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The language of cooperation

By Li YIngxue | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-16 07:46

The Foreign Language Festival features a series of activities, including culturally themed mood board design (pictured) and quiz games. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In April, Zhuo Yue performed his original musical drama, Goodbye Zoo, for the second time at his alma mater, Xiamen Foreign Language School, in Xiamen, Fujian province. Thirteen years ago, Zhuo, then a student at the school, first played in the musical, for which he wrote five songs.

This time, though, the 28-year-old, who is now studying composition at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, was conducting the orchestra for the play. It was one of the dramas at a gala performance featuring the highlights of the Foreign Language Festival that had been held at the school from March 29 through April.

This year's festival was held under the theme-"language connects the world, wisdom lights future"-with a series of activities, including drama performances, speaking competitions and culturally themed mood board design.

Goodbye Zoo tells a story about animals in a zoo wanting freedom and their relationship with the zookeeper. The debut in 2008 was met with such acclaim that Zhuo and his schoolmates performed the musical at the city's television station. That experience also planted a musical seed in Zhuo's mind.

After he finished his bachelor's degree in economics in the UK, he decided to pursue a master's in composition.

A gala performance featuring theater plays performed by students is a highlight of the Foreign Language Festival in Xiamen, Fujian province. The annual event, hosted by
Xiamen Foreign Language School, offers a platform for the youngsters to show off their talent. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhuo returned to Xiamen due to the pandemic last year. At an alumni event, he was invited to help restage Goodbye Zoo at this year's foreign language festival. He helped students adapt the original story and collaborated with them to write two new songs for the musical.

Zhuo says the school's orchestra has continued to develop over the past decade, so the orchestra for the musical this time around was much stronger with the piano, violin, cello as well as a student playing percussion instruments.

"I want to bring this kind of inspiration to future students," says Chen Jinying, head of English language instruction at the school and organizer of the festival, when referring to Zhuo.

When Goodbye Zoo was staged, Chen walked to the back row of the theater to better immerse herself into the music and drama. She says she was moved by the performance.

Chen has been teaching at the school since 1998 and has witnessed the development of the festival, which started in 2006. Around 2,000 students took part in this year's festival.

As well as Zhuo's Goodbye Zoo, the gala performance also featured a dozen original or adapted three-act English dramas, such as Forever Young, Mr Donkey and Friends, as well as the German-language Thunderstorm, all lasting from 10 to 12 minutes each.

Chen and her team members helped the students with their lines. All other work, from costumes and props to light and sound, was done by the students. Chen says that by doing research on the figures and stories of their respective dramas, students learned more about different cultures.

Chen also asked the students to design posters of their plays so that the audience would get an idea of what to expect ahead of the show.

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