Young artists bring immersive, subversive theater to Wuzhen

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail CGTN, October 21, 2021
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A dancer performs with the quaint water town as a backdrop at the 8th Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen, Jiaxing City, Zhejiang Province. [CGTN]

Aside from the aroma of sticky rice and radish cake, the streets of Wuzhen were filled with serendipitous encounters during its eighth theater festival. 

Co-founder and producing director of the festival, Huang Lei, spoke of his hope for the next generation.

"Many young dramatists who appear at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival will shoulder the future of Chinese theater," he said. "The seeds of creativity they sow will take root and bourgeon in every corner of the world."

There was no shortage of Gen-Zers in attendance. Chen Yun'er, a student at the Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts, said it was refreshing as a spectator to see such diversity.

"It felt really nice to be 'in the moment' and see so many female representations this year," she shared.

Innovative theater troupes subvert roles of audience and actor

Young thespians in Wuzhen adopted a radical new approach to traditional theater by giving spectators a chance to try playing the role of actor or playwright. Play League's immersive three-hour play also allowed 14 members of the audience to participate in this way. Each wore period costume and sat around a table to cold read and reenact the script, with their decisions ultimately determining the resolution of the story.

Two improv groups attended this year's festival, giving the audience power of authority over the actors' lines. Improv artists had to incorporate the suggestions thrown at random moments into their show, and rationalize their often jarring presence through humor.

Members of Hotpot Improv told CGTN that these tips were golden opportunities to experiment.

"To us, the audience's suggestions are not challenges," the group said. "We call them 'gifts' … We truly enjoy the process of joint creation."

Art students light up Xishi River at night

A food market, music bars, midnight readings – the excitement Wuzhen had to offer lasted well past midnight. Meanwhile, a leisurely stroll along the river proved a feast for the senses due to the sight of a glowing exhibition by students from the China Academy of Art.

To present the best vantage point for viewers on land, the team matched the cruising speed of the artistic vessels with the pace of pedestrians. This flotilla of buoyant, light-emitting devices added a sense of poetic mystery to the water town.

"We hope to present a public space exhibit that complements the shadows of trees, pedestrians, architecture and the moon in Wuzhen," the group shared.

The 10-day festival brought together tens of thousands of artistic souls to exchange ideas and express themselves. It's no wonder that visitors to Wuzhen still feel themselves enveloped in the world of the dramatic arts, long after their departure.

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