Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Is the drama hot?  Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

I don’t know how the miracle happened.

In June 1999, in Beijing, the Beibing Ma Si Qingyi Theatre ushered in its glorious moment. The drama “Rhino in Love” premiered here.

According to Li Naiwen, the actor who played “Toothbrush”, later recalled: “One day, we were chatting and playing cards in the background. Meng Jinghui ran in like crazy and said, “X, you guys come out and have a look, it’s amazing! Then we went out and saw from The box office went all the way to the opposite side of the road, and it was all people queuing to buy tickets. We were all stupid at the time.”

After the first round of performances, “Rhino in Love” brought a net profit of 300,000 yuan to the crew. This is China’s first small theater drama that relies on pure box office profit. The new life of Chinese drama, thus kicked off.

Over the next two decades, this “Young People’s Love Bible” has been performing endlessly all over the world, and the venues are full. Its success has witnessed the development of Chinese small theater drama from scratch. The story of the rhinoceros has also entered the lifeline of countless Chinese people, rewriting the love genes of generations.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Guo Tao and Wu Yue edition (1999 edition) “Rhino in Love”. /Photography: Li Yan

Meng Jinghui no longer wants to talk about “Rhino in Love” anymore, “because it is too early.” At the end of June, he expanded his theater map to the small town of Anaya in Qinhuangdao, Hebei, where his new play “Song of the Sad Café” premiered. On the second day after finishing the interview in Beijing, he had to rush back non-stop and spent two and a half days rehearsing “Rhino in Love” with the crew.

This is the first time that Meng Jinghui has moved “Rhino in Love” to Anaya. The changes in theater space have brought about differences in character relationships, emotional breadth, and sound intensity. Wherever you want to rush forward, and where do you want to be light and windy, Which things need to use real voice, which things should be a little more virtual, this requires him to communicate and run-in with the actors and staff.

Meng Jinghui regarded the adjustment and modification of details as an important method to maintain the freshness of drama, but he did not indulge in past achievements. Just look at his latest play, and you will find that what he is doing is still the same as it was more than twenty years ago-to open up wasteland in the thorny bushes of drama.

From indoors to outdoors, new theatrical experiments

The epidemic has caused severe shocks in the global theater industry. The Hive Theater’s performances were suspended for a full eight months. During his free time, Meng Jinghui was painting, watching DVDs and listening to music at home.

One day, his friend Zhang Weiwei suddenly told him that he was particularly interested in Hip-Hop and electronic music. This was a major style change for him, who had been engaged in folk song creation. The unknown and dangerous touch brought by it. Meng Jinghui. They decided to cooperate in a play that is more musical. “Song of the Sad Café” came into their sight unexpectedly.

This is a story that takes place in a remote small town in the United States and revolves around a triangular relationship between two men and a woman. The grand loneliness in McCullers’ language resonated with Meng Jinghui, so he decided to adapt it into a drama.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

“Song of Sad Cafe” is Meng Jinghui’s new work in 2021. /Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio

In Meng Jinghui’s description, the creative process of him and Zhang Weiwei was “dizzy and very happy.” The two met in Chengdu and Hangzhou successively. Once they met, they chatted for two or three days. They often got dizzy. After the chat, they felt “very clear, great, and it’s over when you go forward.” Once back to Beijing, I panicked again. “I don’t know what he is thinking, he doesn’t know what I am thinking, anyway, we just make do with it.”

The effect of the first performance did not make him very satisfied. This is Meng Jinghui’s first outdoor drama, and the background is on the ever-changing seaside. All the good things in the past, including the use of props, stage settings, or those things that he can play at the last moment, are useless. Meng Jinghui’s forehead lowered, and his voice settled down: “Compared with the natural forces of heaven and earth and the sea, my directing skills sometimes seem ridiculous.”

But the outdoor environment also brought him unexpected dramatic effects. The sea, beach, sunset, these natural landscapes have all become part of the theater stage. Zhang Weiwei’s music is the absolute protagonist and soul of the whole drama, summoning the energy of nature, mobilizing the audience’s senses, and connecting the drama story.

