Shanghai gets a new stage

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-03-30 10:24:10

Shanghai gets a new stage

Three Shanghai-themed plays, including The Eternal Snow Beaut and Jews in Shanghai, will be staged in Beijing in June.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Xu Jun, a former Chinese folk opera star, has come up with a unique way to pay tribute to the place where he was born - he has created three plays themed on the metropolis. Chen Nan reports.

Shanghai is a metropolitan city and as a result its theaters are never short of international productions. But in the eyes of director Xu Jun, there are not enough stories about the city and its people.

That's why after taking on the job as the manager of Shanghai Hengyuanxiang Drama Development Company four years ago, Xu created three Shanghai-themed works to fill the void.

And now, after successful premieres in Shanghai, the director is bringing his productions to Beijing for the first time in June.

"It's my way of saying I love you to Shanghai, where I was born and grew up," says Xu, 54, a former Huju Opera actor, who became a director in 2005.

Xu, who was a well-known actor in the traditional Chinese folk opera performed in the Shanghai dialect, was in Beijing along with his actors to introduce the three works on March 24.

One of the works, The Eternal Snow Beauty, is a play performed in the local Shanghai dialect. It is the story of Yin Hsueh-yen, a famous singer-dancer from the Shanghai's nightclub and dance hall, Paramount.

In the late 1940s, before the fall of the Kuomintang and their flight to Taiwan, she used to be surrounded by a throng of admirers, including high-ranking officials and rich businessmen.

Adapted from Taiwan-based writer Pai Hsien-yung's short story from his book, Taipei People, a collection of stories he wrote in the 1960s, the play reflects the glamorous days of old Shanghai and the decadence of the city.

It took Xu six years to produce the play and in April 2013, the play premiered in Shanghai for 14 sold out shows.

Hong Kong costume designer William Chang Suk-ping - who is known for his collaboration with Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai in the award-winning movie, In the Mood for Love (2000), starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung - produced seven qipao (cheongsam) for the leading role, Yin Hsueh-yen.

As for the writer, Pai, he never expected the story would be adapted into a play.

In the writer's eyes, the work mirrored Shanghai to the extent that in 1999, when the writer was asked to recall his wartime experiences in Shanghai as a Hong Kong TV station was shooting a documentary about him, he was heard muttering: "Yin Hsueh-yen never gets old and Shanghai is forever young."

Recalling that incident, Xu says: "When I heard how the writer had described the city I was touched. It's true that Shanghai, like Yin Hsueh-yen, is mysterious, exquisite and enchanting."

As for Xu's plays, while The Eternal Snow Beauty takes a look at Shanghai from a woman's perspective, A Merchant of Shanghai portrays a group of Shanghai men, who are loyal, tough and humble.

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