The original musical drama “Shalom Shanghai” is an experimental play that bridges Eastern and Western cultures.
Directed by award-winning American Jewish theater director Lee Breuer, whose credits include “The Gospel at Colonus” and “Dollhouse,” the play combines the styles of American theater, epic theater of Bertolt Brecht and elements of traditional Chinese music.
“American and Chinese actors will come together with the three styles,” Breuer says. “We try to make them work together.”
“Shalom Shanghai,” produced in collaboration with the Shanghai Theater Academy, will debut during the Shanghai International Arts Festival, which begins on October 18.
Shalom is a Jewish word meaning peace. It is used as a salutation upon greeting or parting.
The play is set during World War II, when more than 30,000 Jews found shelter in Shanghai after fleeing Germany’s Nazis. At a time when other countries refused to accept Jewish refugees, Shanghai became a “Noah’s Ark” in the eyes of many Jews.
This period has been depicted in many movies, documentary films and books, but it is the first time an original play has been created around this theme.
Based on a script written by William Sun, a professor with the Shanghai Theater Academy, the bilingual show portrays a love story between Jewish girl Shana and a Chinese soldier. Things become more complicated when a Japanese officer also courts Shana.
Sun says the drama’s scenes are set in a Jewish-run cafe along Suzhou Creek. It explores the intersection of Jewish refugees, Japanese officials and Chinese people co-existing in Shanghai during World War II. It also depicts the life and friendship between local people and the Jewish community during a turbulent period of history, despite differences in language and culture.
The play will be presented with Chinese and English subtitles from October 17 to 22. It is also expected to be staged elsewhere in China and eventually in other countries.
The show’s original scores are written by famous composer Eve Beglarian. Her works boast elements of Jewish folk music, European style jazz and Chinese melodies.
From October 11 to 18, Shanghai Theater Academy also presents its 7th International Experimental Theater Festival. A total of seven original dramas will be staged by well-known foreign theaters. Master classes, academic workshops and photo exhibitions will be held during the festival.