The Wuzhen Theatre Festival to stage again in late November

Wang Jie
Organizers of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival have announced that the ninth edition of the festival will be held from November 25 to December 4.
Wang Jie
The Wuzhen Theatre Festival to stage again in late November

The 2021 Outdoor Carnival at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival

The ninth edition of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival is scheduled for November 25 to December 4 and will have the theme "Abundance."

Wuzhen, in the northern suburbs of Zhejiang Province, is an ancient water town with well-preserved 16th-century buildings and stone bridges -- a perfect setting for drama, literature and art.

The festival was founded in 2013 by cultural tycoon Chen Xianghong , Huang Lei, Stan Lai and Meng Jinghui. At first, skeptics thought it was just another utopian idea that people had because they were passionate and good-hearted.

But they were all proved wrong. The theater festival has given this water town a new boost and made it a popular place for tourists to visit.

A celebration of artistic performance and a hub for cultural exchange, the festival consists of various interrelated parts: Specially Invited Plays, Emerging Theater Artists' Competition, Outdoor Carnival, Wuzhen Dialogue and Wuzhen Theater Market.

The Wuzhen Theatre Festival to stage again in late November

Wuzhen, an ancient water town

Shanghai Daily caught up with Qiu Jianwei, deputy manager of Culture Wuzhen Co Ltd, which has been involved with the festival for 18 years.

1. Before the announcement of the festival dates, many of us thought that this year's Wuzhen Theatre Festival would be canceled due to the pandemic. Did you also fear such a possibility?

Actually, the preparation for this year's festival started much earlier. In fact, shortly after the end of last year's festival. We were thinking about how to enrich the new edition this year. So we had plenty of time to consider how to incorporate new content into it, including the influence of the epidemic situation and epidemic prevention practices.

2. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the number of visitors to Wuzhen has dropped sharply. But, at the same time, new hotels and theaters have been built to develop Wuzhen as an " utopian land for drama and art." How can you guarantee the quality of the drama festival, especially in a rapidly shrinking tourism environment?

True, the tourism and theater industries were among the hardest-hit by the pandemic since 2020. Wuzhen has also been adapting itself to seek a new way, especially when routine epidemic control is a must.

For example, last year we explored several new creative modes, including livestreaming of "Emerging Theatre Artists' Competition," the special screening of eight excellent works from Edinburgh Arts Festival, Berliner Festspiele , Festival d' Avignon, Holland Festival, Salzburger Festspiele, Divine Comedy International Festival – the six major theater festivals around the world.

Since the launch of the festival, the quality of overseas drama has always been a consideration. Based on the existing sections of Specially Invited Play, Emerging Theatre Artists' Competition, Wuzhen Dialogue, and Outdoor Carnival, we introduced "Wuzhen Theatre Market" last year , which fused music, pop art, installation, exhibition, film, reading, market, and food all put together.

This is a new venue outside the theatre and was well received by the visitors. This year again, we will explore new ideas, but we are keeping it a secret for the moment.

3. This year's theme is "Abundance." How do you interpret it?

Through good or difficult times, diligent or thrifty, we try to cultivate rather than worry too much about the harvest. In reality, the theme is about a way of thinking, and it tells people who are involved in the theater to take care of themselves and worry less about their own gains and losses.

4. Due to COVID-19, will the number of foreign plays in Wuzhen drop this year and put more focus on young Chinese creators?

Last year, we screened eight plays from six major theater festivals from around the world. This year too, we are considering something similar due to the epidemic situation.

In recent years, the younger generation has shown keen enthusiasm, which has boosted the theater market with a group of young talents coming to the fore. We hope that the Wuzhen Theatre Festival will not only become a platform for an exchange between the East and the West but also become a means of exposure for "fresh young faces" in Chinese theater.

5. Shanghai has gone through two months of lockdown. How can the Wuzhen Theatre Festival cope with such a situation?

The Wuzhen Theatre Festival has been adopting a series of epidemic prevention measures. Temperature measurement, health-code checks, wearing masks will be made compulsory, and etc. Our priority is to ensure the safety of every visitor who comes to Wuzhen.

6. The most fantastic and beautiful moment is when a dream starts. This year is the ninth edition of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival. What is the biggest challenge for you and your team?

We have successfully hosted eight editions of the festival. Over the years, many such theater festivals have sprung up in China to meet the demand and passion of young drama enthusiasts.

The mode of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival has been widely referred to and copied, which can lead to one issue – homogeneity. So, it's hard for us to break the stereotypes, do more cool and interesting things, and lead a new kind of cultural tourism .

7. Can you use three adjectives to describe the Wuzhen Theatre Festival?

Pure, glorious, nothing impossible.

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