Theater's new face

09:01, May 31, 2010      

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A scene from Hello, Robbery
Following the Ministry of Culture's mandate issued in August to transform 42 State-owned artistic troupes into market-oriented businesses, the first half of 2010 has seen a series of ups and downs in the performance arena, with audience numbers on the rise while some question the standard of productions.

"The development of drama depends on the effort of the industry workers, the drive of the market and capital and the guiding of policy from the government," commented Yang Shaolin, vice chairman of Shanghai Dramatic Association and general manager and supervisor of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center.

As one of the 42 affected organizations, Yang's center has had a market-oriented focus for almost 10 years.

"The market orientation promotes creation and productivity as power to push Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center forward," commented Yang Qianwu, vice chairman of Beijing Dramatic Association. "I think market orientation is necessary, it does not mean giving up the dream, the spirit of culture."

Shanghai has seen theater audiences rise from 30,000 to almost 200,000 in comparison with three to four years ago and the number of productions has grown from 30 to 100 every year, according to Yang Shaolin.

Earlier this month Yang Qianwu and Yang Shaolin held a joint lecture at Shanghai Library, discussing the differences that drama development is having in both cities, emphasizing the transformation of the industry.

"The drama market is very prosperous, in the eastern district of Beijing alone there are dozens of small playhouses, with lots of young people taking part in the dramas," commented Tian Qinxin, a director with the National Theater of China (NTC).

Despite NTC not being on the list for market orientation, Tian said that the pressure of competing companies has forced them to take a new direction. She recently has turned from traditional plays to more modern performances, Red Rose and White Rose scoring well at the box office.

"It is important to explore the market first, let the audience come and see the work, let them know what is good, for there are too many poor dramas now," she said, "audiences are disappointed with these."

According Tian, many business people are cashing in on a more open market, creating a play in a short period of time, without a focus on quality.

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