Tickets on Sale July 11 For HK Phil's A DREAM LIKE A DREAM
"In a story, someone had a dream. In that Dream, someone told a story." A Dream Like a Dream is one of the most celebrated Chinese theatrical masterworks of the 21st century. It was conceived and created by Stan Lai, who recently became the first Chinese theatre professional inducted into the Sibiu Walk of Fame at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Romania's pre-eminent performing arts event. In 2002, the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre was the first professional company to mount A Dream Like a Dream, winning Best Overall Performance, Best Costume Design and Best Supporting Actor (Tragedy/Drama) at the 12th Hong Kong Drama Awards. After a hiatus of 17 years, the HKRep produces this work anew, co-directed by Stan Lai and HKRep Assistant Artistic Director Fung Wai Hang, with special guests Louisa So, three-time Hong Kong Drama Award Best Actor Poon Chan Leung and ViuTV series star Cecilia Choi from My Very Short Marriage leading a 30-member cast of HKRep company members and other outstanding local actors. The production runs from July 28th to September 8th at The Box, Freespace, Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District. On July 11th, a limited number of tickets will be available for sale for the preview performance (July 27th) and the production run from URBTIX outlets and the West Kowloon Cultural District.
The story of A Dream Like a Dream begins with a recently graduated doctor and her terminally ill "Patient No.5", whose tale encompasses complicated relationships and emotions. The plot unfolds across time and space, alternating between reality and dreamscape. After a journey through a life, the story returns to where it all began.
Playwright and director Stan Lai fashioned tales and vignettes encountered in his travels into a 29-page synopsis that later became the script A Dream Like a Dream, which unfolds over nearly eight hours. The cast of 30-plus actors perform more than a hundred roles, bringing the audience into a story spanning East and West, ancient and modern. This is a rare opportunity to see the theatrical experience shine a light on itself. According to Stan Lai, "the presentation style of A Dream Like a Dream attempts to restore some of theatre's 'ritualistic' form and function ... If the theatre can connect with the important function of a ritual, then there's transformation. But what is there to 'transform'? What do we transform from and transform to? There are no clear answers, so perhaps we shouldn't even present any clear answer. But after attending A Dream Like a Dream, many of our audience members did experience a certain sense of transformation that has transferred into their daily lives."
A Dream Like a Dream was presented for the first time by a professional company-the HKRep-in 2002. Fredric Mao, the company's then Artistic Director, invited Stan Lai to Hong Kong to direct the work. After 17 years, the play returns to the Hong Kong stage. Co-director Fung Wai Hang states, "That the HKRep can produce A Dream Like a Dream anew, and to perform it at the brand new 'Freespace' at the West Kowloon Cultural District, presents our entire team with difficulties and challenges. Yet this is also an occasion we all welcome. I'm honoured to be working with Stan Lai in directing this modern classic that is the pride of the Chinese theatrical world. A Dream Like a Dream has an irresistible charm. During its eight-hour duration, the audience embarks on a journey traversing countless, interlinked lives. Life that is like dream unfolds scene after scene, as the love and hate, life and death of the characters enter into the souls of audiences, who finally leave the theatre with a different sensibility."
Both Louisa So and Cecilia Choi will be performing in A Dream Like a Dream for the first time. They join HKRep company member Lui Si Lan in portraying a young, middle-aged and elderly Koo Hsiang-lan. Their story is told by Patient #5-a role shared by Poon Chan Leung and Chris Sun-chronicling Ku's story as she travels from Shanghai to France, marrying a French Count played by Ko Hon Man, living her life as a dream.
"The best Chinese language playwright and director in the world." (BBC) "The preeminent Chinese playwright and stage director of this generation." (China Daily) "Asia's top theatre director." (Asiaweek) "The most celebrated Chinese language playwright and director in the world and his body of work-which to date includes over 35 original plays-has redefined how we think about the art form itself." (Broadway World)
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1954, Stan Lai began creating new plays for the dormant Chinese-language theatre in 1980s Taiwan, writing and directing some of the most memorable theatre works in the Chinese-speaking world through a vigorous and free style using improvisation in creative rehearsals. Since 1998 his work has been performed in China, where he has become "the most renowned and beloved artist in the Chinese-speaking world." (Sibiu Walk of Fame)
Lai's first work with his theatre group Performance Workshop, That Evening, We Performed Crosstalk (1985) is credited with revitalizing the dying art of crosstalk (xiangsheng) in Taiwan. Arguably his most famous work, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land (1986) has been called by the New York Times "the most popular contemporary play in China." The Beijing News calls Lai's The Village (2008) "the pinnacle of our era of theatre." China Daily calls his epic eight-hour A Dream Like a Dream (2000) "possibly the greatest Chinese-language play since time immemorial."
