Telling stories for the people and telling the stories of the people

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Beijing People’s Art Theatre keeps pace with the times——

Telling stories for the people and telling the stories of the people

The picture shows a still from the recent performance of the drama “Tea House”.

Stills of the play “Dragon Beard Ditch” in the 1950s.

A still from the play “Goldfish Pond”.

A still from the play “The Lights of Ten Thousand Houses”.

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Put Beijing Renyi in the coordinates of time and space, consider the dimensions of history, present and future, sort out the historical context of Beijing Renyi’s 70 years of “good shows and talents”, and explore how the art of drama takes root and blossoms in China. How can literature and art keep pace with the times, adhere to the people-centered creative orientation, and forge a new artistic peak.

In the repertoire corridor of Beijing Renyi, a bright and dazzling thread is the pursuit of the blooming of poetry in the fertile soil of realism.

The special live broadcast lasted for 9 hours, relived the classic moments of 70 years online and offline; 5 classic plays and guided tours including “Thunderstorm”, “Cai Wenji”, “White Deer Plain” and “Wotou Club” were broadcast online, and more than 65 million viewers “cloud” “Watching the drama; once tickets are issued for “Tea House”, all 5 performance tickets are sold out within two minutes… In June 2022, Beijing People’s Art Theater (hereinafter referred to as “Beijing Renyi”) will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its establishment, and a series of commemorative The event evoked the “people and art complex” in people’s hearts. Writers, directors, actors, theater managers, and drama researchers shared with audiences from generation to generation the 70 years of experience and enlightenment of Beijing Renyi.

This year, Chinese drama celebrates its 115th birthday. We place Beijing Renyi in the coordinates of time and space, consider the dimensions of history, present and future, and sort out the historical context of Beijing Renyi’s 70 years of “good shows and talents”, and explore how the art of drama takes root and blossoms in China. How can Chinese literature and art keep pace with the times, adhere to the people-centered creative orientation, and forge new artistic peaks.

Taking the people as the center, pursuing the blooming of poetry in the fertile soil of realism

Beijing Renyi has a glorious red tradition. A group of old artists such as Zhu Lin, Diao Guangtan, Tian Chong, Zheng Rong, Ye Zi, and So Zhi are all from the Huahua Theater Troupe, which is inextricably linked with Yan’an. As a theater named after “the people”, Beijing Renyi has established the concept of “people-centered” since its establishment. For 70 years, they have insisted on telling stories for the people and telling the stories of the people.

In 1951, “Dragon Beard Ditch”, the foundational work of Beijing People’s Art, met with the audience and performed 55 consecutive performances, causing a sensation in the capital. This milestone work in the history of new Chinese drama tells the story of the people’s government serving the people. Before the rehearsal, director Jiao Juyin asked each actor to go to Longxugou to experience life and write a diary every day for two months. The actor Ye Ye, who played Ding Sisao, wrote down more than 100,000 words of notes, and the actor who played Cheng Lunzi wrote “Cheng Lunzi Biography” just to supplement the character setting, which has more than 6,000 words. Drama critic Liao Ben believes that the success and enduring of “Dragon Beard Ditch” proves the audience’s love for literary and artistic works that are really close to life and truly reflect life. At the beginning of the new century, Beijing Renyi focused its attention on the former Longxugou – Jinyuchi Community. With the reconstruction project underway at that time as the background of the story, it launched the dramas “Goldfish Pond” and “Lights of Ten Thousand Houses”, focusing on the city of Beijing. The renovation of dilapidated houses under construction, a project related to people’s livelihood and people’s concern, eulogized the party’s original intention and mission to seek happiness for the people. From “Longxugou” to “Goldfish Pond”, and then to “Lights of Ten Thousand Houses”, three dramas spanning more than half a century have artistically demonstrated the great changes of “Longxugou in the past, and Goldfish Pond in the present”.

Xu Xiaozhong, former dean of the Central Academy of Drama, believes that realism is the cornerstone of Beijing’s artistic style of art. “Thunderstorm” and “Sunrise” are realisms that contain poetry, while “Tiger Runes” and “Cai Wenji” are based on realism and integrate Chinese literature and traditional opera aesthetics.” Director Wang Xiaoying believes that a theater has a continuous artistic character, which depends on the continuous inheritance of the director’s aesthetic concept. In the repertoire corridor of Beijing Renyi, a bright and dazzling thread is the pursuit of the blooming of poetry in the fertile soil of realism.

