The Wuzhen Dialogues have been a fixture of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival since its inception in 2013. They are occasions for the lover of theatre to be in the same room with the master artists at the Festival, to hear them talk about theatre, art, life, and the world, over a cup of tea. I can't tell you how often I have been moved by the diverse and deep conversations the humble Traditional Storytelling Hall has given us, with profound exchanges of minds and souls. The Dialogues are free to the public. Come join us for a cup of tea, and enjoy this year's fascinating dialogues!

—Stan Lai

Co-founder and Festival Director

The Wuzhen Dialogues

Traditional Storytelling Hall

All dialogues are free to the public; reservations online

In Wuzhen, it is a frequent and unexpected pleasure for festival-goers to cross paths with great artists, hear what they have to say about their work and even receive their professional guidance. You don't need to pay tuition, but you may have to reserve or line up for a seat. This year, we concentrate on all of the illustrious Chinese artists and luminaries of the theatre to discuss the state of the theatre, post-pandemic. You will have a chance to pose questions to the directors at the Festival, and listen to how the many varied works were created.

As part of the Dialogues section, we are also offering four artist Workshops that are also free to the public—make sure you sign up online early to reserve a spot! From puppetry to movement to Odin Teatret techniques to a playwriting master class, this year's Workshops are unique opportunities for those who want a hands-on experience of theatre.

We also offer the ever-popular Readings series, where celebrities at the Festival as well as audience members take the stage and read from prose or poetic selections, sharing our passion for the art of words, especially when the speaker is right there.

Dialogue 1: Literature and Theatre (Part I)

Meng Jinghui, Liu Heng  Moderator: Shi Hang

Nov 26, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

Literature and theatre have always been complementary of each other in addition to being overlapping to a great extent. Before gracing a stage and facing a live audience, the texts of a drama tend to stimulate the dramatic mind for reimagining whereas literary masterpieces have spawned a rich variety of theatrical representations. But the theatre does not just build on this literary foundation, it provides its unique interpretation, often taking it to a whole new realm.

Dialogue 2: Literature and Theatre (Part II)

Wang Yuanyuan, Wang Yabin  Moderator: Shi hang

Nov 27, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

Literature and theatre have always been complementary of each other in addition to being overlapping to a great extent. Before gracing a stage and facing a live audience, the texts of a drama tend to stimulate the dramatic mind for reimagining whereas literary masterpieces have spawned a rich variety of theatrical representations. But the theatre does not just build on this literary foundation, it provides its unique interpretation, often taking it to a whole new realm.

Dialogue 3: Creating Texts for New Dramas

Zhu Hongxuan, Zhang Hui, Du Xianghong  Moderator: Shi Hang

Nov 28, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

While classical theatre has nourished generations of theatre professionals, the sustained growth of theatre relies on the constant inception and creation of new works. To create original pieces that resonate and possibly feed into a new legacy, young theatre workers must hone their craft and channel their energy into forms of theatrical expressiveness.

Dialogue 4: Comedy Performance

Xie Na, Feng Li, Ma Jingwen  Moderator: Stan Lai

Nov 29, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

Comedy performances are sometimes brushed away as light-hearted and lacking so-called acting chops. But those who have practiced it have a personal knowledge of the level of difficulty involved. Is it an ability that is inborn and comes with nature, or a technique that grows out of years of training and practice?

Dialogue 5: Film and Stage: On the 30th Anniversary of the film The Peach Blossom Land

A Dialogue between Christopher Doyle and Stan Lai

Nov 29, 2022, 4:00-5:45 PM

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Stan Lai's film, The Peach Blossom Land, based on his stage classic. Stan and Chris Doyle, the cinematographer whose name has become synonymous with the great works of recent Chinese language cinema, will talk about the differences between stage and film, and the dynamics that created one of the most unique theatre adaptations in film history, as well as reminisce on the making of this special film.

Dialogue 6: The Path of Chinese Experimental Theatre

Mou Sen, Chen Minghao  Moderator: Peng Tao

Nov 30, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

The contemporary Chinese theater has evolved through wave after wave of experimentation, into the diverse and refined performances of today. Key figures from the different stages of experimentation will take the stage to talk about the road that has brought us to where we are.

