German-Chinese play looks at individuals in the collective

Updated: 2015-03-23 07:32

By Chen Nan(China Daily)

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German-Chinese play looks at individuals in the collective

Totally Happy is a theater production about the relationships between the masses and the individual, through actors' body language and monologues. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After the first open rehearsal of German-Chinese production Totally Happy, or Fei Chang Gao Xing, at Inside-Out Theater in Beijing last weekend, the play's director Tian Gebing received contradictory reviews.

Fans in the audience called the play stunning, while others complained they couldn't understand it.

"That's what I am aiming for," says Tian in a phone interview with China Daily.

Tian, who is in his mid-50s and a graduate of the Central Academy of Drama, has been involved in Beijing's independent theater scene since the late 1980s. He has always been interested in launching a "revolution" in traditional theater.

In 1997, Tian founded Paper Tiger Theater Studio, one of the earliest pioneering independent theater companies in China. He has blended elements of visual art with theatrical and non-theatrical scenes as well as combining scripts with improvisation and non-professional performance.

In Totally Happy, featuring five Chinese actors from Paper Tiger Theater Studio and five German actors from Munich Kammerspiele, Tian explores the relationships between the masses and the individual.

With no conversations among characters and no clear storyline, the show is told through actors' body language and monologues.

Tian, who works more like a choreographer in this project, started it nearly three years ago. The idea of the show came from his longtime observation of contemporary Chinese society.

Born and raised in Shaanxi province in the 1960s, when traditional Chinese philosophy embraced the spirit of the collectivism, Tian has experienced the country's transformation from collectivism to individualism, like many others in his generation.

With more young Chinese people being eager to be different and displaying their personalities, Tian couldn't help but wonder about how the perceptions of individualism and collectivism changed over generations.

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