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Rural Women's Theater Troupe Moves to the World Stage
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A collection of plays put together by an all-woman-farmer rural theater troupe in central China's Henan Province has been released as a textbook at two of the country's more prestigious universities, and the troupe's name reported around the world.

Members of the six-year-old troupe have been writing and performing plays based on the daily events around them since 2000. Under the leadership of 39-year-old Wang Xia, the troupe has been performing at the Zhongyue Office in the city of Dengfeng.

Students at Beijing's Tsinghua University and Nankai University in neighboring Tianjin have been studying the collection of plays, entitled "Grass Roots Also Have Voices", to learn about rural culture, the Zhengzhou Evening News reported.

The troupe was invited to perform in Hong Kong in July 2002, the same year Wang was nominated as one of the "1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005".

Wang, a native of East Zhangzhuang Village, said a woman lecturer from the Department of Social Anthropology at Manchester University was planning to come to her mountainous village this month to exchange views and help set up a cooperation program for rural women.

"Our principle is to invigorate cultural life, encourage self-education and promote gender equality," Wang said of her troupe, whose members range in age from 21 to their 70s and who come from four administrative villages.

Wang was inspired to reach out to the community in June 2000 after taking a class on social gender development in Dengfeng that had been offered by the local women's federation. Wang's first step was to set up a rural publicity team with the help of her teacher.

The Rosy Clouds Cultural Publicity Team directed and preformed their first play, entitled "Mountain Flower", to reflect the challenges local women faced in overcoming family difficulties. For example, the children of some families had to drop out of school after the families lost their cultivated land and compensation money due to marriages, divorce or the death of husband.

The play, first performed in May 2001, was a success, and the 22 performers were invited to perform in Central China's Hubei and Hunan provinces, Yunan Province in Southwest China, Shandong Province in East China and Beijing in North China. A year later, they were invited to perform in Hong Kong.

Liu Yuejie from Dengfeng's Zhongyue Office said Wang's culture association helped disseminate cultural, legal and scientific knowledge to local farmers, and helped create unity.

Wang said her association also had an anti-family-violence team as well as three other teams, including one to handle publicity and one to encourage senior citizens to live healthy lives.

Wang and her team members rehearse and perform their plays in three old tiled-roofed houses in Wang's poor village.

(China Daily March 21, 2007)

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