Making the stage his own

Updated 2017-05-24 16:30:28 China Daily
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Playground, directed by Cui Hao, is performed by students from Peking University.

Playground, directed by Cui Hao, is performed by students from Peking University.

Jin Shifei, then a freshman majoring in computer science and technology at Tsinghua University, walked by the student canteen and was intrigued by groups of students handing out brochures about different campus clubs to recruit new members.

"I was attracted by the students of the drama club immediately because their voices were much louder than those of the other students," recalls Jin.

He joined the drama club and started from scratch to learn about theater. Recalling his first experience with drama, he says that it was full of surprises.

"Before university, I had no idea about what I was going to do in the future. With the drama club, I discovered a passion for the arts and decided to pursue drama as a lifelong career," says Jin.

That was back in 2005. Jin is now 29 and working with renowned Chinese theater director Tian Qinxin. But over the past decade, Jin has become a major promoter of his old drama club-the Tsinghua drama troupe established in the 1920s.

Jin also founded Tsinghua Student Drama Association in 2014, a campus club for students who love original Chinese drama.

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A scene from Our Middle Summer Night's Dream, written and directed by Jin Shifei, is performed by students from Tsinghua University.

A scene from Our Middle Summer Night's Dream, written and directed by Jin Shifei, is performed by students from Tsinghua University.

Before Jin graduated from Tsinghua University in 2013 with a master's degree in computer science and technology, he worked on 18 plays along with other club members, focusing on several different subjects, such as environment protection and campus love stories.

"Campus dramas are the future of Chinese theater. The drama club, which is a form of art education, nourishes students' interest in drama and offers them opportunities to perform onstage, to express their thinking, to enlighten both themselves and the audience," says Jin, who recently gave a speech at a theater forum in Beijing.

He says original works best showcase the talents of amateur actors, scriptwriters and directors. In June, Jin will lead students of Tsinghua University to participate in the original script writing competition held by Mai-Drama, a theater-promotion company that sponsored the forum.

Born in Wuhan, Hubei province, Jin formerly was a math teacher at a training school in Beijing. In 2016, he directed the original drama Lost and Found, which was performed and produced by Tsinghua University students; it won the top award at that year's Gold Hedgehog College Students' Theater Festival held in Beijing. The award gave Jin confidence to work as a director. This year, he also starts working with Wuzhen Theater Festival, a major annual event launched in 2013.

Fan Xinying, the manager of Beijing Nine Theater, who helped launch the annual Gold Hedgehog College Students' Theater Festival since 2001, says more than 1,300 drama clubs from over 1,100 universities across China had participated in the theater festival until 2016.

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Jin Shifei, playwright/director.

Jin Shifei, playwright/director.

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