Demonstration performance of achievements in cooperative training for postgraduate students of playwriting between Shanghai Theatre Academy and Columbia University was successful held

13 December 2018

On the evening of 7 December, the New Space Theatre of Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) was a full house. The annual achievement demonstration of the Shanghai Theatre Academy-Columbia University exchange training project for postgraduate students majoring playwriting, i.e. the demonstration performance of original plays written by postgraduate students of Columbia University was successfully held. The performance was produced by the STA Playwriting Research Center and co-organized by Shangyi Theatre Society. Professor Huang Changyong, President of STA, Professor Ye Changhai, advisor for the program and Director of STA Academic Committee, Professor Li Zhenlin, Dean of STA Graduate School, and Ms Zhang Jing, Party Secretary of STA Department of Theatrical Literature, as well as Professors Song Jie, Yao Kougen, Zhang Shengquan, Li Wei and Chen Jun, and Associate Professors Chen Xi and Huang Xi and Peng Yongwen, attended the performance.

Before the performance began, President Huang Changyong first made a speech. He highly affirmed the achievements of this four-year cooperative teaching project headed by Professor Lu Jun in conjunction with an international first-class university. He enthusiastically encouraged teachers and students to inherit STA’s fine teaching tradition and constantly innovate the drama teaching mode, so as to contribute to the construction of a "platform-type" international first-class art university. Then, Professor Lu Jun introduced the development of this project and the theme of this demonstration performance. He said that the performance tonight had expressed the self-confidence of STA in keeping its teaching of specialist subjects in line with the international first-class universities.

The performance includes three works, namely, “The Terrifying Tales of the Brothers Grimm”, “Take the Car” and “Affordable Rates and Color TV”, which were written by Andy Boyd and Nora Serena Casey, postgraduate students majoring in playwriting in Columbia University, and staged after completing the revision under the guidance of their Chinese instructor Professor Lu Jun and Associate Professor Huang Xi.

In terms of presentation mode, this performance was different from the luxury and magnificence stage widely seen in China today, and the setting was kept as simple as possible. As Professor Lu Jun strongly urged to “return the theatrical stage to the playwrights, actors and directors", it was on such a simple stage, we once again felt the power of theatrical literature.

It is worth mentioning that the two playwrights have the same age as our students, besides expressing common themes in their plays. Andy Boyd was born in 1991; Nora Serena Casey was born in1989. They graduated from Harvard University majoring in history and literature, and from the University of Chicago majoring in English American literature respectively. They both appeared repeatedly on the American theatre stage, and can be regarded as among the best young American theatre practitioners. Thanks to the exchange program headed by Professor Lu Jun, our students were able to not only get in touch with the excellent young playwrights from overseas, but also feel their excellence and the gap between us and them in the course of participating in classes, study tours and rehearsals together. And, unlike in previous years, with the encouragement of Professor Lu Jun, there was an additional course called "Thousand-Word Playwriting in English" on this year’s joint curriculum of Colombia University and Shanghai Theatre Academy. The two students from Columbia University introduced and imparted the teaching model of Columbia University, which helped us to further understand their theatrical concepts, creative methods and writing ideas, as well as the intention of each small detail of their performance.

Up to now, the exchange training program for postgraduate students majoring in playwriting between Shanghai Theatre Academy and Columbia University has been successfully conducted for four years. It is a cooperative teaching program conducted by Professor Lu Jun, director of the Writing Research Center of Shanghai Theatre Academy, and Professor David Henry Hwang, Chairman of Writers Guild of America, Dean of the Writing Department of Columbia University, and author of "M. Butterfly", i.e. Columbia University and Shanghai Theatre Academy exchange send two postgraduate students to each other’s school to study every year. Nowadays, both the exchange students and their teachers at Columbia University are very satisfied with the project. In January of this year, at the invitation of Professor Lu Jun, Professor David Henry Hwang of Columbia University paid a visit to Shanghai Theatre Academy during which he watched and provided guidance on the special performance of the thousand-word drama in English, and hold lectures to interact and exchange with the teachers and students of Shanghai Theatre Academy. This has indicated that the exchanges and cooperation between the two sides will be further deepened.

At 10 p.m., amid the warm applause and cheer from the audience, the performance ended smoothly marking the conclusion of this year's exchange training program. It is hoped that more students will participate in the cooperative teaching project between Shanghai Theatre Academy and Columbia University in the coming year to absorb more nutrition in this feast of cross-cultural exchange and insightful discussion of the significance of drama and help their own creative writing.