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China Art Daily: Shanghai premiere of “Nurse’s Diary” on fighting COVID-19, a hard-won masterpiece of realism that has come from online to offline

China Art Daily 19 June 2020; Reporter: Xu Ruizhe

On the evening of the 13th, wearing a mask and in a low-key manner, Professor Zhang Wenhong, walked into the STA Experimental Theatre which had been closed for 145 days. Despite his titles as the head of the Expert Group for COVID-19 Treatment in Shanghai and director of the Infectious Disease Department of Huashan Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University, he came to watch the play as an ordinary audience.The first play for public performance at the reopened STA Experimental Theatre was “Nurse’s Diary”, which is also China’s first large-scale original drama on fighting COVID-19. It was also the first stage play that the Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) had set up the cast and rehearsed online, making it the first play in the history of STA to go from online to offline.

When the lights of the stage were turned off, a "time and space tunnel" with angular perspective effect was unfolded, and countless slogans and posters related to fighting COVID-19 seemed to fly out of the background quickly bringing a strong visual impact to the audience in the theatre, and the story of the play that closely held people’s hearts also began to roll out from there."Your mother was diagnosed COVID-19 three days ago and is now in hospital for isolation and treatment." When Dr Lin from the CDC arrived at the police station and picked up Dong Lili, who had been “temporarily held” there, the daughter finally knew why her mother, a head nurse, had failed to come.In the play, Dong Lili is a third-year medical college student majoring in nursing. She is upset about her mother Dong Fang's lack of care for her after the mother’s divorce. After she leaves home, she calls her classmates to hold a birthday party at home. As a result, she is reported by her neighbors as impeding the COVID-19 prevention and control, and is seriously counseled by the police. When she goes back to her empty home alone, she finds a diary of her mother’s while doing the disinfection. In order to find the source of mother's infection, Dong Lili begins to check and trace the clues one by one.The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 makes everyone, including Dong Lili who has scanty experience of life, undergo growth in different ways. Therefore, “Nurse’s Diary” focuses on the theme of "growth" to show all aspects of human nature under the major test imposed by COVID-19 and pay homage to medical workers and the spirit of fighting COVID-19.

As the story goes on, from "hermit crab" who sells masks at a high price through to the families of patients who beat medical staff because of the difficulties in getting the patients admitted, Dong Lili is able to discover her mother’s experience which is completely different from her own anticipation, learn about the various aspects of the society under the severe pandemic, and also have a new understanding of her mother's sentiment and conduct.In the end, the daughter is surprised to find that the source of infection may be the student who conceals his travel history to participate in the birthday party. When her mother's life is uncertain, Dong Lili recalls every bit of being with her mother and feels guilty for her own willfulness. At the end of the play, the mother passes away because of the deterioration of her condition, and the daughter takes over her mother's white gown while grieving, and becomes a front-line nurse “following her mother’s footsteps”.

Xie Wei, Party Secretary of STA, said that "Nurse’s Diary" is the first approved work since the promulgation of STA’s administrative measures for the production of major creation and performance projects and cooperative creation and performance projects, and that "this is an important play and also an exemplary play." In fact, creating masterpieces of realism has become one of the important directions of STA’s creation of works on significant themes in the future.

"Nurse’s Diary", which is about two hours long, gathers a galaxy of excellent creative personnel of STA. Professor Lu Jun, one of the playwrights, has had 36 large-scale plays put on the stage, and he has revised the script of this play for no less than six times in order to strive for perfection. Professor Yi Tianfu, Dean of the Department of Stage Design, is the director, stage designer and lighting designer of the play, and his previous works have won the "Five One Project" Award and the Mandarin Award for many times. Professor Xu Jiahua, the chief designer for costume, make-up and modeling for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, is in charge of the costume, make-up and modeling design of this play.The cast of this play is composed of Liu Wanling, Wang Su, He Yan, Wang Xueming, Li Chuanying, Xue Guanglei, Wan liming, Xia Shuai, Xiekezati and other accomplished actors and actresses from STA. Shen Taoran, a young actor, and Li Bing, a TV host at the Shanghai TV Station, are also among the cast.

"Nurse's Diary" is jointly presented by STA and the Publicity Department of CPC Songjiang District Committee of the Communist Party of China, and is jointly produced by the STA Performance Center and the Songjiang District Culture and Tourism Bureau, with the support of the China Theatre Association, the Zhejiang Writers Association and the Humanistic Songjiang Institute of Creation and Research etc.The creation and rehearsal of the play started online. As early as 9 Marchwhen the COVID-19situation in China was not completely stable yet, the crew set-up meeting of “Nurse’s Diary” was held online. In the three months since then, the crew of “Nurse’s Diary” did not wait passively for the theater to reopen, but simultaneously made it into a radio play of the same name, which was launched on the relevant online audio platform on 12 May, i.e. the International Nurses Day, for the public to listen.

On the occasion of the long-awaited premiere of “Nurse’s Diary”, the co-producers invited a group of special audiences like Zhang Wenhong to watch the play. Among them, there were medical workers, medical researchers and front-line community volunteers in Shanghai, and also representatives of the companies which started the production lines to make protective masks in support of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. After watching the play, Zhang Wenhong said that "I have benefited a lot from it. It's very good! Salute the actors! "Lu Junsaid that "when any great nation makes a mortal battle against a natural disaster or a man-made misfortune that occurs in the progress of human civilization, it requires the synergy of science, conscience, order, responsibility and dedication from the whole society in order to overcome the difficulties and win a decisive victory of adecisive battle.