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Behind arts festival scene
2005-03-04 00:29:01 

BEIJING, Mar. 4-- While China's drama scene focuses on"Amber," an original play directed by Meng Jinghui, which debuted at the Hong Kong Arts Festival yesterday, a group of drama-devotees, seeking to fulfil their youthful ideals, are working on"The Well of the Saints."

Based on the classic work by Irish dramatist John Millington Synge(1871-1901), the play will run at the North Theatre from March 10 to April 4.

"The Well of the Saints" in many ways forms a sharp contrast with"Amber"- it is invested by the director Yang Ting herself, the cast has no eye-catching stars, the rehearsals are being held at a free venue courtesy of the Drama Troupe of China Air Force, and the play will definitely not make money, as many shows are specially aimed at student audiences and most tickets sell for merely 10 to 20 yuan(US$1.2 to 2.4).

It is rather hard for an independently produced drama to make money in Beijing, let alone when it is a classic dark comedy from the West.

"Few people would like to see a series of classic drama in such a bustling time" and,"Without popular performers, how can you attract audiences into the theatre?" are some of the common concerns raised by theatre insiders.

Before she started to direct her first work, Yang Ting had cold water splashed on her idea by many friends.

It is simply the love of drama and the idea of making drama that helped Yang and her classmates from the China Central Academy of Drama overcome every difficulty to present the play. Only time will tell how it fares.

"You can say that I want to direct the play from an irresistible impulse," said the actress-turned director.

The first step to realizing the making of the play was taken on a cold night in mid-December last year. Yang arranged to meet some of her classmates at the gate of Ditan Park and simply said,"Let's play'The Well of the Saint'."

Somewhat to her surprise, after a short discussion and notwithstanding the fact most have left the theatre for TV and movies, they all agreed.

"Upon graduation in 1995, I played some dramas but later I turned to anchoring TV programmes and some other jobs. But whatever I do, I cannot break free of the influence of drama," said Yang.

"Nowadays, more and more youngsters love to go to theatre. It becomes part of their life, a space they can think, feel and imagine and a harbour for their souls. These theatre-goers look forward to a variety of good works. I have never given up the thought of returning to theatre one day."

Yang had planned to act as well as direct, but later she decided to concentrate on directing.

As for why"The Well of the Saints," she explained some 13 years ago while at the Academy of Drama, she was impressed by the play some classmates performed as part of their coursework.

"I always remember the role of the blind Martin played by Mao Hai. I cried when he recovered his sight, but was deeply disappointed by the ugliness of reality," she recalls.

That image stuck with her and it is Mao she has asked to play the same role in her production.

Not only for Mao and Yang, but all the cast, the re-working of the play is a reminder of their academy days, a time filled with youthful ambition, ideals and innocence.

"On the first day we got together to rehearse I felt an excitement as of 13 years ago when I just entered the Academy. I wanted to say,'Let's fulfil our dreams!'," said Mao.

Some insiders are curious whether the play will be marked by Meng Jinghui's unique approach to drama, since Yang has performed so many of his works. She says not, but jokes maybe her next production will include some of Meng's traits.

"The drama is a rich and complex tragi-comic study of the conflict between imagination and reality. And it is not comic simply to entertain," said Yang.

(Source: China Daily)

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