Dialogue 7: Women Directors' Forum

Zhang Hui, Pan Xiaonan, Xiao Jing  Moderator: Yang Ting

Dec 1, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

Female directors have brought a unique perspective and sensibility to theatre, fusing their gender identity with personal styles. All this has lent itself to fan fascination and academic curiosity alike.

Dialogue 8: Physical Theatre Incorporating Dance Elements

Gao Yanjinzi, Zhao Liang  Moderator:Lv Yanni

Dec 2, 2022, 10:00-11:45 AM

The tendency to add physicality to traditional theatre has broken down the barriers between different forms of theatre as talk-intensive dramas increasingly incorporate physical elements like dance. The fusion and borrowing have turned theatrical art into a multi-origin hybrid that could be hard to categorize.

Dialogue 9: Young Directors' Forum

Liu Xiaoyi, Duan Fei, Wang Zichuan  Moderator: Huang Lei

Dec 2, 2022, 2:00-3:45 PM

A theatre boom is manifested in the active participation of throngs of young theatre practitioners. Their vitality and inventiveness have pushed the art form into one of trendsetting and zeitgeist.

Dialogue 10: Solo Performances

Huang Xiangli, Wang Zichuan  Moderator: Peng Tao

Dec 2, 2022, 4:00-5:45 PM

What does it feel like having the whole stage to one performer, with no fellow actors to steal the spotlight and no one to help you out if a blunder occurs. Solo performances are a fatal attraction to actors because they can put your multifaceted talents on full display, but what qualities and abilities are required to pull off such a feat?

Dialogue 11: An Encounter With Polish Theatre Master Tadeusz Kantor

Huang Jue, Shen Lin, Huang Shali  Moderator: Peng Tao

Dec 3, 2022, 4:00-5:45 PM

The innovations and breakthroughs by Polish Theatre Master Tadeusz Kantor include notions from fine arts, new forms of watching, and a closer connection with 20th-century trends in aesthetics.

Theatre Workshops

All workshops are free. Registration required on Wuzhen Theatre Festival website.

Where: Shen estate Teahouse Theatre

Workshop 1

Wang Yuanyuan: Body Language and Mood Expression

Limited to 30 participants

Nov. 26, 10:00 AM

Modern dance was born in pursuit of the free spirit. It aimed to break shackles, to eliminate rigid movement patterns so as to restore one's unique inner world.

When we dance, what the body feels is conveyed to the heart. Physical balance interacts with theatre space at this point.  

Dance movement has to be in accordance with the idea you are trying to express, and also to be in balance with the theatrical space. The ballet vocabulary is the medium I use for my works. It is through powerful movement that I present my thinking, perspective and all my innovative ideas about the world. Only in the theatre space can the body have enough audio-visual impact to touch the audience's heart. The whole innovation is to seek the integrity of the individual as we constantly challenge ourselves, and in this way to prove our existence. Find the heart.

You can't stop thinking about using body language to find a personal way to express yourself. Ours are lives in the present instead of just instruments of the past.

Wang Yuanyuan is co-founder and artistic director of the Beijing Dance Theater (BDT). She is an honorary fellow of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and an internationally celebrated modern dance and contemporary ballet choreographer. Her choreography credits include the dance dramas Haze, Golden Lotus, Wild Grass, Hamlet, The Nightingale and the Rose, and A Leaf in the Storm. She also directed an adaptation of Ibse''s The Lady From the Sea as the Beijing Repertory Theater's inaugural production.  

Workshop 2

Zhang Wu: Chronicling History Through Stage Design

Limited to 50 participants

Nov. 28, 2:00 PM

Stage design combines the stillness of sculpture with the movements of action, fusing past and present.

The history of the theatrical art can be seen through the evolution of such designs, revealing patterns and highlights.

Zhang Wu, Set Designer

Visiting Professor and Graduate Program Tutor of Stage Design Department, Central Academy of Drama. His main theatre works include The Seventh Day, Fox Angel, Teahouse, Song of Heartbreak Cafe, Le Rouge et le Noir, To Live, Bonjour Tristesse, Two Dogs, Rhinoceros in Love, He Had Two Pistols with White and Black Eyes, and I Love XXX. His film works include Shanghai Dreams, Dreams May Come. He is the curator of the Nine-Person Exhibition of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival (2016). His academic publication includes Visual Introduction (China Drama Publishing, 2013).

