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Red arts holding on

By  Liao Danlin (Global Times)

09:39, June 07, 2012

Though it's been decades since red-themed performance dominated the stage, their presence never faded away. Red songs and dances, like the new production Nursery School of Red Capital, always have a place among nostalgic Chinese audiences.

Nursery, a red-themed musical, premiered last week at Beijing's Tianqiao Theater. The show tells the story of children whose parents died in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45). These children grow up in orphanages in Yan'an, known as the "red capital," Shaanxi Province.

Red-themed art refers to and represents the revolutionary period in Chinese history, chronicling the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to the creation of the People's Republic of China (PRC) (1921-49). "Red" arts carry the responsibility of educating today's children. But often involving rote and unoriginal story lines, performances in this genre face tough crowds, as audiences largely view this theme as old-fashioned and unattractive.

Shifting focuses

"There were [previously] no films or shows about children in Yan'an during the revolution," said Zhang Xiaoke, president of Shaanxi Tourism Corporation Group and executive producer of Nursery.

Traditionally, protagonists of red-themed dramas were soldiers, CPC members or Chairman Mao. The focus was on the toughness of that period of time and the braveness of the heroes. For example, the ballet, Red Detachment of Women (1964), is about a young woman who joins the Chinese Red Army; The White Haired Girl (1965), focuses on a girl rescued by Chinese soldiers.

"Audiences won't feel the connection if you [only] talk about heroes," Zhang said.

The Nursery production team spent three months gathering historical resources, interviewing almost 200 people who lived at the orphanages in Yan'an.

"Every single plot in this musical is based on stories we've been told." Zhang said, adding that most of the children from that era are now over 80, but their memories of Yan'an are still clear.

"The education they had in Yan'an influenced their life. Compared to today's children, they were in drastically different situations. But the friendship among classmates and the communication between students and teachers are unifying and universal themes of human nature," Zhang said.

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