This year marks the 110th anniversary since modern drama was introduced to China. An irresistible force, modern drama enlightened people and had a great influence during the decades after it was introduced. China has embraced a bulk of brilliant artists, performance groups and excellent original works, such as Thunderstorm, Beijing Folks and Teahouse. Government entities are supporting culture and the arts through a series of policies intended to promote the development of modern drama and foster diverse kinds of performances.
A number of policies and measures encourage the creativity of drama workers and the vitality of the performance market. At the same time, some creators of drama are driven primarily by the pursuit of profit and neglect artistic aspects. This explains the lack of insightful works with national characteristics even though a large number of performances are staged across China. The huge progress made in stage design, acting and direction fails to compensate for the poverty of spiritual meaning.
Drama often mirrors society, reflecting the living situation and human emotions. The drama circle has undergone unprecedented ups and downs under the influence of the market economy, globalization and the growing entertainment industry. As a result, the development circumstances of and public tastes in drama have greatly shifted. There is an overemphasis on box office returns and audience ratings while utilitarianism impacts production, authors and audience.
A number of original works excessively emphasize novelty of superficial forms to the detriment of connotation and essence. Some other works are rushed into production despite the obvious shortcomings in scripts. There is also frequent irrational investment. In most cases, fancy stage design stands in sharp contrast with empty and mediocre scripts that have no features of stage performances.
It is pointless to utilize new technologies or methods in dramas, when the plays themselves lack spiritual exploration or insight. Dramas of this kind are destined to be forgotten and eliminated in a short time. It is increasingly urgent to return to simplicity and highlight spiritual connotation of script writing and drama performance with the advent of new stage technologies.
Art needs technique, but it acquires greater depth in the realm of emotion. The conflicts and choices of characters in dramas will not ring true if writers have no heartfelt impulse to create. Attitudes toward writing decide artistic performance of works to a large extent. Dedication and integrity are the prerequisite and guarantee of any form of growth and development. Works will lack creativity and ideology if authors only compose by focusing on the event itself or compiling materials. In this way, they tend to tell a story or document a period of life with an emphasis on phenomena while ignoring the root cause. The writing fails to shape unique characters, explore human hearts or reflect on special emotions.
The improvement of drama cannot be accomplished in a short time span. The aspiration for perfection can curb stiff, stereotypical writing, so that the works can penetrate through external forms all the way to human hearts and realize internal strength of drama creativity. Only when playwrights voluntarily resist various temptations from external circumstances and pay more attention to spiritual exploration, can the potential and vitality of Chinese drama be stimulated.
Hu Wei is a professor from the Central Academy of Drama.