What makes Meng Jinghui even more proud is his tribute to Chekhov. Seven days before the premiere, he and his team came to Anaya by the sea and saw the blue sea and the iris-like sunset, so they asked the team to order a 24m×16m Chekhov giant poster. At the climax of the drama Crashed down.

Using giant props and the visual and psychological impact of the scene environment on the audience to highlight the atmosphere and express the content is something Meng Jinghui has already started to play with. We can fill the entire space with the huge white heads of “Bug” and “Amber” and “Teahouse”. It can be seen in the steel hollow tower.

Outdoor drama expands the boundaries of drama, allowing the imagination of artists and audiences to go out of the small theater and gallop freely in a wider world. But Meng Jinghui emphasized that he has never downplayed the concept of theater.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Meng Jinghui reinterpreted Lao She’s classic “Tea House”. /Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio 

“The theater is particularly magical. Sometimes it will follow you and you can control it; sometimes it is like a wild horse that is out of your control. In this case, doing drama is actually You are talking to a new person you don’t know. You have to maintain your temperament, understand the other person, and listen to the other person’s things, create something in this common space, and raise some thoughts.”

How to “create something and raise some thoughts” in the complex and ever-changing theater space, Meng Jinghui’s choice is to give the actors and staff enough freedom, the products of freedom collide with each other, and unexpected chemical reactions occur. Deconstruct and reorganize by oneself.

The 1993 drama “Si Fan” was compiled and discharged by him without a script. During the rehearsal, the crew members read the lines of the Peking Opera Kunqu opera while deleting and modifying them. Later, Meng Jinghui felt that the script was too short, and interspersed two excerpts from “Decameron” to create a collage-like drama structure. .

In almost all subsequent drama works, Meng Jinghui more or less retained this kind of collective improvisation. During the creation of “The Metamorphosis of Butterfly”, he left all the choices of costumes, props, music, performance methods, etc. to the actors.

The rehearsal time of “Song of Sad Café” was very short, only one or two months. He chose to stop when the crew was most disturbed, agitated, and dangerous to make the situation more serious and make everyone more collapsed.

Meng Jinghui said: “This will generate a new kind of energy. This energy may sometimes be devastating at the time of creation, but more often, when you master it, it is very interesting.”

This kind of director’s absolute core position in the play, this kind of giving the actors unlimited freedom, at the same time brings a sense of anxiety. Anxiety is necessary for theater directors. Meng Jinghui feels that it is like the undertone of music to music, which must always be laid underneath, and the director must carry this anxiety to move forward.

British theater director Peter Brook once compared the director to a night guide: “However, he doesn’t know anything about the area. He has no retreat. He has to guide people forward, groping for the road while walking.”

Regarding the director’s anxiety on the way forward, Meng Jinghui said: “Sometimes, anxiety is a key to entering another brand new space; sometimes, anxiety is a wall, you have to hit a few more times, you know. This road simply doesn’t work, so you can change it, that’s okay.”

How to reflect the ability to control as a director? This is also a question that Meng Jinghui has been thinking about over the years.

Later, he gave himself an answer: When it comes to the crucial point of choice, a director’s control will be gradually manifested through learning, aesthetic judgment, and even benefit selection. At this stage, the director is no longer a creator, but a chooser.

Meng Jinghui described it as “cooking”. The director is the chef. Others prepare the ingredients. When the fry is finally started, how much heat and oil should be put on it, and whether to set aside a dish after cooking. Another dish goes into the mix, which is the director’s homework.

Drama is a closeness to real life, but also a salvation to the spiritual world of mankind

It is difficult for us to sum up Meng Jinghui’s dramatic style and achievements in absolute theoretical language. It has long been integrated with the development path of Chinese avant-garde drama over the past two decades.

From the drastic reforms of traditional dramas when he first emerged, to the avant-garde drama after commercialization; from boldly challenging the audience’s audio-visual habits and aesthetic standards, to actively seeking dialogue and communication with the audience, Meng Jinghui was lucky to win in the extraordinary exploration The applause of the times.

