee will take a leading role there in Stan Lai's new directorial work, Winter Journey, written by famous playwright Wan Fang, the daughter of theater master Cao Yu.

Veteran actor Lan Tianye, 89, and the 64-year-old Lee will play friends who went through the crazy days of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when one betrays the other.

The show debuted last year, and it will be its first time to be staged at Lai's own theater. It also marks a return collaboration between Lai and Lee, after a 20-year break since Lee headed off for TV and film screens on the Chinese mainland.

Acting spirit

Born in 1952 to a family of a military man migrating from the mainland to Taiwan, Lee had tasted the hardships of life.

He worked a range of jobs, from secondhand-car salesman to moon cake deliveryman, before training as an actor at the age of 26. But soon his talent was proven.

In 1981, he was awarded best actor at the Golden Bell Awards, the highest honor for TV productions in Taiwan, and all through the 1980s he was among the top actors in Taiwan on both screens and theater stages, deftly switching among different roles, from the upright to the villain, as well as comedic characters.

Lee was one of the two stand-up comedians in the first production of Lai's well-known Performance Workshop, The Night We Became Crosstalk Comedians in 1985.

The Asian Wall Street Journal credited it with "resuscitating Taiwan's 'cross talk' comedy." Later, he participated in a handful of Performance Workshop's pieces, such as Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land and Strange Tales of Taiwan.

After 1995, he became a popular face among mainland audiences as well. He said he has a typical Taurus personality, very much valuing wealth, and that explains why he'd act in any TV series, no matter the quality of the story.

"To be picky about scripts will not necessarily protect an actor, or the audience. I think it's important to keep yourself constantly in the practice. An actor should not fear mistaking a role or taking a bad story, because an actor can always prove himself with a successful role, even after a hundreds of failures," Lee said.

The actor has commonly been regarded as one of the three most outstanding Taiwanese actors, alongside Chin Shih-chieh and Ku Pao-ming.

Scenes from Stan Lai's new directorial work Winter Journey Photos: Courtesy of Theatre Above

Back to Stan Lai

When Lai called Lee last year to do a play together, Lee joked that his first response was, "please let me make more money with TV series, for my bread after retirement." But when Lai called again, he said, he accepted the invitation.

"Stan said we're not young anymore, and no one can guarantee whether and when we'll collaborate again onstage, and I was touched," Lee said. "It had been 20 years, but we used to be a pair, with the best understanding of each other."

The story for Winter Journey attracts him as well. The turbulence of the Cultural Revolution left indelible imprints on the two good friends and their families, and how the two touched upon the wounds to each other decades later offers a profound thought about relationships between history and individuals, Lee said.

Veteran Lan Tianye is also a lure for him. Lan, who earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Theatre Academy Award in 2015, has been an inspiring influence on Lee, who said he regards Lan's performances as acting guidelines for himself.

A rare opportunity to see godfather-like actors in the mainland and Taiwan, Winter Journey will be delivered in Chinese language with Chinese and English subtitles. Tickets are available at

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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