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Stage Play 'Teahouse on River Street' Portraying Chongqing Spirit through Local People's Tales

By SHIHAN YANG|Mar 25,2024

On the evening of March 22, the dialect stage play Teahouse on River Street, produced by Chongqing Drama Arts Center, returned to the Kangjiantang Theater in Chongqing. The venue was packed with eager spectators, enthusiastic applause, and the successful premiere of the 2024 revised edition.

In January 2010, this stage play made its successful debut at the Kangjiantang Theater and went on to tour nationwide. After a seven-year hiatus, the play returned to the Kangjiantang Theater for the revamped premiere. A group of 22 talented performers collaborated to interpret the local story and the spirit of Chongqing through the local dialect.

Stage photo of "Teahouse on River Street." (Photo/ Chongqing Drama Arts Center)

People's epic interpreting a war-torn era

The Teahouse on River Street depicts an old Chongqing tale using pure Chongqing dialect. Through a distinctive theatrical lens, it articulates the local people's secular demeanor and diverse life experiences under specific historical conditions. By presenting a more lively Chongqing portrayal from the people's perspective, it exemplifies the resilient and unyielding humanistic character of the people of Chongqing, showcasing their perseverance and unwavering spirit.

Set in Chongqing during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, the play unfolds at a teahouse on River Street, capturing local people's daily struggles and lifestyles while narrating the old tales of River Street. Set against the backdrop of the Chongqing air raids, the play focuses on the tea house proprietress and the regular customers who frequent the establishment. Despite enduring the agony of bombings, teetering on the brink of death, and grappling with the harsh realities of life, they remain inherently kind and optimistic. Throughout the trials of the nation's destiny, they exemplify the essence of national pride and the spirit of Chongqing.

Stage photo of "Teahouse on River Street." (Photo/ Chongqing Drama Arts Center)

The play is akin to a sketch, depicting the distinct individuals within the varied population, capturing the essence of the daily lives of the lower-class residents in wartime Chongqing. It showcases their contemplations and decisions amidst the imminent collapse of society and the nation, portraying the challenges faced by the people during perilous times. With 22 characters, each possessing a unique dialectal name and personality, the play depicts the diverse traits of the residents of old Chongqing. While they exhibit individual characteristics, they all embody the unwavering spirit of standing firm during times of national crisis, reflecting the enduring Chongqing essence that supports the endangered society. This play's diverse ensemble of characters gives it a unique historical significance.

Interwoven regional and folk traditions

Using a 360° rotating suspended house set design, the Teahouse on River Street impeccably showcases old Chongqing's architectural style and urban ambiance. This production seamlessly intertwines the globally influential work songs of the Yangtze boat trackers and Bayu regional opera, highlighting the oral and intangible cultural heritage on the verge of fading away. The production strives to prompt a deep interest in regional culture, the preservation of national heritage, and the resurgence of humanistic values. The closing theme song was specially composed by a composer combining Sichuan Yangqin and Sichuan Qingyin, both of which are typical local intangible cultural heritage projects.

Classic restaging with eternal reverence

In an interview, Zhang Jian, President of Chongqing Drama Arts Center, which produces the Teahouse on River Street, highlighted the theater's commitment to original works and innovative adaptations of classics to bring more classic productions to the stage. The Teahouse on River Street not only delves deeper into the unique personalities and resilient spirit of Chongqing locals but also allows the audience to reconnect with the heroic struggles in wartime, urging us to remember history and embrace self-improvement.

The audience was watching the "Teahouse on River Street." (Photo/ Chongqing Drama Arts Center)

After the performance, the audience conveyed their deep emotional responses to the play, experiencing awe and resonance—"A two-hour play that is truly exceptional." "I was profoundly moved; in the face of adversity, we, as a nation, are all striving to embody the resilient spirit of the Chinese people and our unwavering national pride!" "Though portraying ordinary individuals, it reveals their profound patriotism."

After its revival premiere on March 22, the dialect stage play Teahouse on River Street has commenced regular performances. It is set to enchant audiences every Saturday and during significant holidays. People are welcome to enter the theater and immerse themselves in this Chongqing tale crafted exclusively for the locals.


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