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Classic Dragon Child performance enchants in San Jose

By Chang Jun | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-10-16 23:17

As there seem to be no signs of a quick remedy to the lingering trade frictions between China and the US, and collaborations in other areas remain stagnant, the importance of people-to-people exchanges through culture becomes increasingly prominent in terms of strengthening mutual understanding and spreading goodwill.

My faith in the role of culture in bolstering communications among individuals of various backgrounds is unswerving. It was actually reconfirmed on Friday night through a Chinese children's drama called The Dragon Child.

At the City National Civic in San Jose — the high-tech, innovation hub of America and beyond — an audience of more than 1,300 people of mixed cultures and ethnicities packed the theater, bursting into cheers throughout the 80-minute show in appreciation of the intriguing plot twists, powerful acting performances and dazzling integration of animation, puppetry and scenery.

The Dragon Child tells a story of growth, mutual learning and peaceful co-existence. The 12 animals of the zodiac – the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig – like guardian angels have taught the child not only practical skills but love and caring. When the industrial revolution threatens the natural home of the child and the animals, they decide to work as a team to recover the vitality and vigor of a harmonious ecosystem to shield everyone.

A children's drama classic that was produced by the China National Theatre for Children (CNTC), China's leading art troupe specializing in theatrical performances for the youth since 1956, The Dragon Child has been on numerous international tours and is world famous.

With the help of the late Chinese leader Soong Ching-ling (1893-1981), wife of China's modern political revolution forerunner Dr Sun Yet-sen (1866-1925), CNTC owns many household-name masterpieces, including Malan Flower, The Young Guards, Yue Yun and others.

Xu Li, who played the child, is the mother of a 3-year-old boy. "My son has inspired me in many ways to better represent the character trait of curiosity," she said.

In the drama, the dragon child tries to grab the tail and lick the scales of the snake when the two meet. "I borrowed the action of licking from my son because that was what he would do to explore a novel, strange item."

Being a mom has enriched "my understanding of the show and helped me be able to convey a stronger message regarding the relationship between human beings and nature," Xu added.

The efforts of Xu and her fellow cast members paid off. Clapping and cheering, 10-year-old Nathan Han joined a theaterwide chorus of appreciation. "I like how the horse gallops, the tiger roars and the snake wags her tail. The monkey turning three somersaults in a row is amazing, too."

Douglas Whipple, principal at the John Gomes Elementary School in the Fremont Unified School District, shared his experience of exploring foreign cultures and learning from other ethnicities on Friday with the audience, many of whom were children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Whipple recalled how he celebrated his birthday, which falls around the Chinese Lunar New Year, with Asian-American parents and students in his school around the theme of Chinese festival customs and rituals. It's very informative and a learning experience, he said.

However, the road to bringing American theatergoers a "learning experience" is way too bumpy, said Zhao Hanbing, vice-president of CNTC, who flew with her team to San Francisco on Oct 10, rushed to the theater to inspect the equipment and has worked like a whirlwind schedule ever since.

"At the beginning, our entire team was not able to make visa appointments, as the procedure requires, through the US Embassy in Beijing," said Zhao. "After we had made strenuous efforts and got our visas in early October, we were informed that we were losing the reserved theater in Cupertino for our performances scheduled on Oct 12 and 13."

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com

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