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A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

Updated: 2013-02-26 14:05
By Liu Wei ( China Daily)
A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

Ma Junzhen (left), who leases her flat to students taking entrance exams at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, chats with An Yongchang, an aspiring actress from Changchun, Jilin province, on Tuesday. Zou Hong / China Daily

Li Yanping wore black fur and exquisite makeup in the chilling Beijing wind, waiting by the gate of the Central Academy of Drama for her daughter, who was inside taking an exam.

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The moment her daughter came out, she sped toward her.

A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

Home away from home for art applicants 

A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

 Competition for spots in arts programs

"Go to granny's place for a break," she said. They ducked into a lane and into a small cabin.

Inside the 9-square-meter room stood two bunk beds, and every corner was filled with racks of clothes, books and all sorts of sundries.

An old lady rose from a bed and motioned for the girl to rest on it.

The lady, Ma Junzhen, 60, is "granny".

For about 15 years, hundreds of aspiring applicants for the Central Academy of Drama have come to stay with her.

Ma used to work as a cleaner in the academy, one of the most prestigious schools for performing arts in China and where stars Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi studied. Years ago she rented her cabin to a friend's child who traveled from Xi'an to attend the academy's entrance exam, and found it a good way to make a living.

Most of her lodgers have been girls applying for the academy's acting department. The competition has been fierce - this year only 50 of 9,000 will be recruited - so many applicants take extra acting classes that start two or three months before the entrance exam every spring and are taught by retired acting teachers.

Li's daughter An Yongchang is one of the aspiring actresses. The girl traveled from Changchun, a city about 1,000 kilometers from Beijing, to attend a two-month acting class.

Her mother was worried at first about the shabby living conditions of the lodge - four girls lived together with Ma, who put a small couch between the two bunk beds. There is no private toilet, only the public one in the lane.

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