China News Service, Huichang, Jiangxi, February 24th, Title: Lai Shengchuan: Love connects both sides of the Taiwan Strait, integrating the East and the West

  China News Service reporter Jiang Tao

  Celebrities come to support, dramas are staged, and creativity gathers... At the end of the year and the beginning of the year, Huichang, a small town in southern Jiangxi, is bustling with activity.

With the official opening of Huichang Theater Town and the simultaneous start of the Huichang Theater Season, Taiwanese playwright Lai Shengchuan finally realized his dream of a hometown.

  From Taiwan Performance Workshop to Shanghai Theater, from Wuzhen Theater Festival to Huichang Theater Town, Lai Shengchuan has been sowing the seeds of theater culture across the Taiwan Strait and even internationally.

Traveling around the world, he often stands at the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures.

Lai Shengchuan accepted an exclusive interview with China News Service's "East-West Question" when he returned to his hometown of Huichang, Jiangxi Province.

Photo by Jiang Tao

  While returning to his hometown of Huichang, Jiangxi Province, Lai Shengchuan accepted an exclusive interview with China News Service's "East-West Question", combining his rich life and creative experience to share his insights and insights into the integration of Eastern and Western cultures and cross-strait cultural exchanges.

Get inspiration from the East and explore practice from the West

  Lai Shengchuan spent his childhood in the United States.

After returning to Taiwan at the age of 12, he has developed a wide range of interests, from comics, music, and writing to photography, movies, and theater. "Theatre is a melting pot that combines all my interests, so I think it's worth a try."

  Later, Lai Shengchuan went to the University of California, Berkeley, to study, and began to systematically study drama and start the path of drama creation.

In the eyes of many theater people, Lai Shengchuan's style is unique and combines elements of Eastern and Western cultures.

His drama is not only art, but also an attitude towards life, an observation and thinking about the world.

  "I have a deep feeling that the term 'global village' is accurate, because the rapid development of communication and transportation has made everyone feel that the distance between each other has been greatly shortened. But the employees of the San Francisco Opera still fundamentally do not understand The state and mood of the staff at the Shanghai Theater in Shanghai." In Lai Shengchuan's view, the idea of ​​a great integration of Eastern and Western cultures is relatively romantic. In fact, it would be good to have a better understanding of each other. The most important thing is that each culture should absorb other Cultural advantages.

  Lai Shengchuan believes that the Western world has been an ideological system dominated by science and empirical evidence for hundreds of years, while Taoist or Buddhist ideas in traditional Chinese culture are often outside of positivism.

So from the perspective of looking for creativity, we can get inspiration from the East and find practical methods from the West.

  In 2018, Lai Shengchuan directed and directed the garden drama "Fragrance in the Garden", using both Eastern and Western contexts to jointly present the story of "The Peony Pavilion".

It collaborated with the New Performance Center of the California Institute of the Arts, the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, and the Shanghai Kunqu Opera Troupe. It performed 31 consecutive performances in Liufang Garden, a Chinese classical garden located in the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, which amazed everyone.

  Using this play to create a magnificent dream that spans the East and the West is Lai Shengchuan's effort to enhance cross-cultural understanding.

"Different cultures can collide with each other to create infinite possibilities and many thought-provoking thoughts, and ultimately reach some kind of spiritual consensus. It is my original intention to allow both Chinese and Western audiences to empathize."

Cultural exchanges make cross-strait relations better

  "Treasure Island Village", written by Lai Shengchuan and Wang Weizhong, presents the nostalgia that has haunted both sides of the Taiwan Strait for more than half a century. After its premiere at the Taipei Theater in 2008, it also received an enthusiastic response in the mainland.

The classic version of "Treasure Island Village", which mainly features original performances, has been performed for more than 300 performances.

Before the curtain call of the 100th performance of the exclusive version of "Treasure Island Village", Lai Shengchuan and the actors bowed to the audience.

(Photo provided by interviewee)

  During the ten-day Huichang Drama Season, the 200-minute exclusive version of "Treasure Island Village" was performed for six performances.

Before each curtain call, Lai Shengchuan will appear and bow to the audience with the actors.

  The opening ceremony of Huichang Drama Town attracted many Taiwanese friends. Liu Ruoyu, the founder of Youren Shengu, and his team performed to help out. In addition to the opening blessing performance, they also presented a large-scale outdoor performance of "King Kong Heart".

