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Macao drama performers bring Chinese culture to the stage

China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-02 11:58
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A drama about Zheng Guanying, a Chinese figure in the late Qing Dynasty over a century ago, has been staged at a traditional Guangdong-style residential complex located in central area of China's Macao Special Administrative Region.

The complex is exactly the former residence of Zheng, locally known as the Mandarin's House. With the drama Banquet at the Zheng's being set right there, a group of young Macao drama performers have tried to bring audiences an excellent interactive experience in the performance form of immersive theater.

The drama they recently rehearsed once again at the site is about the life story of the historical character Zheng, who was dubbed the "Son of Macao" and his interactions with other historical figures including Sun Yat-sen.

Being the largest residential complex in Macao, the Mandarin's House, together with dozens of other architectural legacies in the historic center of Macao, has been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Ally Li, producer of the drama, said they had tried to dig deep into stories about Zheng in order to recreate the episode of his life committed to the masterpiece Shengshi Weiyan or Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity in English, right at the Mandarin's House.

"As an important figure in Chinese history, Zheng offers a good opportunity for us to create a play that can well present Macao's cultural characteristics and its connections with traditional Chinese culture," said Li, who is director of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Drama Association.

Michael Wong, who acts in the play as Zheng's half brother Zheng Guangui, said acting as historical characters demands a full understanding of their historical backgrounds and relations with other figures in their times.

"Besides reading the script, I had to refer to relevant literature and documents to make sure the character I act as to be consistent with the real person in history," said Wong.

Wong also suggested that in order to attract more audiences, dramas about historical figures should strike a balance between being dramatic and realistic as audiences nowadays prefer plots of dramatic conflict.

The young Macao theater performers' interests in Chinese culture are also reflected in various traditional Chinese operas. Li, for example, has been a dedicated lover for Kunqu, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera.

"I decided to learn Kunqu Opera performing about a decade ago," said Li. "I've been lucky to have the chance to be taught by master performers in Jiangsu province, where Kunqu originated from."

Li and her team have created an original drama telling the story of Tang Xianzu, a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty over four centuries ago whose masterpiece The Peony Pavilion has been widely performed in the Kunqu Opera form, visiting Macao and finishing his master play under the cultural influence of Macao.

By doing so, she aims to produce a stage drama that combines Kunqu Opera to present how Macao is related to the opera, in an effort to promote Macao and traditional Chinese cultures.

"With numerous traditional Chinese opera societies, Macao has rich soil for developing and promoting traditional operas thanks to support from the SAR government," Li said.

Having performed in various cities in the Chinese mainland and set up her team in Guangzhou, capital of the neighboring Guangdong province, Li suggested that young performers in Macao venture out of the city to seek more opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.

"Local governments and the public provide much support for us if we have good cultural projects," Li said.

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