The EighthDay Theater Club, the only Chinese theater club in the Northwest, presented an original play called “The Butterfly Lovers” this weekend. The show, the second since the club’s inception, took place Friday and Saturday at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts and was inspired by Chinese folklore.
The play is divided into two parts, the first set in the ancient world and the second set in the modern world. The older half is based on the Chinese legend “The Butterfly Lovers”, a tragic story of two lovers unable to be together due to social barriers of class and gender. The modern half depicts a socially approved couple who come up against conflicting values and passions.
Communications junior Jonyca Jiao, the play’s director and one of the four screenwriters, said the two stories invite audiences to question love-related conflicts and whether marriage is the ultimate solution. .
Unlike the club’s first performance, the play will be performed in English. Because the legend is well known in China, Jiao said the club wanted to appeal to a wider non-Chinese audience.
“Our community knows the ‘butterfly lovers’ story very well – that’s what we grew up listening to and learning about,” Jiao said. “It would be interesting to see how non-Chinese students or teachers come in and feel the contrast between the two worlds we’ve created.”
Weinberg junior Vicky Wei, who plays Zhu Yingtai in the play, said that while the decision to perform in English was made to broaden the audience’s reach, it presented unique challenges.
As a non-theatre student and an international student from China, she said acting in her non-native language added an extra layer of difficulty.
“I felt very stressed because my character has a very sad story, so I found it difficult to perform on stage, especially because I don’t have many gestures or movements on stage,” Wei said. “Sometimes when I’m sitting there and reciting my lines, I find it hard not to use the tones up and down to express my emotion.”
Weinberg’s junior Annie Chen, who plays Lin Yanfei, expressed similar concerns. Although she co-wrote several plays in high school, she never starred.
However, as a co-writer, she said she hoped writing dialogue would help her develop her acting skills and her portrayal of characters on stage.
“Acting in itself is a challenge whether it’s Chinese or English,” Chen said. “You have to be in a character that is not necessarily yourself and become familiar with all the dynamics and the relationships that she has with the other characters.”
As the club’s only acting major, Jiao stepped back from acting to direct and co-write her first adaptation. She said she and the other writers struggled to write the older half in formal English.
Because the other three writers also starred in the play, it helped them differentiate their roles as actors and playwrights. However, being involved with a crew and actors from similar backgrounds united by a passion for acting has bonded the whole club together, Chen said.
“We’re a smaller team than a professional theater production, but I think they’re all very talented people,” Chen said. “I take inspiration from them and am amazed at how much work we can get done in six weeks, as we have less staff, but the same level of responsibility.”
Jiao said she noticed the growth in her cast and crew, which she says illustrates why she originally founded the EighthDay Theater Club. She said she wanted to create a space where international Chinese students who are not majoring in theater could find a comfortable place to express their passions.
“I always see theater as a place of inclusivity, so it should form a sense of community and belonging,” Jiao said. “We only have seven days a week, so we’ve created this imaginative day so people can really free their minds of anxiety and stress and come to this community to purely share their passions for acting, performing and be together. ”
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