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Theater as seen through the prism of youth

By CHEN NAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-07-07 08:27
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Veteran directors Wang Xiaoying (left) and Wang Xiaomei co-initiated Prism Mini Theatre Festival, which takes place from Friday to Sunday. CHINA DAILY

For young theater artists, starting their careers on the right foot is a commonly shared hope.

That hope has been sensed by veteran director Wang Xiaoying, the former executive vice-president of the National Theatre of China and the former vice-president of the China Theatre Association.

In 2019, he co-initiated the Prism Mini Theatre Festival, offering opportunities for up-and-coming actors and emerging directors to stage their works.

This year, the festival, in its fifth edition, is being held in Langyuan Vintage, a cultural and art zone located in Beijing's bustling Central Business District, from Friday to Sunday. Four theater venues of different sizes are staging nearly 40 plays and more than 10 workshops over the course of these three days.

"The festival opens to young theater artists, including art school students. They can either bring their original plays or their reimagined takes on classic stories," says Wang, who teaches at top Chinese art schools, including the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing and the Shanghai Theatre Academy. The sexagenarian Wang also serves as the artistic director of the Prism Mini Theatre Festival.

"Every year, we are surprised by the young theater talent joining the festival with their innovative and experimental works. There are no restrictions on artistic vision or content," Wang adds.

He also elaborates on the name of the festival.

"To see all the colors separately, you use a prism. A prism works because the different colors of light travel at different speeds inside the glass. We named the festival 'prism' because we believe life is full of colors, and young theater artists show those colors through their works," Wang says.

One of the plays to be staged during the festival is titled Rose, an original work written and directed by Li Jiaxuan. Li, 34, participated in the Prism Mini Theatre Festival in 2021 and returned with this new production, which tells a story about online bullying. Four young actors and actresses play 11 roles in the production, which also features elements of physical theater.

"There are many news stories about the subject. Online bullying can sometimes even lead to death. It's really shocking. What we want to discuss with this production is how online bullying can happen to anyone, because it can be easier to commit than other acts of bullying," says Li.

A graduate from the Chinese National Academy of Arts with a master's degree in directing, Li gives credit to veteran directors like Wang Xiaoying, who coached him during the rehearsals.

"They help young artists like me to improve the quality of our work, as well as teaching us to understand our audience," Li says.

Performers rehearse for the original play, Rose. CHINA DAILY

This year, the Prism Mini Theatre Festival was announced ahead of World Theatre Day, which is celebrated worldwide annually on March 27. As many as 82 theaters and performing arts troupes have already submitted nearly 100 theater works. The festival also offers financial support to young artists participating in the festival.

"What all the young theater artists have in common is their passion and creativity. What we try to do is to help them connect with the audience and learn about how the industry functions," says Wang Xiaomei, a veteran director of the National Theatre of China, who co-initiated the Prism Mini Theatre Festival.

She was impressed by the subjects discussed in the works that the young people submitted, which cover a wide range of topics, such as marriage, relationships among family members, and "left-behind children".

"The festival went through a difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen how hard young people have worked to keep their theater jobs and dreams alive. We really want to support them," says Wang Xiaomei.


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