Dai Chenchun, BA International Communication, NACTA, Gruppe „... even if death is starring into their faces“

Olivier Assayas has a movie called “Paris, I love you”. There are 18 stories that describe love, family, friendship and humanity in Paris. In 2012, there were 17 Chinese students that can tell about their love of Zurich in 17 different stories. Though there were frictions, sadness, pains and difficulties as in “Paris, I love you”, the theme was still warm. So that when we have been back to Beijing for one month, we still looked at these old photos, recalling the green days with sadness and happiness.

One day, I found the “Common Stage” project on my university web by chance. I enrolled it, and had a try to interview. Then, one day, I was called and said “Please prepare for going to Switzerland in August”! I could not deny that before I went to Zurich, I dreamed to go on a tour of Switzerland, so my luggage was full of travel strategies, camera, hiking shoes and the excited mood. But the truth was, what would be glutted with our Zurich life were two colorful schedules. Since we got off our plane, we had been on the run. Distributed schedules and supplies, arranged lodgings, introduced the topic of program, divided groups, introduced workshops and the venue, meditated stories and forms of performance respectively, rehearsed…

The topic of “Common Stage 2012” was “Chinese Ghost Stories”, our teachers picked out 5 stories from „Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio“ by Pu Songling: Huan Niang, Huang Ying, The Painted Skin, A Bao and Lian Xiang. And in advance, according to the 16 Swiss students’ tastes being divided into 5 groups. After their group introductions, we expressed our aspiration. Eventually, we finished dividing groups with teachers’ help. For the love of drama, I wanted to be in the group of “The Painted Skin” which was played by drama. Finally, my dream came true; I worked with 1 German, 1 Israelite who studies in Zurich University of Arts and 3 Chinese students.

During the 4 weeks of rehearsal, at the start with full energy and confidence, in the process with weariness and disappointed by difficulties, then to hardball at the end. We experienced the gap between Chinese and Western culture, new forms of performance, got over all sorts of obstacles by the objective conditions, learned how to survive in cracks, how to listen, accept partners’ thoughts…

As our teacher Zhang said, the group of “The Painted Skin” was the most difficult group in this program. That’s true, in the beginning, we got completely stuck in the different working and logical ways between us and repeated the same things over and over again. An old Chinese saying goes: „All beginnings are hard“. When we meditated the story, a basic problem appeared. Lena was a German student, who was educated by Western theatre system, she was used to think from details, then building the whole story. However, as Chinese students, we were used to build the frame of the whole story, then filling details inside. It was somehow strange between us, the only thing we did in the first week was canceling idea, repeating, canceling and repeating… there was no common sense. In the second week, we finished the script’s outline and started to rehearse. But to everyone’s surprise, the rehearsal was still as difficult as before. Lena liked “just to do it” which means taking actions whatever ideas you had. In the other hand, Chinese students preferred thinking in their minds. Because of the effect from different education systems, for both of us it was hard to accept the working way of the other. From the second week to the day before the performance, we were constantly running, persuading each other by words and body language, even quarreling, cold war and tears. But eventually, we were successful! It was perfect, no matter the acting, stage design and coordination. At the moment of the curtain call, we were smiling; all of exhaustion, pressure, tears and contradiction disappeared!

I had two roles in “The Painted Skin”: Translator and actress. As a student in the major of International Cultural Communication, translation is my line. Before this program, I had never been an interpreter in a theatre, especially translating for stage technique. At that moment, I didn’t realize that this would be a difficulty, the only request was to speak English all in all. However, during the 30 days, I recognized how difficult it is to be a great interpreter. One day, when Eva came to our workshop, she asked me: “Are you sure you can be a translator and actress at the same time? Because for me, it’s a little bit difficult to switch between the two roles.” I told her definitely:” Of course no problem.” Until the final rehearsal. When our group was discussing about make-up, Lena asked one of our actors to dress with Chinese traditional make-up (he would show Chinese opera in the performance) and I also thought that this was necessary in a Western country. However the Chinese actor resolutely answered “No”. When I translated his words to the Swiss students in my way: “ Let’s take a vote”, he understood my translation and told me angrily: “Can you translate ‘my’ meaning!” At that moment, I suddenly realized what Eva meant.

As an interpreter, you must be objective in the process of translating, like a translation machine that should not mix with your own emotion or the meaning will be distorted. Yet as an actor who must take part in the play production, you should express your feeling. So you must need particular capacity and technique to switch between these two roles.