Marking its 10th anniversary, the Wuzhen Theater Festival made a grand comeback on October 19. The enthusiasm surrounding the event was palpable, with tickets for the entire run, which lasts until October 29, getting snapped up within a mere thirty minutes.
The festival, fittingly themed “Rising,” has become an all-encompassing platform for global theatrical talents. From mesmerizing parades and installations to modern art displays, improvisational acts, physical theater, dance routines, and even avant-garde theatricals, attendees were spoilt for choice.
As part of the grand lineup, the festival featured 28 spectacular productions spanning 11 different countries and regions. In total, there were 87 performances across 12 distinct artistic categories. Moreover, traditional intangible cultural heritage such as Sichuan opera, Kunqu opera, Qin opera, Lüju opera, and puppetry also graced the stages, providing festival-goers a taste of China’s rich cultural history.
With the pandemic receding, the festival witnessed a resurgence of Specially Invited Plays. These included 14 performances from countries like Germany, Austria, Poland, India, Italy, Belgium, France, Brazil, Japan, and the UK. Many international participants compared the festival to a “utopia” of theatrical creativity, a realm where the lines between reality and fantasy blur.
The festival’s opening ceremony was highlighted by “H – 100 seconds to midnight,” a production directed by the acclaimed American theater maestro Robert Wilson. The 82-year-old Wilson also mingled with the attendees, emphasizing the festival’s essence of unity across cultures.
Tom Till, the show’s managing director, drew parallels between the Wuzhen Theater Festival and the Festival d’Avignon in France, remarking how the Chinese perspective added a unique flavor and could inspire other global events.
Deepan Sivaraman, who directed the Indian drama “Peer Gynt,” was particularly smitten by the backdrop of Wuzhen’s old town. He lauded the town’s scenic beauty and believed the festival’s setting could propel it to be among the world’s most significant theatrical events. Sivaraman also praised the Chinese audience’s deep involvement, interpreting their lingering presence post-performance as a sign of genuine appreciation.
With its inclusion of China’s intangible cultural heritage, the Wuzhen Theater Festival indeed carves a niche for itself in the global theater landscape. Lu Yaping highlighted the richness and allure of traditional cultural elements and emphasized their relevance in today’s times.
The festival, touted as one of Asia’s most influential, has consistently elevated its standards. Stefan Christ, a recurring festival participant, observed the ever-increasing quality of the invited productions over the past decade. Meanwhile, Huang Lei and Meng Jinghui, the festival’s co-founders, envisions a brighter future for theaters in China and hope to make the Wuzhen Theater Festival a global benchmark.