Lai has also written and directed two widely acclaimed feature films, The Peach Blossom Land (1992) and The Red Lotus Society (1994), the former which received top prizes at the Tokyo, Berlin, and Singapore international film festivals. His improvisational experiment in television, All In the Family are Humans (1995-97), was a surprising alternative hit on Taiwan TV and ran for 600 episodes. Lai is also an acclaimed opera director and event director (Deaflympics Opening Ceremony, 2009). Lai has also directed innovative versions of Western classics, including an evening of Samuel Beckett plays which he translated in an ancient Chinese garden, three Mozart operas set in Chinese contexts, and the Chinese language world premiere of Angels in America, which he also translated. His awards include Taiwan's National Arts Award, which he has won an unprecedented two times (1988, 2001), Taiwan's highest civilian honour, the Grand Cordon, Order of the Brilliant Star (2011), "Man of the Year" for Cultural Affairs, Newsweek China (2010), and a Star on the Walk of Fame at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival (2019).
In recent years Stan Lai has spent more time in the West, staging works such as his Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (2015), the opera Dream of the Red Chamber at the San Francisco Opera (2016), his immersive piece Nightwalk in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens (2018) in Los Angeles, and a workshop production of his new work AGO at the University of California, Berkeley (2019).
Lai holds a Ph.D in Dramatic Art from Berkeley, and has taught extensively at the Taipei National University of the Arts, and at Berkeley and Stanford. His book Stan Lai on Creativity is a best seller in China and Taiwan. His plays have been published in numerous Chinese editions including a recent nine-volume set (Beijing, Citic Press), as well as in English versions from Oxford and Columbia University Press.
Lai is Artistic Director of Performance Workshop, Taiwan, Theatre Above, Shanghai, and Co-founder and Festival Director of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, China.
A fine talent in stage art, Fung Wai Hang is not only an actress but also a director, playwright and programme curator. A graduate of the inaugural class of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts' School of Drama, she later obtained an MFA in Theatre Practice at the University of Exeter. Since joining the HKRep in 1988, Fung rose in the ranks, taking such positions as Principal Actress, Assistant to the Artistic Director, Project Coordinator of "REP 2" and Resident Director. Currently she serves as Assistant Artistic Director at the HKRep, coordinating and planning the company's Black Box offerings.
Fung has participated in more than 90 productions. She has been nominated numerous times for the Hong Kong Drama Awards, having won eight to date: two for Best Actress (Comedy/Farce) in 1995 and 1996; three for Best Supporting Actress (Tragedy/Drama) in 1993, 2002 and 2015; three for Best Director for Red (2013), Attempts on her Life (2015) and Le Père (The Father) (2018). In 2003, her outstanding performance in the original musical Sweet & Sour Hong Kong made her the first Hong Kong stage professional to be honoured at the 15th Shanghai Magnolia Stage Award, as Best Supporting Actress. Fung was also a recipient of the Secretary for Home Affairs' Commendation Scheme in 2005 and the Artist of the Year (Drama) for the 2018 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards.
Productions Fung has directed include Rabbit Hole, The Cell, Red, Attempts on her Life, The Sin Family, The Abandoned Harbour, Le Père (The Father), Ladies, Bon Voyage - a Cabaret and Pride. Other productions that Fung co-wrote include Crossings, The Backyard, A Matter of 4 x 6 and Papa Mama, Thy Wind Blows Ever. In recent years, she has provided her expertise to younger practitioners in the HKRep's The Open Platform. Fung was also co-director of the original musical Departure 00:00. Her collaboration with Kuo Jian Hong of Singapore's Theatre Practice, Central Deconstructed, was presented both in Singapore and Hong Kong. In 1996, Fung was awarded an Asian Cultural Council scholarship to study drama in the United States. On that occasion, she produced Red Luna at New York's LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club. During her MFA studies in England (2008-2010), she directed Fool for Love and Happy Days, as well as adapting and directing Under the Red Sky (English-language version). Her graduation thesis was based on Lung Ying-tai's Big River, Big Sea-Untold Stories of 1949. Not only did she graduate with distinction, she was also awarded Dean's Commendation for outstanding achievement.
Fung's recent efforts centre on the HKRep Black Box Theatre as a platform to nurture local talents as well as to explore new forms and presentations, including multi-media productions. Apart from organising the International Black Box Festival and workshops, she has helped foster cultural exchange among Hong Kong, China, and the rest of the world, benefitting not only audiences but also young theatre practitioners.
Photo Credit: Kevin Wong