huaju

Definition

Theater

  • (Chinese: talking drama) The Chinese term for Western-style dialogueplays. Huaju works were first performed in China in 1907. Therewas a resistance to translating Western works into the vernacularrather than classical language until the students' Literary Revolutionof 1911; from 1915 to 1919 the Chinese were keenly translating andreading Western novelists and playwrights, especially Henrik Ibsen,who had set a powerful precedent by using the stage as a platformfor social protest.

    By the 1930s Chinese dramatists were imitating Western realism.A major breakthrough came in 1935 with Cao Yu's work Leiyu,which tackled modern social issues. It toured with a Western-styletravelling repertory company that also performed Oscar Wilde's LadyWindermere's Fan as adapted by Hong Shen.

    After World War II, huaju was reorganized by the communists.In 1950 the Central Drama Institute was opened in Beijing to trainactors, directors, and set designers for huaju with the aidof Russian advisers. During the Cultural Revolution of1966 to 1976, however, all huaju works staged since 1949 weredenounced and the companies and drama schools were closed. Since 1976huaju has enjoyed a great renaissance: classical and modernplays from the Western repertoire have been presented, including aversion of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman in 1983, directedby Miller and the actor Ying Ruocheng, who translated it.

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