Director Tang Ye: “We still profess Stanislavski's system”

The director of a Chinese theatre about the budget of the Chinese theatre, ticket prices and the love for Chekhov

Director Tang Ye: “We still profess Stanislavski's system” Photo: Maksim Platonov

Europe-Russia-Asia International Festival finished in Kazan, among the participants of which was the Beijing People's Art Theatre, which presented the modern drama about the poet and public figure Li Bai. The director of the drama, Tang Ye, told in the interview with Realnoe Vremya about how one of the most popular theatres in Beijing works.

“We have won many awards for this theatre performance”

You have brought to Kazan the drama about poet Li Bai. Is it often staged in China?

Yes, this play is very popular, it is staged in several cities, including the poet's homeland. In Taiwan, the story of Li Bai is also very popular.

How long has the play been staged in your country?

The first play was staged in 1991. The director was the father of the artist playing in our play the main role, Pu Cunxin, our leading actor. My version of the play was staged in 2003.

How popular is this play in Beijing?

We have won many awards for this production, it reflects the opinion of theatre critics and the public. The drama of Li Bai is a hit of the theatre. We had not played this drama on our stage for several months, and after learning that it would go to the festival in Kazan, the fans of the production bought tickets and flew to the capital of Tatarstan. That is, people took a vacation, planned their time and flew there for the play about Li Bai.

Why did you bring this production to the festival in Kazan? Were there any plans to bring another performance?

Chinese history is very interesting and rich. Li Bai is well known in the world, not only in China, we chose the play on the basis of the popularity of the plot.

The performance of Li Bai is a hit of the theatre. We had not played this drama on our stage for several months, and after learning that it would go to the festival in Kazan, the fans of the production bought tickets and flew to the capital of Tatarstan

“We love Chekhov very much”

What's on your theatre programme? Only Chinese plays or there is also world classics?

We can say that our repertoire is built in two directions. Since we are in Beijing, we are the people's art theatre, we pay great attention to historical productions, show our history. The second direction is the European classic. There are performances based on the plays by Russian playwrights.

What Russian authors do you stage?

We love Chekhov very much, we have several performances based on his plays. For example, Uncle Vanya. By the way, actor Pu Cunxin plays Uncle Vanya, he also plays the role of Li Bai.

Why such love to Chekhov, is he close to the Chinese spirit?

We grew up at a time when our countries were very friendly. We were taught the Russian language, we read Russian literature. The most popular then was Chekhov. Our generation studied in theatre universities in China under the Stanislavski's system, we studied Russian classics, again on Chekhov's plays.

Is the play Li Bai staged basing on this system?

It has a direct relationship to the Stanislavski's system because 80 per cent of the actors involved in the play graduated from educational institutions and studied under it.

The passion for postmodern theatre has captured Europe. Is this observed in China?

We try to exist more within the framework of realistic theatre. Postmodernism also exists, but only slightly.

Our generation studied in theatre universities in China under the Stanislavski's system, we studied Russian classics, Chekhov's plays

“We are a budgetary theatre”

How are the Chinese theatres funded? Is it budgetary money or you are financially self-supporting?

Our theatre is national, it is financed from the state budget. Private theatres, which in China, by the way, are a lot, live on the proceeds from the sale of tickets.

How many scenes do you have?

Three. Two in one building and one in a separate building. Our theatre is located in the heart of Beijing.

What is the cost of tickets for your performances?

The most expensive is about 6,800 rubles, the cheapest — 80 rubles.

By Kazan standards, if you take the upper bar, tickets are quite expensive. And how filled is the theatre?

We have social programmes, certain groups of the population buy tickets with big discounts. For example, students. The house is almost one hundred per cent packed.

“We have a triple acceptance of the play”

Who in the Chinese state theatre is in charge of the repertoire policy? Who decides on the production of a particular performance?

We have a council in the theatre consisting of directors, playwrights and leading artists. These people are responsible for repertoire politics. After conferring, they make the decision to stage or not to stage this or that play.

We have come to Russia not for the first time, we have been to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg. We have been to Belarus. Next year, we are going to St. Petersburg again

Does this artistic council decide the fate of a play, whether a new performance will reach the audience? What are its powers?

The acceptance of a play consists of three stages. The first takes place in the rehearsal room when there are no costumes or scenery. The second — before the premiere. The third — when the play is played already to the stands. This is the decisive stage of acceptance.

Is your troupe big?

About a hundred people.

Do the actors work under a contract or on a permanent basis?

The bulk of the work in-house. But sometimes, for example, we have elements of the Beijing opera in our performances, it is a special genre, and we invite actors from a musical theatre. They work under a contract.

How often do you go on tour?

Often enough. We have been to Russia not for the first time. We have been to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg. We have been to Belarus. Next year, we are going to St. Petersburg again.

By Tatyana Mamaeva. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan

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