Only one month after the establishment of the hospital, Beijing Renyi organized the factory to go to the countryside: more than 100 people from the hospital were divided into 4 groups and went to 4 living points to eat, live and work with local workers and farmers. After more than 3 months, 4 groups handed over 4 one-act dramas, “The Happy Event”, “Before the Wheat Harvest”, “Between the Husband and Wife” and “Zhao Xiaolan”, and the “Four Little Dramas” became a sensation. “Live, live, live again” is Jiao Juyin’s request for actors, and it has also become the creative tradition of Beijing Renyi. The drama “The First Floor in the World”, which witnessed the rise and fall of the time-honored brand that gathered diners from all over the world, the drama “Player” showing the living conditions of the people in Beijing in different historical periods, and the drama “Community Neighborhood Committee” with the theme of fighting against the new crown pneumonia epidemic… From the township to experiencing life and going deep into the community, the most vivid creations and most vivid performances of Beijing People’s Art are the results of the artists’ learning from the people. As the writer Chen Yan said: “Theatrical art has strong generalization, metaphor and depth, which can arouse people’s emotional resonance and ideological resonance. Paying attention to the people and the reality is the lifeline of the theater.”

From on-stage to off-stage, from on-site to online, Beijing Renyi’s 70 years have condensed the co-creation of viewers and creators. Actor He Bing made an analogy: “The rhythm of a play is set by the audience, just like recording a song in a recording studio and singing it on the spot are not the same thing. Once the audience interacts, the singing method changes. What is attractive is the spark that this idea collides with.”

It is for this reason that the artists of Beijing Renyi persistently love and respect the audience. Actor Lin Liankun once wrote a letter to the audience with his own hands: “You are offstage but you create together with the stage / I want to be honest / You are the one who nurtured me / Dear audience, I love you. “Before winning the “July 1st Medal” in 2021, Lan Lanye also directed the rehearsal of the drama “Wu Wang Jin Ge Yue Wang Sword”, “As long as the party needs me and the audience needs me, I will shine and be hot” is what he often hangs on. A word on the lips.

In this year’s “Beijing People and Art” audience essay contest, each letter expressed sincerity: “I drew a cartoon group portrait of the characters of the drama “Sunrise” and gave it to the crew. The actors liked it very much, and the sincerity of giving was responded to. I am very happy.” “I was especially moved by the curtain call of Beijing Renyi, and bowed deeply to the audience almost 90 degrees, conveying this gratitude to our artistic confidants.” “As a native Beijinger, I took my university roommates to visit Beijing. , the first thing is to take them to see a Beijing Renyi play.”

Aim for the classics, and realize the succession and creation in the consensus of awe of the stage

The production of good plays and classics is an important criterion for measuring the artistic pursuit of a theater, and it is also the key to attracting and retaining audiences. In the past 70 years, Beijing Renyi has staged more than 300 dramas, such as “Dragon Beard Ditch”, “Tea House”, “Thunderstorm”, “Cai Wenji”, “The First Floor of the World”, “Li Bai”, “Wotou Guild Hall” and other classics, such as a “drama”. Museum”, all-encompassing.

Fu Jin, a drama critic, believes: “The artistic elevation of Beijing Renyi comes from the continuous dedication to the public with performances that match its cultural and artistic status.”

How is good work made? Literature and art critic Mao Shian analyzed from the perspective of drama as the art of “words”, “Beijing Renyi has a group of excellent screenwriters who have worked hard to ‘what to say’. With care, the ‘words’ full of creative talent and wisdom are continuously transported to the stage.” The plays by cultural masters such as Guo Moruo, Lao She, Cao Yu, Tian Han, and Xia Yan ensured the artistic quality of the theater. Well-known writers such as Mo Yan, Liu Heng, Zou Jingzhi and He Jiping have become the creative foreign aids of Beijing’s art. The director and the actor share the responsibility of “how to speak”. “What they ‘speak’ is the words that are rooted in the thick historical and realistic soil, the words that are immersed in the characters’ emotions and dramatic situations, the words that are communicated between the characters on stage and the audience off the stage, and the words that are clearly expressed in every word. Sent to every corner of the auditorium.”

The creation of classics benefits from the creator’s obsessive love for theatrical art, perseverance, and the spirit of excellence. On June 12, Pu Cunxin sat in the backstage dressing room of the 70th anniversary commemorative performance “Tea House”, and Yang Lixin sat in the position of Lantianye. Actor Pu Cunxin recalled, “When the older generation artist “Tea House” bid farewell to the performance in 1992, I was a group performer of tea guests.” In his eyes, some things have not changed, “Stage performances are for meeting the audience, not copying, not the screen, not the Internet. The audience can feel the focus, breath, and implication of the actors. This kind of thing can’t deceive people. There can be no slack in the slightest.”

Walking into the Beijing People’s Art Rehearsal Hall, the director’s bell rang, the venue was silent, the cast and crew performed their duties, and the four characters “The drama is bigger than the sky” were striking and dazzling. There are no “wrists” here, only actors. Shu Xiuwen has played a typist without a single line; Wang Lifa, who played “The Tea House”, is the most famous, but he thinks his best role is the old horse who only appeared twice in “Camel Xiangzi”; Yang Lixin and He Bingdu Lv Zhong, an actor who joined Beijing People’s Art in 1973, recalled that he lived on the 4th floor of the Capital Theater and got along with the old artists like family. The old artists taught by words and deeds. Thunderstorm has been out for nearly 8 months.

