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The name of the Beijing-based stage director Meng Jinghui ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), for the past fifteen years, has been associated with "avant-garde" theatre in mainland China (generally called Pioneer Theatre in Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], also referred to as Experimental Theatre or Small Theatre) and the 40-year-old is considered as one of the most influential figures in China's theatrical circles. Last March, his multimedia musical drama "Amber" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), co-produced by China National Drama Theater and Hong Kong Arts Festival in association with the Singapore Arts Festival, had its premiere at the Grand Theatre in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and turned out to be an unexpected hit. In spite of his original intension to explore something new in every new production, Meng Jinghui seemed to disappoint some of his fans. They failed to find anything really new in "Amber" except for the joining of the two acclaimed movie stars, claiming that it was more a continuation rather than a breakthrough, that it was no more than another "Rhinoceros in Love" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), which was Meng's first commercial success six years before. Without breakthrough and with its increasing popularity, what is Meng Jinghui doing in this field called Experimental Theatre? Is experimental theatre being assimilated into pop culture? Has it been commercialized? And what makes Meng Jinghui a pioneer without excelling himself? The definition of Experimental Theatre given in Wikipedia is: "... general term for various movements in Western theatre that began in the 20th century as a reaction against the then-dominant conventions governing the writing and production of drama, and against naturalism in particular. The term has shifted over time as the mainstream theatre world has adopted many forms that were once considered radical. It is used more or less interchangeably with the term avant-garde theatre". According to Henry Zhao ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], 2000), Experimental Theatre (2) is generally defined in the west as non-mainstream, non-box-office-comfortable, non-institutional and not usual. It seems that commercialization and mainstream culture have been the opposite of experimental theatre. From the emergence of Off-Broadway in New York since 1950s, to Off-Off Broadway then Off Off-Off Broadway, we can see the persistent endeavor of Experimental Theatre against officially controlled or commercialized mass culture. However, what is called Experimental Theatre in China, from the very beginning to its sensational success and social impact caused by Meng Jinghui, seems to be a little different. Unlike experimental theatre in Hong Kong, where it has always been at the cultural margins (for example, the experimental cutting edge maintained by the company. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] since founded in 1982), Experimental Theatre in China, started with the Experimental Theatre Movement in early 1980s, was not totally "small theatre". The plays staged during the ten years of the Movement, including Gao Xingjian's ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) "Absolute Signal" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]), "Bus stop" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]) etc., were almost all staged by state-run companies with large audiences. Those plays were labeled experimental in the sense that they employed new techniques such as "absence of division into acts or scenes", "theatricism" and anything that had not previously seen. This brought about an unprecedented change in modern Chinese drama by diversifying the simplistic performing mode. The years 1984-1987 saw the peak of the Movement but soon reached its end, mainly due to the fact that it had been contented to enjoy its success and new techniques lost their originality, while political cause acted as a catalyst of its sudden death (Zhao, 2000). Toward the beginning of 1990s, in order to enjoy more freedom of theatrical creation, some e

1 September
Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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