"Chinese + Theatre" builds bridge of China-US people-to-people exchange

By Zhangkaiwei, Peng Yukai (People's Daily Online) 08:28, July 18, 2023

On July 16, 2023, The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version) drama was staged at the China National Theatre for Children (CNTC) in Beijing, marking the official launch of a program featuring China-US youth international Chinese language and drama exchange.

With the long-term support of the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC) under China's Ministry of Education, this program is aimed at American youth through the innovative "Chinese + Theatre" educational model, integrating Chinese language learning with drama performances to help American students learn Chinese language, understand Chinese culture, promote China-US educational cooperation, and strengthen cultural exchange among Chinese and American youth.

Photo taken on July 16, 2023 shows a performance of The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version). (Photo courtesy of China National Theatre for Children)

The program's cast brought an adapted version of the Chinese classic children's play The Chinese Mermaid to Chinese audiences. The performers are 15 high school students from Montana and California of the United States. They had been participating in weekly training courses for Chinese lines and dance under the guidance of local Chinese teachers and artists, and spent more than a year of constant learning and training before completing the rehearsal of The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version).

"I think the biggest challenge for me is learning the language and memorizing the script, because I haven't studied Mandarin in school," Amare Swierc, an American member of the cast told People's Daily Online, "putting the lines of movement and acting through it has really helped me attach meaning to the words so I can recognize them more fluently".

Photo taken on July 16, 2023 shows the cast of The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version). (Photo courtesy of China National Theatre for Children)

The Chinese Mermaid is a classic Chinese children's drama adapted by CNTC in the 1970s and 1980s based on traditional Chinese folk stories. It tells the moving story of a young boy who rescues a mermaid and depicts the great love between humans. The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version) adapts the Chinese lines and stage performances of the original play, with the actors performing the entire show in Chinese, organically integrating Western performance forms such as ballet and musical theater. Through the use of high-tech and outstanding stage design, it gives the audience a magnificent and deeply touching performance, earning enthusiastic applause.

After the performance, Jing Wei, Deputy Director General of CLEC, presented the cast with the certificate of "China-US International Chinese Language Education Exchange Youth Ambassador" , encouraging them to continue their learning through the "Chinese + Theatre" approach, deepen their understanding of the real China, strengthen communication and exchange with Chinese youth, and play a unique role in promoting cultural exchange between China and the United States.

The group photo of the cast of the Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version) and Chinese students (Photo courtesy of China National Theatre for Children)

An educational exchange salon titled "Chinese + Theatre" was held after the performance. Nearly 500 Chinese university, primary and high school teachers and students in Beijing participated in the salon.

The members of the cast shared their experiences in learning Chinese language, saying that drama practice has greatly boosted their interest in learning Chinese. They engaged in discussions with Chinese students on topics such as language learning, drama performance, life planning, as well as cultural exchange and mutual learning.

"I think that through such programs, American students can learn Chinese plays and stories, act out Chinese stories and work with artists of the CNTC, which may give them a stage with which to observe Chinese society, experience Chinese culture and get to know Chinese people from up close, which is a very rare opportunity for them," Chen Suhan, US program director and producer for The Chinese Mermaid (2023 US Version) said, "face-to-face communication is always much deeper and more cordial than getting to know things from stories that are not your own personal experience from the books or the media".

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Wu Chengliang)


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