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The spotlights shine brightly in Shanghai

THEATER in Shanghai is blooming with a wide range of productions hitting the city stages. Avant-garde, modern social problems and poetry are all covered in three of the works that are attracting attention. Zhang Yi opens the program.

Shanghai's theatergoers have never been given so many choices: More than 10 plays are being staged in the city this month. Most of them are being brought to the city by Beijing companies - for a good reason.

"The Shanghai drama market is much more mature than that of Beijing," says Liu Bin, director of the Beijing Daduhui Theater Co. "There is a healthy, competitive environment as well as a stable audience base here in Shanghai."

The company's latest production, "Marry An Affordable Man," will have its premiere at both the Shanghai Drama Arts Theater and the Beijing People's Arts Theater next Wednesday - two troupes from the same company will open the play in the two cities simultaneously.

"It will be the first time we will perform in Shanghai," Liu says. "We hope that the audience will enjoy the play, which deals with a controversial social topic."

Like "leftover women," "affordable men" is a popular term among young Chinese nowadays. It applies to men who are not rich, but have a stable job and savings that could cover the deposit for a house. They are not handsome, but they also don't have "close" girl friends. Most importantly, they treat their wives well.

During the recession, "affordable men" have replaced rich bankers and successful managers as the first choice for women, especially those "leftover women" (pretty, picky women who spend a long time looking for an ideal husband but end up single in their 30s), who want to settle down.

Marrying "affordable men" is safe. Unlike bankers, they won't go bankrupt overnight; nor will they lose their jobs suddenly like managers.

The play illustrates the married life of a typical "affordable man" and a typical "leftover woman," leaving the audience to decide the pros and cons of this kind of marriage.

"In this play we explore young people's understanding of getting married - are they really ready for it or are they just afraid of being single - as well as the changing roles young husbands and wives have to play nowadays," said playwright Ha Zhichao.

Will the recession also drive people to care less about money and more about their feelings? Another production from Beijing, a less realistic but more avant-garde play, thinks people need a little time and space to express their feelings and the theater could help them do this.

Premiered in the capital city in March, "Wild Grass, Scream, Landian Factory" is the first play adapted from contemporary Chinese poetry. It is also a highlight from the ongoing Asian Pacific Expo of Theater Schools at the Shanghai Theater Academy.

There are just three characters: a gardener performed by director Zhang Guangtian himself, a painter and a postwoman.

"I don't think the audience will be able to get entirely what the story is about, but they will be moved for sure," Zhang predicts.

"The play is designed in this unique way to help people go through an avant-garde book of poetry."

When it was first staged in Shanghai in February, "Who Loves Who Cares" by the Beijng-based Teng Lu Theater Studio was well received by critics and audience alike. All tickets for the 25 performances were sold out quickly. It is currently on stage at the Shanghai Grand Theater for its second season.

Adapted from Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler's original 1900 work "Reigen" ("Hands Around"), the play depicts a "carousel" of conflicts and clashes in relationships. It covers bold topics such as affairs, older women dating younger men and gay relationships.

"Wild Grass, Scream, Landian Factory"

Date: June 12, 2pm, 7:15pm

Tickets: 50-280 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Theater Academy Theater, 670 Huashan Rd

Tel: 6217-2426

"Who Loves Who Cares"

Date: June 12, June 14-20, 7:15pm; June 13, 2pm

Tickets: 120-150 yuan

Date: June 23-28, 7:15pm

Tickets: 150-250 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tel: 800-820-7910

"Marry An Affordable Man"

Date: June 17-July 12, 7:30pm (closed on Mondays)

Tickets: 120-280 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Drama Arts Theater, 288 Anfu Rd

Tel: 962388


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