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Allthe Town’s a Stage


Visitors arriving in Wuzhen this May found the Zhejiang water town particularly dramatic. They enjoyed plays in a time-honored theater, attended seminars and workshops led by renowned dramatists, soaked up outdoor carnivals featuring artists from near and far, and witnessed the contrast of modern drama against the backdrop of an ancient town. On May 9, the Inaugural Wuzhen Theater Festival, packed with international theater greats, kicked off at Xizha of Wuzhen. The festival consisted of three major parts: “invitational plays,” “young talent competition,” and “outdoor carnival.” Over 11 days, six internationally acclaimed plays, 12 competing dramas from young artists, and more than 500 outdoor performances were staged in Wuzhen.

This year’s theme of “Reflect” alluded to the idea that “drama reflects the colors of life while life reflects the changes of drama.” The sponsor explained that the festival was meant to reflect juxtapositions in arts from China and beyond, modernity and tradition, fact and fiction, as well as ordinary spectators and theatrical masters. Renowned Taiwanese playwright and stage director Stan Lai expected to see not only communication between past and present, but also sparks between East and West. 

Masters and Masterpieces

Actor & co-founder of Wuzhen Theater Festival, Huang Lei first visited Wuzhen in 2002 to shoot a TV series. “It was already dusk when I arrived,” he recalls. “The alleys were tranquil and many households were cooking - smoke curling up from kitchens. Everything seemed so familiar. I felt I belonged.” In 2007, he began to plan a theater festival for Wuzhen. He quickly bounced the idea off Chen Xianghong, president of Culture Wuzhen Co. Ltd., who would later become co-founder of Wuzhen Theater Festival. Soon, experimental theatre director Meng Jinghui and award-winning Taiwanese playwright Stan Lai were on board, and the team spent several years making the dream a reality.

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