Increasingly, the administration of Mainland Chinese performing troupes, including xiqu, is focusing on audiences. Xiqu troupes are undergoing systemic reform (tizhi gaige), during which troupes are increasingly expected to adopt a commercial model (zhuanqi gaizhi). This requires a paying audience. Yet for decades, urban establishment xiqu troupes, as state entities, depended on governmental support and approval, not on self-selecting audiences or independent criticism. One new national initiative, intended to identify and protect core repertoire and broaden audiences nationwide, has been the Grand Prize for Outstanding Repertory Piece (youxiu baoliu jumu dajiang). Drawing on field research conducted during the tour of such a work, this study suggests that there is an institutional will to change performance models, as well as a paying audience for xiqu, even outside their immediate cultural areas. The emergence of a small, traditional-minded, highbrow, affluent, national theatre-going audience is noteworthy; what scope of performances it might sustain without government support is open to debate.