The Playgoer: "Speaking Theatre"

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Monday, December 19, 2011

"Speaking Theatre"

That's what the Chinese call our drama of sittin' & chattin' on stage. Makes sense when you come from a tradition of highly physical and visual performance.

Nevertheless, they're warming to it:

Western-style “speaking theater,” as it is known here, isn’t indigenous to China, where opera and other forms have long dominated the theater scene. But that is now changing. Festivals, like the one in Chengdu, are part of a national drive to bring a new kind of theater to smaller cities in China. Today, established festivals in Shanghai and Beijing are complemented by new ones opening almost yearly in second-tier, though still very large, cities like Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where theater has been scarce. 
Naturally, there's a little censorship to deal with.  But another problem turns out to be audiences:
[A]udiences outside the major centers of Shanghai and Beijing are still unused to Western-style theater, Ms. Liao said. Fengchao Theater, the company founded by Ms. Liao and her husband, the director Meng Jinghui, recently toured the cities of Dalian and Shijiazhuang. “The audiences were terrible,” she said. “They talked and made and received phone calls all the way through the performance."

Uh, have they been to Broadway lately?

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