Home » English-Language Theatre » A Playhouse in Beijing/北京剧场——全英文戏剧的私人剧院

A Playhouse in Beijing/北京剧场——全英文戏剧的私人剧院

By Don Frantz

Anyone working in the theater has, at one time, done it for free and possibly remembers it as their BEST time in the theater. For me, it was at Harrisburg Community Theater. For others, its Beijing Playhouse, the outpost for classic plays and musicals in the English language – just 14 hours away on a nonstop United flight from Newark. Doing anything in China is not easy, but getting to opening night of a musical of volunteers takes the cake, especially back in 2006, when the foreign crowd was small and most Beijingers were asking, “What is musical?”

There are others who have built a theatrical outpost in a foreign land dedicated to tap dance, pratfalls and jazz hands like Tokyo International Players and Bangkok Community Theater. It was in Nairobi, Kenya in 2003 where Chris Verrill saw a production that inspired the idea and the nerve to start Beijing Playhouse. Chris remembers that night 12 years ago fondly, “The show was “Run for your Wife” performed in an old hotel. When the show was over, we came out on the street and realized we were in the middle of the red-light district.”

Since his first production of “A Christmas Carol” in 2006, Chris has inspired, coaxed and coerced foreign corporate executives, teachers, and students to volunteer their passion and talent to steadily grow the Playhouse. Now joining the expats are many Chinese locals working to produce two shows a year. Among the memorable productions have been Guys and Dolls, Odd Couple, I Do, I Do, and You Can’t Take it With You.
Chris usually finds a home at one of the foreign schools, such as the British School of Beijing, which provides the theater space. Corporations like Lehman Brown, an international accounting firm, The Beijinger, an English magazine, and Element Fresh, a restaurant chain, have added their support. These companies see the value of an English-speaking theater to help their employees and families adjust to life in Beijing.
Today the theater also finds actors, volunteers, and ticket buyers from the Chinese population. Over the years the public appetite for movies and theater has grown. It still does not compete with karaoke and mahjong in attendance, but some locals have discovered the passion for theater. Others find it the most entertaining way to practice their English. Whatever the reason, the theater now runs 50/50 between foreign and Chinese participation. To encourage more Chinese attendance, all performances feature subtitles, which about 15% of the audience requires to fully enjoy the play.
An educational outreach program turned into Kids Theater Camp, which has actually become profitable enough to help pay for the staff, directors, music directors, sets and costumes. From Chris’s point of view every person on the stage brings in more ticket buyers. This is especially true in the kids’ programs for ages 6 – 14, where parents and grandparents will visit the box office to see the family’s sole child sing and dance.
Like any producer, Chris has memorable productions and memorable actors – like Karen McKinnie, a lawyer. She received an offer to head to China and called ahead to the Beijing Playhouse. Chris told the tale, “She asked for the dates of all the auditions and the performances. She flew into Beijing the day before auditions for Guys and Dolls. She landed the part of Nicely Nicely Johnson, rewritten for an alto. She was great and a couple of days after the show closed, she ended her job and moved on to another country, and probably another role.”

Actors do come and go, but a lot stay in Beijing, the cultural capital of China. Since the Playhouse had the longest list of English-speaking actors in Beijing, they put it to use and created a talent agency. Suddenly, the neighborhood playhouse was on the call list of Chinese and Hollywood studios. Actors landed parts in Will Smith’s “Karate Kid.” This year’s production is the soon-to-be-released “Skiptrace” by Jackie Chan. That doesn’t happen in Harrisburg!

So if you want an interesting vacation plying your craft, or if you are going to work in Beijing and wonder what’s more fun than a foot massage, check out the Beijing Playhouse. Chris is finishing up his 8th season with THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) which will actually tour Beijing, Tianjin and Shenzhen. Crew positions are still open!
Check out www.beijingplayhouse.com

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文:董方思  翻译:王斯文

很多人可能都会有为剧场免费工作的经历,这还很可能是他们一生中最快乐的时光。对于我而言,哈里斯堡社区剧院就是这样一个快乐天堂。对于其他人而言,也许是北京剧场——英文音乐剧和古典戏剧的前哨岗,它是在北京推出的全英文剧演出的一家私人剧院。我认为北京剧场是全世界最好的社区剧院之一,如今有了志愿者的参与让音乐剧的成功制作变的更加容易。记得在2006年音乐剧在中国才刚刚起步的时候,无数北京人民会问:“什么是音乐剧?