When he was young, his personality was relatively introverted, and many things in his heart could not be expressed. After being exposed to drama, he became rebellious, passionate, and energetic, not only making it easier to communicate with people, but even affecting others. The drama vented the bad things in his heart and gave him a lot of healthy and normal things.

During his time at school, he was never a good student to be admired. He was keen on organizing performances outside of the school system, and he received two punishments. Whenever there is no money at the end of the month, he sits at the door of the dormitory, and when he meets anyone who is going to eat at noon, he asks him to take him with him. He never feels ashamed.

This kind of alliance between self and drama, as he continues to explore the possibilities of drama, has become stronger day by day.

During his decades of drama career, Meng Jinghui paid attention to ideals and love, explored the mental state of modern people, and exposed the dependence and contradictions between people and the city.

“Opinions on the Life of Two Dogs” expresses their various “opinions” about city life by showcasing the different status changes of two dogs after entering the city; “An Unexpected Death of Anarchism” shows the difference between justice and evil and the poor. Contradictions with the rich, production and distribution; “Tea House” uses a subversive stage space to show the ups and downs of the individual’s destiny.

His dramas have been jumping through the three parallel lines of “poetry, sociality, and resistance to the mainstream”.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

“Opinions on the Life of Two Dogs” tells the story of brothers and two dogs entering the city from the countryside in search of ideals and happiness.

However, as he got older, his anger and sharpness gradually reduced.

“Because there is not so much room for you to express one thing in anger, and you are not allowed to use this way of saying in your creations, then you have to change your way of speaking.” Later, Meng Jinghui found it. That way is to “enter into people’s hearts and combine the loneliness of the heart with the more distant things.”

Meng Jinghui said that a feeling in his heart became more obvious and stronger, “It seems that these things must be related to me. Language, emotions, and internal logical power must be related to me anyway.” Just as when reading the story of “Song of the Sad Café” two years ago, Meng Jinghui felt that loneliness is such a huge essence of life, so he decided to do this play.

Perhaps it can be said that the appearance of drama is not only a close proximity and ruthless disclosure of real life, but also a relief and salvation to the human spiritual world.

In an interview in 1996, Meng Jinghui once stated that “experimental drama is connected to our heartbeat and our inner desires.” The drama he longs for is “direct, embracing performance, tight Putting your arms around your performance, you can feel the sweat on his body and the breath from his body.”

This year, 25 years later, he still insists on this kind of dramatic expression of returning to himself and facing the audience directly. “Song of the Sad Café” was born out of loneliness, but immersed in happiness. All the dangers and loneliness are all kneaded by Meng Jinghui, Zhang Weiwei and all the creative staff as creative joys.

“In the end, we finished the performance. Weiwei had the ending syndrome. His mind is still in “Song of Sad Cafe”, so this process is very interesting and fun!” Meng Jinghui’s eyebrows stretched out.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Zhang Weiwei’s music is the soul of “Song of Sad Cafe”. /Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio

This torrent of self-spiritual world will inevitably invite a lot of scrutiny and doubts. “The form is greater than the content, the creation is weak, and the talent is exhausted.” Mentioning similar criticisms, Meng Jinghui’s tone became lighter.

He confessed that “Rhino in Love” did not have such a high achievement, it was just one of his works that was relatively well-known to the public. After that, he has also made many other works that he is proud of, such as “I Love ×××”, “Living”, “Tea House”, etc., and in the days to come, this kind of proud things will definitely return. There will be.

“Then what’s the urgency? There are a few more awesome directors in the 60s and 70s. When he is more than 60 years old, what has his vitality and mastery been in the era when he was based?”