"It doesn't matter where the place is, we must come and see what Teacher Lai is doing. After arriving, we saw that every atmosphere and every corner is full of dramatic elements. Many times we don't have to spend time making props and scenery. The walls of the old house are the most realistic background, and the chairs in the theater are also crowdfunded from local people."

  Lai Shengchuan rarely directs the works of other playwrights, but he has directed Ms. Wan Fang's "Winter Journey". This is Lai Shengchuan's first collaboration with a mainland playwright, and it is also a wonderful fusion.

On June 8, 2022, Lai Shengchuan (first from left) posted a picture on Weibo to commemorate the artist Lan Tianye (middle) who worked with him on the drama "Winter Journey".

(Photo provided by interviewee)

  "'Winter Journey' is a script that I like very much. It uses a special perspective to tell the story of a special era, and it is paired with surreal music performance. It feels very suitable for my style." Lai Shengchuan said, Beijing People's Art Theater and The Taiwan Performance Workshop, the most representative performance systems from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, "met" that winter, and it also has special significance for contemporary Chinese theater.

  "Cross-strait exchanges are necessary and must be comprehensive. The younger generations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait must have more exchange opportunities, and the telling of Chinese stories must also rely on exchanges to develop and record." In Lai Shengchuan's view, through cultural exchanges such as drama, we must It will make the relationship better.

Cultural integration does not necessarily have to be “grand”

  In today's Huichang Theater Town, tourists can always pass by actors or performance teams. The creative markets and theater activities that can be seen everywhere have shortened the distance between the two. Lai Shengchuan is quite pleased with this atmosphere.

"Huichang has a profound historical background and has always been a relatively scholarly place. Although it is far away, the good thing is that it is far away."

  Lai Shengchuan said frankly that a well-known Romanian artist in his 70s has agreed to do a play for Huichang Theater Town.

"It is relatively easy to invite a master to do a show in Shanghai, but if you ask him to do a show in a small county in China, he may have many questions. He said that he should first come to Huichang, stay for a while, and feel and listen to the culture of this place. The story moved me very much.”

The Huichang Theater Town, which Lai Shengchuan spent many years building in his hometown of Huichang, Jiangxi Province, opened, and the light show was extremely popular.

(Photo provided by interviewee)

  At the same time, Lai Shengchuan is also thinking about which theater festivals in the world the Huichang Theater Season should be connected with.

"Although Sibiu in Romania is a small town, the Sibiu International Theater Festival is one of the three major theater festivals in Europe. We can find small-town theater festivals and slowly build some alliances, which will open up many possibility."

  Lai Shengchuan believes that cultural integration is not necessarily as grand as possible. “Initiating alliances with more small town theater festivals. Many international artists will be willing to come, and our artists can also come. I think it will be very interesting. ."

  "On January 10, 1969, my father passed away; on January 10, 1984, the first performance "We Grew Up Like This" premiered in Taipei; on January 10, 2024, the 43rd original drama "Through the Looking Glass" "Premiered in Huichang Drama Town." Lai Shengchuan wrote in an update on social platforms on January 10 this year.

  When asked about which story he would most like to share with the audience if his life experience were condensed into a drama, Lai Shengchuan bluntly said that in his heart, the subject matter does not matter, and inspiration can arise anytime and anywhere.

"So, when I look at creation, I don't pay special attention to the time point, or the stage of life, or a certain event. Instead, I try to view life as a continuous unfolding experience." (End)

Interviewee profile:

  Lai Shengchuan was born in Washington, USA, and his ancestral home is Huichang County, Ganzhou City, Jiangxi Province. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, USA. He was the dean of the School of Drama at Taipei University of the Arts, a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at Stanford University, USA.

Playwright, director, founder of Taiwan Performance Workshop, artistic director of Shanghai Shanghai Theater, permanent chairman and jury chairman of Wuzhen Theater Festival, and initiator of Huichang Drama Town.

The work records the internal and external processes of rapid change in Taiwan and even the Chinese-speaking world.

"Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land" was selected as a performance at the 2015 Oregon Shakespeare Festival in the United States. It was performed 80 times in English by American actors, making it the first Chinese work to enter mainstream theaters in the United States.