WUZHEN, China, October 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The annual Wuzhen Theater Festival in China will kick off again this year on October 30th in Wuzhen, a traditional water town along the southern bank of the Yangtze River in East China’s Zhejiang Province with a history of civilized society that can be traced back 7,000 years. The festival will continue until November 9th. Tony Award Winner and well-known director at the Goodman Theatre, Mary Zimmerman, will bring the production of the ancient and beloved fable White Snake to the stage at the Wuzhen Theater Festival, an event that is one of the most influential in the world of Chinese arts.
The Wuzhen Theater Festival, jointly founded by Cultural Wuzhen Limited president Chen Xianghong, award-winning US born Taiwan based playwright and theater director Stan Lai, well-known opera producer Huang Lei and highly-reputed experimental drama pioneer Meng Jinghui, has been utilizing the 1,300 years old water town as a stage to present world-class classical works as well as original plays created by young playwrights. In 2013, the Wuzhen Theater Festival presented 6 internationally well-known plays in rotationon7 different stages across Wuzhen during the 11-day-long festival. At the same time, 12 selected plays directed by young directors as part of a theater artist’s competition were performed 25 times during the festival. In addition, 120 artistic and performance groups put on 580 open air performances for visitors to the carnival event while drama masters from around the world engaged in 12 theatrical dialogues and 3 skits from the Odin Studio Workshop. Robert Brustein, recognized as the dean of modern American theater and the festival’s honorary chairman presented The Last Will from William Shakespeare’s trilogy and had a part in six of the theatrical dialogues. Afterwards, he commented in an article that appeared in the New York Review of Books, that, “Wuzhen has ambitions to become a major international event and, judging from its first season, it will almost certainly realize them.”
A special invite was sent to Mary Zimmerman to put on a “drama production from abroad” at this year’s event and the accomplished theatre director gladly accepted. This year’s theme is “Metamorphoses” which symbolizes the development and metamorphosis of the little town as well as the evolution of the weeklong festival following last year’s “Reflection” theme. “Reflection” was chosen for the earlier to show how the theatre and real life serve to complement each other, while “Metamorphoses”, a word that came into the English language from ancient Greek, is meant to depict change, development and transformation. The theme also serves to explain that the town, a locale that has been the guardian of tradition culture for centuries, is now turning into a stage for modern art — a Renaissance town of sorts. Mary Zimmerman’s latest work is named Metamorphoses, adapted from the collection of mythic-historical poems of the same name penned by the Roman poet Ovid. However, Mary Zimmerman didn’t choose to bring Metamorphoses to China; rather she chose The White Snake in response to this year’s lead production The Green Snake. The Green Snake is the work of Tian Qin Xin, the highly-reputed female director at the National Theater of China. Although huge differences exist between Chinese and American culture, they both bore similar legends ————The Green Snake and The White Snake, originating from the same primordial myth. Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake absorbed the narrative of the classic myth and from a unique viewpoint, objectively explains the Chinese legend. In the play she integrates traditional Chinese drama elements as well as the common Chinese viewpoint when it comes to love and the emotions love engenders.
In addition to the “drama production from abroad”, this year’s festival staged the Youth Performance Competition, The Carnival in An Ancient Town as well as Dialogue in a Small Town and Workshop, the latter providing fans of the art form an opportunity to engage in discussions with and learn from the drama masters. During the 11-day festival, theatre aficionados from the world over can stroll along the canals of this ancient town and take in the best works of international drama masters, listen to them as they express their feelings and reveal their insights, or feel the determination of the young theater directors as they realize their dreams.
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Note for Editors: Wuzhen, the 1,300 year-old town with a recorded history of a civilized society that can be traced back 7,000 years, is one of the four most famous water towns and is described as “the last place remaining in China where homes sit above the water.” The ancient Grand Canal gave birth to Wuzhen, to its splendid culture and to the rich cultural sites. The town’s long history that has accumulated over the centuries has endowed it with a rich and colorful heritage. Wuzhen East Scenic Zone, opened in 2001, and Wuzhen West Scenic Zone, opened in 2007, together form a model to be emulated for the meaningful conservation of such repositories of tradition and culture.
Wuzhen West Scenic Zone has been awarded with numerous honors and credits since its opening in 2007. At variance with conventional traditional towns catering to sightseers, Wuzhen West Scenic Zone is a comprehensive and holistically conceived historic area which can at the same time provide a cultural experience, be a destination for leisure or a venue for holding a business meeting or gala event. Within the area, one can find historical spots, handcraft workshops, showrooms for traditional artifacts, religious architecture, folk costumes and traditions as well as recreational spots where visitors can linger, all within the context of the network of stone bridges and water canals that together form an exquisite tableau. When night falls, the whole becomes suffused with light, a truly impressive sight to behold. Everything that is needed for a business meeting, convention or gala event is on hand. Just within Wuzhen West Scenic Zone itself, there are nearly 1,500 rooms capable of accommodating over 2,500 visitors. Accommodations come in many varieties and grades including home stays, high-end hotels, youth hotels as well as establishments that are members of the Small Luxury of the World. The most- sought after rooms are Ming and Qin Dynasty-style suites equipped with air-conditioning, satellite TV and other modern conveniences.
The Wuzhen Grand Theatre, completed in 2013 at a cost of 450 million yuan (approx. $US 75 million), has been central to the success of the town’s first theatre festival. At the same time it is a symbol of the perfect transformation of Wuzhen into a tourist destination as well as a destination for anyone with a serious interest in China’s culture and history.