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Dream weaver

Updated: 2013-03-27 09:26
By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily)

Dream weaver

Chinese singer and actress Li Yuchun speaks at a press conference for the new drama, A Dream Like a Dream, in Beijing, China, 26 November 2012.[Photo/icpress]

This 7.5-hour play, after a 2002 revival in Hong Kong and another one in 2005, again in Taiwan, is receiving the grandest treatment yet, this time in Beijing. It will be staged at the Poly Theater April 1-14 and will tour several mainland cities and then go to Singapore in the next year or two.

Stars are drawn to Stan Lai's productions. They forfeit lucrative television or film deals to participate in projects of the theater master even though this is not a new play and the method of improvisation Lai is so famous for is not employed.

On an early March day when I visited the rehearsal hall in Beijing's 798 Art Zone, there was a palpable camaraderie. The 30 actors have been rehearsing since January except for a three-week break during February. A familial environment has been established, with some of the cast bringing food and drinks and receiving ad hoc citations posted on the wall.

Stan Lai is gentle and encouraging with his actors - the opposite of an overbearing style. While he knows exactly what he wants, he does not yell at them. He calibrates their movements and blocking. But overall, he tends to focus on the total impact a setup may have on the audience. He would talk to individual actors during breaks - at some length. And he never uses the previous Taiwan and Hong Kong productions of the play as reference points.

It would be pretty hard to take a photo of Lai in a typical directorial mode, say, with a distinctive gaze or a hand gesture. He rarely does that.

Lai has noticed that mainland actors tend to over-act. "They think too much when acting and over-design their physical movements," he says. "In a sense, I have to break down what they have learned in school. But they are willing to try new things."

Lai adds local touches as actors go through scenes. During one of the Shanghai scenes, he encouraged actors to change a line into Shanghai dialect.

Dream weaver

Chinese actor Hu Ge (third left), singer and actress Li Yuchun (fourth left), actress Zhang Jingchu (center), actress Xu Qing (fourth right) and Shi Ke (second right) pose at a press conference for the new drama, A Dream Like a Dream, in Beijing, China, 26 November 2012.[Photo/icpress]


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