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November 13, 2011

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Fest of storytelling to music

THE Shanghai Pingtan Troupe celebrates its 60th anniversary with performances that begin tonight and run through November 20. Classic tales and modern retelling are on the program.

Pingtan is the stage art that features storytelling to music and usually involves just one or two people on stage. It dates back around 400 years and originated in the area around Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

It's a leisurely form of entertainment that mostly appeals to older people. The upcoming shows attempt to appeal to a younger audience with shorter stories and some modern, creative takes on old stories.

For example, on November 20 the original show will be unlike typical adaptations of "A Dream of Red Mansions" that focus on a love story. It will tell of the hard lives of young women servants who witness the rise and fall of the large Chinese feudal family. Yuan Yang, a servant of Grandmother Jia, refuses the advances of her master Jia. Loyal and chaste maid Qing Wen is suspected of having a liaison with the adolescent heir Jia Baoyu. She is dismissed and dies of illness.

Performers ranging in age from their 20s to 80s will perform at the opening ceremony tonight at the Yifu Theater. The program features excerpts from "Romance of the West Chamber," "Jade Dragonfly" and "Night Rain." They exhibit considerable diversity in singing and storytelling style.

Original adaptations of stories from "The Three Kingdoms" will be staged tomorrow. They will include new interpretations of famous tales during the turbulent period, such as "Borrowing Arrows with Thatched Boats," "Catch and Release Cao Cao on Huarong Road" and "Battle of Changban."

The Shanghai Pingtan Troupe presents 3,000 to 4,000 performances in the Yangtze River Delta region each year.

The troupe features more than 20 kinds of singing and performing styles, according to Wang Yiyun, an official with the troupe.

Last month the troupe presented a modern show about the Revolution of 1911 in China. Wang says they aim to create many new scripts to appeal to young theatergoers.

Pingtan, considered a part of China's intangible cultural heritage, reached its peak in the 1950s "but these days we have to make more efforts to keep the audience hooked, especially young people," Wang says.

She said the troupe's performances in South Korea and Japan have been well received.

"Many foreigners who have seen Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera many times are interested in the simplicity of pingtan as well as fascinating stories from history."

"Three Kingdoms"

Date: Tomorrow, 7:15pm

Venue: Yifu Theater, 701 Fuzhou Rd

Tickets: 60-220 yuan (US$9-34)

Tel: 6322-5294

"A Dream of Red Mansions"

Date: November 20, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theatre, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 60-220 yuan

Tel: 6386-8686


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