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The Dramatic Story of Drama
Special> The Dramatic Story of Drama
UPDATED: August 23, 2007 Web Exclusive
College Theatre Festival: Dramatic Dreams
"The future master of Chinese drama will probably emerge from college theatre enthusiasts. In other words, caring for them means protecting Chinese drama," said Yang Qianwu
College theatrics

Several renowned drama greats began their careers in college - Cao Yu, for instance, the "Shakespeare of China".

"Personally, I think I would have been a better director if the Drama Community had existed while I was in my 20s," said Meng at the launch ceremony of the Drama Community.

Xu Shipi, Associate Editor-in-Chief of China Culture Daily, said, "Drama is the one of the most attractive of cultural activities on campus, and the best way to move the audience and the students themselves. They are passionate, unique, pure and intelligent."

"The future master of Chinese drama will probably emerge from college theatre enthusiasts," said Yang Qianwu, Secretary-General of the Beijing Dramatics' Association. "In other words, caring for them means protecting Chinese drama."

College Theater Festival: from Beijing to the whole country

Coincidentally, a press conference for the 7th College Theatre Festival (CTF) was held in Beijing on July 29, 2007, one day after the launch of the Drama Community.

The CTF has served as a launching pad for many theatre artists who now enjoy considerable fame. It is an important platform on which young people can watch, experience and discuss some of the most cutting edge work being created in Chinese theater today. The first CTF was held in the experimental theatre of the Beijing People's Art Theatre, attracting more than twenty on-campus drama clubs. Since then its influence has expanded to other parts of China. On-campus drama clubs from Shanghai and Zhejiang also participated into the second CTF.

The third CTF was held on schedule in 2003 despite the SARS threat hanging over Beijing like a cloud. A branch was also set up in Shanghai in the same year. In 2004, the 4th CTF was held in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou simultaneously. In other words, the CTF has evolved from being a Beijing exclusive to a nationwide drama circle. In 2006, a new program called Youth Exchange was introduced and several overseas youth drama clubs were invited to the CTF.

Ignoring huge market pressure, the CTF adopted a low price strategy (five yuan for students and ten yuan for adults) in order to adhere to its initial intention - caring for on-campus drama and promoting drama. However, there are no fixed theaters for onstage performances, for the CTF is almost a non-profit activity. Fortunately enough, there are always people around to bolster the CTF, people who dream drama and have the confidence and ambition to further the cause of Chinese drama.

The more the better

A hundred years ago, a group of students were deadlocked over how to stage a play about Chinese actors, pondering the ideas of three different directors, and ending up losing the essence of drama. That is the story told in the Wasp Drama Club's Xunzhao Chunliushe, or Finding The Spring Willow Drama Club, the last and the most important play at this year's CTF.

Several members of the Club were once participants in the CTF, and despite having regular jobs now their enthusiasm for drama has scarcely dimmed. The Wasp Drama Club now practices four times a week in Beijing.

The newly established Chinese Youth Drama Festival, subordinate to the CTF, seems perfectly tailored to the Wasp Drama Club and the like.

"Participants in the CTF are still fond of drama although most of them are now far away from it," said Yang. "Perhaps it is time to give them opportunities to perform and have fun."

The influence of on-campus drama has gradually gained ground in other cities besides Beijing. After the Beijing College Theater Festival made its debut in 2006, Shanghai and other provinces such as Shaanxi, Liaoning and Sichuan all initiated their own festivals, breaking Beijing's "monopoly".

As drama festivals mushroom all over the country and youth dramatics gain momentum, the biggest challenge for the organizer is: how to attract public attention without getting rid of the "non-profit" tag. The perennial conflict between art and commerce is also at the core of Chinese theatre's prospects.

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