The front and back of the stage gather together to achieve “one vegetable”. In order to play the role of a sour pear seller in “Dragon Beard Ditch”, Huang Zongluo followed the old man who sold pears for half a month in the cold winter and twelfth lunar month. During the performance, this role turned his back to the stage and couldn’t even hit the lights. Du Guangpei, who has pulled the curtain all his life, was once evaluated by Jiao Juyin as “a person who pulls the curtain and pulls out his feelings”. An old sound engineer who has worked in human art for a lifetime always said to the younger generation: “When the audience watches the performance, they can’t feel our existence. This is the greatest praise for us.”

Generations of people continue to realize new creations in the process of inheriting classics. The 82-year-old Gu Wei played Zhou Puyuan and was also the director of the 2004 version of “Thunderstorm”. In his opinion, “for the same role and the same scene, the audience sees the charm of the character. They may have seen the performances of actors in different periods, or even come to hear the tone and charm of a certain line.” Young actor Wang Lei succeeded his predecessors such as Tan Zongyao and Yang Lixin, and played the role of Lu Mengshi in the new version of “The First Floor in the World”. He believes that “creators in different eras should have different understandings of works, which is the meaning of classic inheritance.” Many experts suggested that the revival of classic repertoire requires the gradual progress of “old and new”, rather than the “overall” of the performance team. Iteration”, to provide the audience with a process of aesthetic acceptance.

Taking innovation as a way to more deeply understand and promote the nationalization of drama

Over the past 70 years, Beijing Renyi has not only accumulated a rich artistic inventory for Chinese drama, but also built a Chinese drama aesthetic system with its own artistic exploration. The condensed and vivid dramatic language, the characteristics of emphasizing affection, subtlety, and artistic conception, and the national style presented in the overall rhythm are the creative transformation and innovative development of Beijing Renyi Repertoire to the excellent traditional Chinese culture.

At the beginning of the establishment of the academy, Beijing Renyi did not fully copy the “Stanislavsky system”, but borrowed and used a lot of elements of traditional Chinese opera in plays such as “Tiger Rune” and “Cai Wenji”. After watching the drama “Cai Wenji”, Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang invited Jiao Juyin to perform a Peking Opera for herself. Gong Hede, a drama theorist, believes that the close combination of the general laws of drama art and the excellent traditional Chinese culture is the excellent “family style” of Beijing art, and the two are indispensable. As a benchmark for nationalization of dramas, “Tea House” does not have gongs and drums, nor does it use the hypothetical means of opera, but the core of the people’s life style, thinking mode, and interpersonal relationship in the work is national.

The nationalization of drama does not only refer to stage means, but originates from culture and life, and is a more profound internal nationalization. Even if it is a foreign drama, Beijing Renyi pursues the national charm and is close to the public life. The actors don’t deliberately play foreigners, don’t wear fake headgear, don’t stick fake noses, don’t use “foreign accent” in language, but use more localized oral expressions. In 2012, the drama “Comedy Sadness” starring Chen Daoming and He Bing transplanted the background to Chongqing in the 1940s. The character setting, plot and background were adapted with Chinese cultural characteristics.

In the past 10 years, Beijing Renyi has created a total of 87 large and small repertoires, performed 3,649 performances, received more than 400,000 audiences, and toured 9 countries and regions for a total of 15 times. More and more high-quality repertoires promote the international dissemination of Chinese dramas .

Today, a new Beijing International Drama Center has been added to the east of the Capital Theater, and Beijing Renyi, which has 5 theaters, has ushered in a new development situation. Feng Yuanzheng, deputy dean of Beijing Humanities and Arts, said: “What will the new theater use to fill? Repertoire. We all need talents in various fields such as screenwriters, directors, acting, and stage art.” The basic skills are all personally trained by Feng Yuanzheng every day. Different from the bel canto pronunciation method used in most performance teaching, Beijing Renyi adopts the vocal method of quyi and opera. Du Zhenjie, a famous Peking Opera master, recalled that the Beijing Peking Opera Theater and Beijing Renyi were “partnered” in those days. Jiao Juyin had run a opera school. The older generation artists such as Lan Lanye and Zhu Xu were very fond of traditional opera and folk opera, and they all had the foundation of Peking opera. Experts suggest that Beijing Renyi should create more conditions to allow more drama talents to gather on the stage; increase the number of performances under the premise of conditions and maintain a creative state.

Looking back on the 70 years of history, standing at a new starting point, facing the new era of life and new viewing environment, I look forward to Beijing’s people and art to keep upright and innovate, using the dramatic thinking and stage language that keep pace with the times, on the new journey of drama art creation, bloom with new brilliance.

Photo courtesy of Li Hongbo, Beijing People’s Art Theater

Drawing: Zhao Xiru

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