Workshop 3

Stan Lai:Director's Workshop

Limited to 50 participants

Nov. 29, 10:00 AM

Stan Lai will conduct a Master Class in Directing, geared at practitioners and students of the craft. Lai is a strong believer in directors finding their own voice and style, and in this workshop he will outline what he considers the fundamentals of becoming a good director, the wisdom and method of the art, including theatrical artistry as method, and intellectual acumen as wisdom.

Stan Lai is considered "the best Chinese language playwright and director in the world" (BBC), "Asia's top theatre director" (Asiaweek), and "Asia's flagship playwright" (China Daily). Since 1984, Lai's plays include those regarded as masterpieces of the modern Chinese-language theatre such as Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, The Village and his epic 8-hour A Dream Like A Dream (Wuzhen 2013), called by China Daily "possibly the greatest Chinese-language play since time immemorial," and his latest 5-hour epic AGO (Wuzhen 2021), which Critical Stages says exceeds Dream "in terms of scope and magnitude." Robert Brustein calls Lai "The major contemporary Asian playwright of his time, perhaps of all time." Lai holds a PhD in Dramatic Art from U.C.Berkeley's renowned “Scholar-Director” program. His publications include the influential Stan Lai on Creativity, and the 3-volume, 12-play collection Selected Plays of Stan Lai (edited by Lissa Tyler Renaud, Univ. of Michigan Press, 2022). Lai is currently Artistic Director of Theatre Above, Shanghai, a venue dedicated to the performance of his works, and Co-founder and Festival Director of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival.

Where: Mingyi Conference Room, Zhaoming Academy Inn

Wuzhen Theatre Festival Readings 

There is no strict theme to the Wuzhen Theatre Festival Readings, just fine companions and worthy friends who come for the sake of the texts themselves.

Remember, the text must first be read out. Reading aloud can bring anything to life.

To read aloud is to make everything into poetry, but also to make poetry of everything. If one does not read, the world will be silent; if one does, the world will be quiet.

We see each other off on a flowered path, you and I enveloped in autumn; let me see what books you have stored in your sky.

Where you read fragility, I read tenderness, I read the eternal word for you to listen to.  

Our Readings are like flying kites in the day, like setting off sky lanterns at midnight.  

The Daydream Readings feature specially invited guests, including surprise guests, while the Midnight Readings allow amateurs to sign up and realize their dreams.

This year's Readings will be held at the old renovated North Silk Factory, and will feature the provocation provoking of desires and the meeting of minds.  

Daydream Readings

Programming and hosting: Shi Hang

Venue: North Silk Factory Building #4

Time:                                Theme:

Nov. 30, 16:30-17:30                      For the Me Thinking of You

Thinking of you is the best thing I can do. When I read you, the Chinese characters before my eyes turn unfamiliar, sacred, gentle, indispensable. Yes, indispensable. So, this afternoon, I'll read, for your listening pleasure, the whole of the world, each season, every road I have met swith since I left you.

Midnight Readings

Programming and Hosting: Shi Hang, Raymond Zhou

Venue: North Silk Factory Library

Time:                                  Theme:

Nov. 26, 23:45-01:30                        A Winter's Night Needs a Traveler

Reading is not a reason for us to keep to ourselves. Reading means we look forward to a traveler with a story to share, passing by or coming to visit, coming to knock on our door.  

Nov. 27, 23:45-01:30                        A Winter's Night Needs a Thick Book

Given the chance to take no orders, and to read instead, all on my own, of course I would select a thick book, which would imply I have the time for a long vacation.

Nov. 28, 23:45-01:30                        A Winter's Night Needs a Prophecy

We read with no promise of reward, yet listen closely for anything that might foretell the future. We nurture the future by listening, and build the future by talking. On this night we take a risk, and look to the future.  To look ahead, after all, is human instinct.

Nov. 29, 23:45-01:30                     A Winter's Night Needs a Closed Door

Of course we have expectations of a winter's night, but we shouldn't get caught up in the winter winds. Close the doors and windows, light the fireplace, have a book in hand, keep your friends in your heart, don't be so foolish as to open the door. Tonight, read a story close to your heart, and give it to someone you trust.

Dec. 3, 23:45-01:30                         A Winter's Night Needs A Farewell

Alright then, goodbye.

Goodbye, friend.

A predestined parting heralds a reunion just ahead.  

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