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October 20, 2018

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Strange tales and amazing art from rising artists

PAINTINGS by elderly people in remote mountain areas, dance theater with a mini Shanghai in a cube, an opera that relates a strange ancient Chinese tale and a Peking Opera version of “The Old Man and the Sea,” these are some of the amazing works that will be showcased from today as part of the Rising Artists’ Works (R.A.W!) program of the 20th China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

Half a dozen festival-commissioned works and more than 30 invited programs by young Chinese artists will be staged at the Shanghai Theater Academy and Shanghai International Dance Center from October 20 to 27. They include Chamber Music “Cocoon” that won plaudits at the 2017 Adelaide Festival, physical theater “Off-Kilter” that caught attention at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, “Oidip” by Radu Stanca National Theater as well as National Theater Live productions of “Hamlet” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and “No Man’s Land” starring Ian McKellen.

The commissioned works were created by young Chinese artists selected from about 100 applicants from China, Germany, the UK, the US and South Korea, for their innovations such as interpreting Western classics by traditional Chinese stage art, telling Chinese stories in internationally recognized art forms, spotlighting real individuals in the mountains or cities, and developing some primitive local arts.

“They are talented explorers, with their eyes on reality, arts and their inner worlds,” said Wang Jun, president of the China Shanghai International Arts Festival Center, “Their creation is not limited just on the stage.”

Initiated in 2012, the RAW program has been providing a platform for emerging young Chinese artists.

Well-known artists on the Art Council help select works for the commissioned list and help artists bring their works to the stage.

The festival provides financial support as well as helping introduce the artists to overseas theaters and festivals.

Certain achievements have been witnessed over the past five years’ efforts, according to Wang.

About 59 commissioned works by 71 young artists have premiered at the festival since 2012, on which platform they communicate with overseas festival directors, theater managers and producers about their works.

And quite a number of them have received oversea invitations, including Taipei Art Festival, Beethoven Music Festival, Asia Society and Loop Festival.

The six festival-commissioned works this year include art exhibition “Debut,” experimental opera “Skin,” monodrama “The Old Man and the Sea,” contemporary dance “The Cube,” opera “The Mandarin Duck” and contemporary dance “Whip.” Choreographers Yang Liping and Huang Doudou, playwright Yu Rongjun and critic Sun Mengjin helped perfect the works.

A series of lectures, workshops, video games and graffiti activities will be also be held on the Shanghai Theater Academy campus.

Visit for more information.

Art exhibition ‘Debut’

Young artist Chen Fenghua spent months talking and living with elderly farmers, and came up with the idea of encouraging them to express their recognition of the world through painting. The results, together with Chen’s recording of their lives and painting process, compose this art exhibition showcasing the life and art of a special group. 

Date: October 21-27
Venue: Duanjun Theater Front Hall, Shanghai Theater Academy
Address: 630 Huashan Rd 

Experimental opera ‘Skin’

Wang Shiru’s opera is adapted from Chinese tale “The Painted Skin” which was written by Pu Songling in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It features a Chinese scholar infatuated with a demon disguised as a beautiful young maiden. They develop a romantic relationship which ends after the scholar discovers her true identity. 

Wang seeks to interpret the messages in Pu’s story from a modern perspective, exploring the conflict between survival and morality, as well as discussion on themes such as aspiration, temptation, devotion and choice. 

Chinese elements are infused in composition and characterization. 

Wang and his team also tried combining opera-singing and physical interpretation on stage, experimenting with a new stage form. 

Date: October 20-21, 7:15pm
Venue: Duanjun Theater, Shanghai Theater Academy
Address: 630 Huashan Rd 

Monodrama ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

Ma Xiao’s adaptation of Hemingway’s classic is a monodrama in the form of Peking Opera. Elements of traditional Chinese theatrical arts and realistic style from Western theater are innovatively combined to bring the work closer to Chinese and Western audiences who are familiar with either the story or traditional art form. 

Date: October 20-22, 7:15pm
Venue: New Space Theater, Shanghai Theater Academy
Address: 630 Huashan Rd 

Contemporary dance ‘The Cube’

“The Cube” by young choreographer Du Yanhao focuses on the people hustling in the metropolis of Shanghai, with an attempt to explore the relationships between individual residents and the space where they live. 

Everyone in the space is inevitably subject to tangible or intangible constraints. 

In the work, real society is scaled down to miniature. The models and devices on stage help exhibit the relationship between the body and space, likewise that between the individual and society. 

Du tried to discover the alien aesthetics hidden in the human body, the tenacious vitality of human beings in a limited space, and the inner momentum generated through resistance against the space.  

Date: October 22-23, 7:30pm 
Venue: Shanghai International Dance Center Experimental Theater
Address: 1650 Hongqiao Rd 

Contemporary dance ‘Whip’

“Whip” by young artist Dong Jilan takes its inspiration from a folk dance of the Bai ethnic group named “Whip Dance.” The Whip Dance, a traditional dance of the Bai group, plays an important role in the Bai culture. It exhibits their humor, primitive simplicity, elegance and energy. 

As a member of the Bai group, Dong presents the tradition, the people and the culture in her memories on stage, with the help of dance producer Farooq Chaudhry, British composer Joanne Clara, French fashion designer Marie Cantenys and Italian stage lighting designer Faviana Piccioli.  

Date: October 22-23, 7:30pm
Venue: Shanghai International Dance Center Experimental Theater
Address: 1650 Hongqiao Rd 

Songs opera ‘The Mandarin Duck’

Great Volume Songs of the Bai ethnic group in China is a storytelling folk art listed as the intangible cultural heritage of Dali prefecture in Yunnan Province. 

The art form reached its peak in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), yet gradually lost its attraction in modern times. 

Young artist Yang Yunyi combines Great Volume Songs of Bai people with drama, physical theater and puppet show, so as to relive the old ethnic art. 

“The Mandarin Duck” tells an ancient story of two gods in the Bai people’s religion, exploring the philosophical issue of freedom and bondage in marriage from a contemporary perspective. 

Date: October 20-22, 3pm, 4pm, 7:30pm
Venue: Black Box Theater, Shanghai Theater Academy
Address: 630 Huashan Rd 


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