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A global village where the world's a stage

By Cheng Yuezhu and Tang Ying | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-18 06:07
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Taiwan-based group U-Theatre performs at the opening of the Huichang Theater Village on Jan 5. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A small settlement in Jiangxi province that's the ancestral home of big-name theater director Stan Lai is raising a curtain on its performing arts, Cheng Yuezhu and Tang Ying report.

On Jan 5, Huichang county in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province, hosted an unprecedented scene when over 200,000 visitors celebrated the Huichang Theater Village's opening, including theater practitioners, performing arts groups, experts and tourists.

Contemporary performing arts and traditional Chinese celebrations took place throughout the theater village, from an opening ceremony held at the Lai Family Mansion Plaza in front of the former residence of renowned theater director Stan Lai's family, to an outdoor performance by Taiwan-based performing arts group U-Theatre around an ancient banyan tree at the village's entrance.

When dusk descended, Lai's classic play The Village was staged at Theater Converge, one of four major theater venues inside the village, marking the 100th performance of the play's special edition.

"The Village tells the stories of people who moved from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan. These, in fact, also included people from Huichang, my father being one of them. I felt greatly moved when I saw the rehearsal," Lai says.

U-Theatre performers present an outdoor show around an ancient banyan tree at the village entrance. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"I am even thinking, if this play will be performed frequently here, one of the characters should learn to speak the Huichang dialect, so that the audience will know this character is from Huichang and feel a sense of affinity."

Since his father left Huichang for Taiwan and then the United States, Lai hadn't visited his ancestral hometown until 1997, when he got in touch with his uncle.

From 2015, Lai started bringing one of his theater productions to Huichang each year, and he has since worked with Huichang's government to transform the Xibeijie community, located in Huichang's ancient city, into the Huichang Theater Village.

While preserving the historical buildings, many of which were built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), four theaters have been revamped or built to host a variety of productions at international standards.

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