近年来,还有一些其他的团体致力于在异乡创造踢踏舞和爵士的前沿基地,例如东京国际戏剧和曼谷社区剧院。2003年在肯尼亚的内罗毕,北京剧院的执行总监克里斯曾经看到过一部剧,而恰恰是这部剧激发了它建立北京剧场的灵感。那是12年前的一个夜晚,在一家旧酒店上演的那部《奔向你老婆》在克里斯的脑海里留下了极为深刻的记忆。“当表演结束以后,我们走出酒店发现自己就站在红灯区的中央。”

在克里斯制作的第一部剧《圣诞颂歌》在2006年成功上演之后,克里斯激发、激励了外国企业高管、老师和学生,将他们的热情和才华志愿投入到北京剧场的成长中。如今,加入到北京剧场志愿服务中的本土中国人也越来越多。在这几年中令人最印象深刻的剧目有《红男绿女》、《单身公寓》、《我情我愿》、《浮生若梦》等。

克里斯常常在一些北京的外国学校找到演出场地,例如北京英国学校。此外,例如雷博国际会计等跨国公司,英文杂志《北京人》以及新元素连锁餐厅都为北京剧场提供了帮助,因为这些公司发现英语戏剧的上演,对于帮助外籍人士适应北京生活有着重要的意义和价值。

如今,北京剧院也吸纳了很多中国本土演员、志愿者以及购票观众。多年以来,公众对于电影和戏剧的需求逐渐增长。虽然这远不及中国人民对于麻将和卡拉ok的热爱,但是人们对于戏剧的关注与热情却也难以忽视。有些人发现看英语戏剧是练习英文的一个极佳途径。不论出于何种原因,现在观众的比例已经转变为一半外籍人士一半为本土中国观众。为了吸引更多的中国观众,所有的演出都配有字幕。

一个在学校假期期间举办的儿童戏剧教育项目所产生的盈利也在一定程度上资助了北京剧场,直接施惠于员工、导演、音乐总监、布景以及服装。在克里斯看来,每一个站在舞台上的演员都会带来可观的购票观众。这在儿童教育项目上体现的尤为明显,这个项目里包括6-14岁的孩子,他们的父母家人和朋友都会为了看他们孩子的演出而买票支持。

正像每一位制作人一样,克里斯有着令人难忘的制作和演员——例如凯伦×麦金尼,一位律师。她接到了前往中国的邀请,并打电话给北京剧场。克里斯描述着这个传奇故事:“她询问了所有试镜和表演的日期,在《红男绿女》试镜的前一天赶到了北京。她最终得到了奈斯莉 约翰逊这个角色,并为她改写为女中音。她表现的相当精彩,在演出结束的之后几天,她辞掉了她的工作并且搬到了另一个国家,继续尝试着更多的角色。

演员们总是来来去去。但是他们之中的大多数还是会留在北京——中国的艺术文化中心。因为北京剧场在北京拥有最多的外语演员,因此他们充分利用这一优势将北京剧场打造成了一个人才机构。一时间,北京剧院突然被加到了中国和好莱坞制片厂的通话清单中。其中有的演员被选入威尔×史密斯的《功夫梦》中担任角色,今年还有演员被选入即将出品的成龙的新片《绝地逃亡》担纲角色。在这一点上,哈里斯堡剧院都没有能够做到!

如果你渴望一个充实的假期来施展你的才华,或者如果你想要在北京工作,敬请关注北京剧院! 克里斯刚刚完成了第八季《莎士比亚全集》(删减版),这让公司拥有了可以在北京、天津和深圳巡演的机会。职位仍旧开放! www.beijingplayhouse.com

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