Recently, Meng Jinghui revisited the film of the late director Theo Angelopoulos. He also mentioned Jia Zhangke, Fellini, and Woody Allen. I think it’s ok, no problem.” In contrast, the drama director is lucky, because when he reaches 70, he can still hold a cup of tea and continue to guide on the stage.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Meng Jinghui said: “Movies are about storytelling, while dramas are about writing poems. I prefer to write poems.” / “Flying like a chicken feather”

“Do you still care about the fact that the audience can’t read and understand drama?” Hearing this question, Meng Jinghui’s huge energy finally opened a small gap, his speech speed began to increase, and his language moved his body. The amplitude becomes larger, and at the same time the surrounding air becomes clear.

He said that he has stopped struggling with this issue, or that he has never particularly cared about it.

The most important thing about a theater work is that there is a “drama” and a “stage”. “Drama” is conflict, which is the creator’s business, and “field” is interaction. It is the relationship between audience and performer, between the auditorium and the stage, between appreciation and creation. Drama creators and audiences are like a two-way street, where both parties create a certain “illusion” in the same space.

“When a drama comes out, some people must say that they can’t understand it, but there are others who can understand it. All the hoarseness and whispering in the ear can make people who understand it burst into tears. Don’t they deserve it? Respect? Some people say they don’t understand the drama, but they just don’t understand the story. In fact, he already understands it and is already shocked.”

Meng Jinghui’s conversation turned: “However, the appreciation of the story is very shallow. Drama not only completes the expression of the story, but also the formal beauty and deep judgment behind the story, as well as the state of the soul, the tearing of the spirit… There are too many things. “Those things that are not stories, anti-sequences, and subvert the way of drama appreciation are what he really wants to express in drama.

In recent years, drama has gradually moved out of big cities and reached the small towns of the 18th-tier on the fringe. More and more young people enter the theater. They will still go through the process of thinking about “incomprehensible” and will have a feeling of drama Misreading will also be mocked by some people for “pretending to be X” and “wenqing”. In the eyes of drama creators, these may not matter, as long as you walk into the theater, it is a good start.

“So, I think our theater culture can be broader, richer, and more diverse. In this case, the question of understanding and not understanding is not important.” Meng Jinghui is even more important than the audience. I care about how to maintain my authenticity as a creator and how to make the space of drama more free.

“What is the important task of drama right now, I’m still thinking about it”

While Meng Jinghui developed his dramatic style, he also witnessed the growth trajectory of Chinese youth drama.

In 2008, he founded the Beijing International Youth Theatre Festival. In 2013, he and Lai Shengchuan and others jointly launched the Wuzhen Drama Festival. In the process of serving as the judge and art director of the drama festival for many years, Meng Jinghui clearly saw how groups of young directors emerged, developed and grew up.

During the selection phase of this year’s Beijing Youth Theatre Festival, he met many young directors. Their ideas are very diverse, and everyone has their own tricks. For example, a simple sentence “I love you” is conveyed by voice, some is expressed from a physical and physical form, and some is expressed from a cross-cultural perspective. All have a deep logic in it, which makes Meng Jinghui feel The excitement and shock made him deeply aware that these young dramatists now have their own living space and state.

“Those children, those who have graduated, or those who have not graduated, have never attended school, all kinds of young students, they all have their own impulse and a kind of understanding of culture.” But there are many others. Young people are too conservative in art. Meng Jinghui believes that this is related to the current teaching methods of the so-called drama academies. Their conservative and rigid theories hinder the development of young people.

Finding one’s place in the constant struggle and running-in with tradition may be the proposition of all individuals who are surging in the tide of the times. Meng Jinghui himself also came here.

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

The audience wants to see something different from real life in the drama. /Meng Jinghui Theatre Studio

In 1988, he was admitted to the Central Academy of Drama as a graduate student, just in time for reform and opening up and the emancipation of the mind. The intellectual life with countless possibilities and options on the university campus gave him an unprecedented sense of freshness and excitement. Although there was no current Internet in the 1980s and 1990s, the density of information was far lower than it is now, and life was slow, but Meng Jinghui experienced a lot of ideological and emotional shocks.

