Presenting plays for the people

【Opera & Drama】Time:2024-02-06      Source:China Culture      Views:5841

During this year's Spring Festival, Beijing People's Art Theatre will stage Beneath the Red Banner, adapted from Lao She's novel with the same title, which is directed by Feng Yuanzheng and Yan Rui, and features actor Pu Cunxin as the leading role.



Catching a performance by the Beijing People's Art Theatre is on the list for theatergoers in the capital during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, which falls on Saturday.

The theater, one of the most prestigious in China, has already announced its holiday program.

Beneath the Red Banner, a play adapted from the Lao She novel of the same title, runs from Jan 19 to Feb 13 at the Capital Theater, home of the Beijing People's Art Theatre. The stage adaptation, which premiered on Jan 18 last year, is directed by Feng Yuanzheng and Yan Rui, and features actors including Pu Cunxin, Yang Lixin and Liang Danni.

"I can still vividly remember the warm audience feedback when we premiered the play as our first show in 2023. Tickets for the nine shows sold out fast," says Feng, who is an actor and also president of the Beijing People's Art Theatre.

"We decided to stage the production again at the beginning of the new year to mark the 125th anniversary of Lao She's birth," he adds.

Born Shu Qingchun to a Manchu family in Beijing in 1899, Lao She (1899-1966), is best known for his vivid grassroots depictions of social reality and Beijing culture, and particularly for his use of humor and the Beijing dialect.

Beneath the Red Banner is an unfinished autobiographical novel. It is told from the perspective of a Manchu boy and deals with his childhood and family, including portrayals of his father, a poorly paid soldier who gets killed during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and his mother, a diligent woman who supports the family. Lao She's vivid descriptions of the Manchu system, etiquette, ceremony, dialect and other aspects are poignant and realistic.

Zhang Juzheng, a new play by Beijing People's Art Theatre, featuring actor-director Feng Yuanzheng, will be staged with the second round of performances in Beijing this year.


Veteran actor-director Pu Cunxin plays Lao She in the stage production. His role helps the audience immerse themselves in the world of Beneath the Red Banner and takes them back to old Beijing. The final piece of dialogue was written by Pu, and reflects both the world of Lao She as well as the actor's own interpretation of the story.

"When the Beijing People's Art Theatre was born over 70 years ago, we adapted many works by Lao She, including one of our most classic and popular productions, Teahouse. We will continue to bring the great writer's works alive onstage to maintain our tradition," Feng says.

During the annual review of the theater's performance on Jan 30, Feng said that 2023 was very "special" for the performing arts scene, for being the year after the pandemic.

Last year, the Beijing People's Art Theatre put on 503 performances of 35 theatrical productions, including 11 new stage productions. Over 250,000 people attended performances.

He also spoke of some of the highlights of the 2024 schedule, from new stage productions to public events.

For example, the theater will present a new adaptation of The Miser, a five-act comedy by Moliere. Directed by Lin Cong, the Chinese version was well received when it was introduced to the audience during a script reading. The play will be staged to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France.

In October and November, some of the theater's principal artists will go to Shanghai to participate in the China Shanghai International Arts Festival, taking with them five productions, including Teahouse, Sunrise and Du Fu.


During this year's Spring Festival, Beijing People's Art Theatre will stage Beneath the Red Banner, adapted from Lao She's novel with the same title, which is directed by Feng Yuanzheng and Yan Rui, and features actor Pu Cunxin as the leading role.


Feng says that the theater has made four large-scale tours to Shanghai in 1961, 1988, 2012 and 2014.

"Personally, the 1988 tour was unforgettable because I was a young actor at the time, and I traveled to Shanghai with established artists for the first time. We performed classics, such as Teahouse, which was very successful," he says, adding that after Shanghai, the theater will take additional shows to Suzhou and Nanjing, in Jiangsu province.

In May, it will tour Serbia with Our Jing Ke, which was written by winner of Nobel Prize in literature Mo Yan and directed by Ren Ming (1960-2022).Premiered in 2011, the play is a reimagination of the household story of Jing Ke, an assassin famous for his failed attempt to kill the king who later became China's first emperor over 2,000 years ago. It will be the first foreign performance by the theater after the pandemic.

In 2024, it will also stage the second round of performances of a new play, Zhang Juzheng, which premiered between Dec 22, 2023, and Jan 14.Directed by Feng and Yan Rui, it follows the story of Zhang Juzheng, the famous politician who led the reforms to the economy and of official evaluations during the reign of Ming-Dynasty (1368-1644) Emperor Wanli.

Unlike big-budget presentations, the theater's smaller productions offer its young talent the opportunity to experiment. They will also be a highlight of this year, and include an adaptation of My Poor Marat by Aleksei Arbuzov and directed by Lin Cong, I Love Peach Blossom by Zou Jingzhi and directed by Ren Ming, and The Orphan of Zhao directed by He Bing.

The theater also performed 12 shows at universities in 2023 for ticket prices of less than 40 yuan, in the hopes of appealing to young theater lovers. Feng says that students are an important part of the theater scene as many decide to make theater a their career after falling in love with it.

This year, to mark the 90th anniversary of Cao Yu's Thunderstorm, which was published when the playwright was in his final year at Tsinghua University and was just 24 years old, a series of events will be held at universities.

Thunderstorm has been described as one of China's most enduring dramas of the 20th century and Cao Yu has earned the title of "father of the country's modern drama". He was appointed director of the Beijing People's Art Theatre in the early 1950s and elected chairman of the Chinese Dramatists' Association in the early 1980s.


Zhang Juzheng, a new play by Beijing People's Art Theatre, featuring actor-director Feng Yuanzheng, will be staged with the second round of performances in Beijing this year.





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