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Scholar Dong and Madam Li Step Out: Are There National Audiences for Chinese Traditional Regional Theatre?1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2015

Abstract

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.

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Copyright
Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2015 

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References

2 By the same token, the quality of student recruits is becoming a problem, especially in certain areas such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang or southern Fujian, where the general wealth of the area and the newer uncertainty of xiqu careers act as deterrents to placing children on such a track.

3 The full text, entitled in Chinese ‘Guanyu Shenhua Guoyou Wenyi Yanchu Yuantuan Tizhi Gaige de Ruogan Yijian’ is available from the central government website at www.gov.cn/gzdt/2009-07/29/content_1378601.htm. The translation of these selections is the first author's.

4 For instance, Yuanjiang, Zou, ‘Dui Xiqu Daoyanzhi Cunzai Genju de Zhiyi’, Xiju, 115, 1 (2005), pp. 1828Google Scholar; and Jin, Fu, ‘Zhongguo Xiju de Jiazhi Chongjian’, Zhongguo Xiju, 2012, 1 (2012), pp. 4851Google Scholar.

5 The name given here is the translation that this association uses for itself in English. However, a direct translation of this association's name would be the Chinese Theatre Artists Association, which better reflects its membership and activities.

6 The ‘experimental’ in the troupe's official name does not connote the avant-garde attitude that the word may imply in English. Rather, the word should be understood in the context of the 1950s Chinese Communist rhetoric on progress and renewal. In fact, the troupe is noted for its commitment to the traditions of its genre.

7 The best Chinese-language introduction to the genre is Wu Jieqiu, Liyuanxi yishu shilun, 2 vols. (Taipei: Shi Hezheng minsu wenhua jijinhui, 1994). For a collection of criticism on Wang's work, see Ruolin, Xueet al., eds., Fanbenkaixin: Wang Renjie Juzuo Yanjiu Lunwenxuan(Beijing: Wenhua Yishu Chubanshe, 2012)Google Scholar.

8 Xinhua News Agency, ‘20 bu youxiu baoliu jumu quanguo xunyan qianyu chang – guanzhong 80 duo wan renci’, at http://news.xinhuanet.com/local/2013-09/03/c_117213749.htm, last accessed 22 October 2013.

9 Zhang Ni, ‘Di er jie youxiu baoliu jumu dajiang huojiang zuopin quanguo xunyan jiangqi’, Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture, at http://wht.zj.gov.cn/dtxx/2013-03-30/143379.htm, last accessed 22 October 2013.

10 The Marionette Theatre of Quanzhou won one of the prizes for 2009 for Flaming Mountains (Huoyan Shan). It was pointed out to me that, from a financial perspective, their tour was much easier to accomplish, given the lower costs associated with a marionette tour.

11 This is my data, not the theatre's, and I bear sole responsibility for it.

12 Questionnaire data will form the basis of a quantitative article that will provide more information on the xiqu audience for this particular tour.

13 The data input and statistics produced here are the work of Cai Jingping, MA (Sociology, Renmin University), the co-author of the forthcoming quantitative article.

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