“Before there was no phone, and there were very few BB machines. If I were to find a friend to play, it would take me a day to walk from Dongcheng to Haidian. If I didn’t see you at home, I would wait at your house. Wait until dinner Time, you’re back. We talk about love, life, universe, and the books we read. We don’t even want to go home in the middle of the night. But we have to go back. Two or three in the morning, I walked The new snow, accompanied by the stars and moon, slowly walked home.”

In this kind of urban life, drama forms a certain frequency resonance with the times. When “Rhinoceros in Love” was premiered in the Qingyi Theatre, the audience’s bicycles were parked all over Beibing Masi Hutong, the old resident who was blocked rushed into the theater and shouted, and the screenwriter Liao Yimei bravely rushed in and argued with the old man. There is also an old man who sells popsicles and said cheerfully to the crew: “You guys play more, we sell more popsicles than ever before!”

“City and drama are isomorphic and have similarities. A big city like Beijing is very much like a big drama, but the city is a big drama that never ends. The conflict in the city is fierce and exciting than the stage. Everyone It is an actor who has its own time for going on and off. Shakespeare said this.” Ma, the PhD supervisor of the Chinese Academy of Art also said.

Today, this isomorphism between urban life and drama seems to be gradually disintegrating, and the new state of life has not yet found its artistic expression. Meng Jinghui also sighed and said that it would be very difficult to spend a day waiting for someone like this again. Friends made a phone call and said, “What about you?” They didn’t say anything to each other.

In today’s social network era, information seems to be diverse but fragmented, and the younger generation of dramatists is also subject to many constraints. Economics, aesthetics of rights, cultural circles…the constraints come from all aspects and are superimposed on top of each other. Meng Jinghui knows that society has changed, but he can’t say that the environment before is better than the current one.

“How do people keep their own thinking in this era, while maintaining affection and a sense of responsibility to society, this is very difficult. Especially artists, everyone hopes that there are these things in your works, but these things may not be seen. , Or it’s over after being broadcasted in two episodes of the TV series.” In this case, what is the important task of the drama now? How do young people break the game? What can the older generation of dramatists contribute? Meng Jinghui is still thinking about these issues.

Before there is an answer, he can only go forward, doubting the choice of social trends, and fighting himself, fighting all pseudo-realistic dramas, self-motivated dramas, and seemingly pioneering dramas. He only gave young people a simple but sincere suggestion: “In such an environment, if you want to be vigorous, go ahead and break it.”

Is the drama hot? Meng Jinghui feels that there is still too little

Always remain suspicious and fight. / “Song of the Sad Cafe”

“Imagine the next 25 years, what kind of ideal world do you look forward to? What changes do you most hope for in this world?” At the end of the interview, I raised this question to Meng Jinghui.

Without thinking too much, he said: “In the next 25 years, I hope that it will be possible like this. Now I can arrange one big show and two small shows a year. In the next 25 years, if it can continue to be like this, I will be pretty good. Happy.” I don’t know when, in the glass of lemon sparkling water placed in front of him, the gurgling, refreshing bubbles have disappeared, leaving only the simplest and solid taste.

“But if you are a tree, you may be uncomfortable in a lonely wasteland. If you are surrounded by forests, then you have a lot of energy. So I hope that in the small environment of our drama, the young There are more and more creators, more and more active, everyone is crooked and full of vitality, everyone is staggered, everyone is uneasy, everyone is moving forward, and their eyes are like torches when they see new hope. This is a lot. What a wonderful thing.”

Meng Jinghui turned around and pointed to a big tree outside the window. During the interview, the construction noise came off intermittently and stopped temporarily.

Reference materials:

[1] “Meng Jinghui Pioneer Drama Archives” Meng Jinghui. Xinxing Publishing House

[2] “Rhino in Love” Liao Yimei. Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House

[3] “Poeticity and Secularization: An Analysis of Love Expression in Meng Jinghui’s Love Plays” Wang Wei and Zhang Dehao

[4] “On the Acceptance of Western Drama Theories in Meng Jinghui’s Dramatic Works: Focusing on the Theory of Director, the Theory of the Relationship Between the Viewing Performance and the Stage Theory” Yang Qingjie, Qin Shihui

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