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Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warrens Profession and China's Amateur Stage


In the beginning of the 20th century, dramas of famous western playwrights such as Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw were introduced intoChinain large numbers. Encouraged by the ideology of democracy and science, many progressive young people were against the traditional drama and promoted commercialized civilized new drama and amateur stage (Amateur means non-professional). Chinese dramatic circle was greatly influenced by George Bernard Shaw at the time, including Hong Shen, one of the founding fathers ofChina's modern drama.

In 1920, Bernard Shaw'sMrs. Warren's Professionwas staged inShanghai. For this commercial performance, Wang Youyou put in a lot of energy and money. However, the performance met with utter failure unexpectedly. This started a discussion among the dramatic circle.

It was Wang Youyou who put forward the theory of amateur stage. He thought that, with the intrusion of commercial force in drama, dramatic performances tended to lay one-sided emphasis on profitability to the harm of art; and it had disengaged with the mass and national characteristics. For this, he planned to imitate the western "amateur" and the Japanese "dramatic performance by ordinary people" by organizing a non-profit troupe. His plan was implemented in the following year: upon his proposal, the Shanghai People Drama Society was founded, the first modern Chinese drama troupe ever established since May the Fourth Movement.

Later, the Amateur Stage Movement also spread toPekingUniversity,TsinghuaUniversity,YankingUniversity,NankaiUniversityand some middle schools. Troupes sponsored by universities, colleges and schools emerged one after another like bamboo shoot after a spring rain.

Amateur stage emerged under the following situation: first, it is used for reference the anti-commercial, dramatic art-centered approach; second, it drew lessons from civilized drama which attached great importance to profit- making and thus neglected artistic treatment; third, it reviewed the failure of performing Bernard Shaw'sMrs. Warren' Profession.

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