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Penghao's passion play

Updated: 2013-07-10 10:58
By Chen Yingqun ( China Daily)

Penghao's passion play

Wang Xiang sees drama as a beautiful necklace, and says that in Beijing that necklace is broken.

"In the West, small theaters are an important part of the city culture. Whether in New York, Paris or London, there are hundreds of small private theaters that provide stage opportunities for many young playwrights and good plays that don't follow commercial rules. I want to bring this kind of opportunity to China."

There are still fewer than 10 private theaters in Beijing, one in Shanghai and none in other cities, he says.

His has staged more than 150 plays with about 1,600 performances - a fifth of which were in English. It has also hosted six drama festivals and staged plays from overseas.

Penghao's passion play

"We accept all creative forms of art with rich literary and aesthetic connotations that reflect rational thinking. Also, they have to be vivid."

Critic Tong Daoming says he was unable to find a venue that would stage two of his plays for almost a decade, until he met Wang.

"Most theaters in China are very commercialized. I wouldn't expect them to accept my plays," he says.

"Penghao's slogan is 'to pursue literature and elegance', so I brought them here."

Wang is a regular attendee of drama festivals around the world.

Through this, he met Japanese director Makoto Sato, who is running a workshop at Penghao.

"Penghao Theater is small, but for me, only these kinds of small independent theaters create a close relationship between the performers and audience, and help us to form close communication with young Chinese artists," he says.

Penghao charges a maximum of 120 yuan ($20) per ticket, and mostly attracts young workers, students and expatriates.

Wang provides free stages for plays in which he has faith. He makes cash by splitting ticket revenue equally among the theater and crew.

"We want to show plays with real dramatic artistic qualities," he says.

"It's not about profit. We don't do anything without relation to real art."

Wang has received between 300,000 yuan and 400,000 yuan annually from the district government. But he still loses about 2,000 yuan a day and employs four paid staff members. Others work voluntarily.

Wang splits his time between two worlds - his dental clinics in the morning and Penghao in the afternoon.

Last year, he had a coronary bypass, but that didn't stop his pursuit of independent theater.

"It has been very difficult to continue my dream, but I never think of giving up. I'm very proud this small theater has staged so many wonderful dramas."

Now he hopes for more funding.

"I believe things will be different in three to five years, so I need to be persistent and look forward to that."

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