Aranya celebrates art of the stage
Event China’s first post-pandemic intl theater festival
Published: Jun 28, 2023 11:27 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Aranya Theater Festival

Photo: Courtesy of Aranya Theater Festival

A grand theatrical float parade, warm seaside bonfire parties, numerous theater performances… the Aranya Gold Coast Community on the coast of Qinhuangdao in North China's Hebei Province turned into a sea of joy for theater enthusiasts during the recent Aranya Theater Festival. 

Themed "Howls and Whispers," the festival presented 36 works, including 12 cutting-edge dramas, from a dozen countries and regions such as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Hungary, were staged at 15 locations in Aranya, from the iconic Solitary Library to the Dune Art Museum, from June 15 to 25. 

The 11-day festival, which many audiences call China's seaside version of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the UK and Festival d'Avignon in France, is the first international theater festival to be held in China after the pandemic. Returning to on site events, the festival recalled the power of stage art and the charm of face-to-face exchanges. 

Li Jie, 25, a bank clerk from Beijing about 300 kilometers away from Aranya, hired a cab with her friends to travel five hours - due to the traffic jam created by the festival - in the hope of watching the stage drama Misericordia by Italian playwright and theater director Emma Dante. 

"We were so lucky to make it, as we all emphasized with the human tragedy in the drama. This is the power of drama, the emotion that people can only have when they are face to face with each other," she told the Global Times, noting she spent a lot on this experience. 

The theater festival ignited the enthusiasm of the audience as tickets for each show sold out quickly and the surrounding exhibitions and parades were all packed with people. 

The parades that took place at the community brought many theater enthusiasts like 35-year-old Tang Tianci, who is also an amateur actor. Tang noted that he came to recapture the feeling of traveling to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the UK and Festival d'Avignon in France like he used to before the pandemic. 

"Compared with these overseas festivals, Aranya has its own characteristics as it is a diverse festival held in China with our own interpretations. I brought my son and we got lost in the atmosphere of joy and passion just as I had hoped," he said. 

In the view of Meng Jinghui, a renowned theater director and also the festival's artistic director, no matter if it is Molière's comic critical power, Dostoevsky's verbal description of human fate, or Neruda's passionate love for life, theater lovers all had the chance to feel the power to move forward. 

Cultural barriers do exist, though. 

"That is why we hosted such a festival: to entertain everyone with art, to establish communication among different cultures, customs and forms of expression," said Meng. 

The most important thing is the diverse art that brings people together, "arousing our desire to explore and communicate with each other," he noted.

Director Chen Minghao was always very busy during the festival. He both directed and starred in the festival's opening drama Red by US writer John Logan and the closing drama Romeo and Juliet and Sea, adapted from William Shakespeare's most well-known romance tragedy. Artistic and dramatic exchanges with the audiences made Chen "feel very relaxed."  

Besides theater performances, the festival also included various events such as Migratory Birds 300, in which 300 artists from different backgrounds spent 300 hours living and creating together under the theme of sustainable environmental protection at Aranya.