The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
The People’s Art Theater Tianjin’s production
New Efforts by the Guangdong Provincial Arts Research Institute – Establishing Independent Artist Studios
One example of this shift by public sector theater companies toward commercial-base management can be seen in the new practice of not relying completely on one company’s own artists to create and produce performances but to draw on a nationwide pool of creators when putting together each new production. In other words the public company takes on the role of producer in a commercially based system.
New efforts of this type are being seen at The People’s Art Theater Beijing and The People’s Art Theater Tianjin, but perhaps the most prominent effort undertaken recently has been an experimental program by the Guangdong Provincial Arts Research Institute in Guangzhou, the major Chinese city near Hong Kong and Macao. The term “Research Institute” seems to imply a group involved in academic research rather than creation of new works, but the people at the Guangdong Provincial Arts Research Institute see “research, experimentation and production” as three aspects of a single mission, and they are presently involved in creative activities in a number of artistic fields. Their fields of endeavor range from modern theater and traditional Guangdong theater to music ensembles performing with traditional Chinese instruments.
Attention has focused recently on a new system that the Guangdong Provincial Arts Research Institute is experimenting with, in which artists are given studio space to use for their own self-financed production activities. For example, one of the Institute’s first class directors, Wang Jiana, was allowed to open her own “Jiana Drama Studio” within the Institute’s facilities in April of 2004. At the same time, stage art directors, musicians and film/video directors were also allowed to establish their own studios, and it is said that they now collaborate frequently with each other on productions.
In this way, the Institute is supporting the free creative activities of artists in a number of fields while also embracing these artists, who are active at the leading edge of their respective fields with a contemporary management style, for use in the production of the Institute’s own productions as well. Furthermore, besides the artists in their own Institute, the trend toward enlisting the talents of artists from all over the country is seen here as well. Considering these conditions, it is probably appropriate to say that the actual functioning of the Guangdong Provincial Arts Research Institute today is closer to that of a production company than a research institute.
Since the establishment of the first independent studio for Wang Jiana, the number of independent studios within the Institute has continued to grow. These include a young director in her thirties named Wang Xiangdong, who was invited to open a studio at the Institute based on her achievements in directing local civic dance and traditional dance productions at the Guangdong Province Song and Dance Theater. In the modern dance field, a studio was also provided for the director of the Guangdong Experimental Modern Dance Company, Gao Chengming. The Guangdong Experimental Modern Dance Company was established in 1992 as China’s first modern dance company, and it has recently engaged in a financial tie-up with the Hong Kong dancer and stage art director Willy Tsao. Even though Hong Kong has returned to Chinese possession in 1997, it is still under separate governance as an independent economic zone and there is a strong desire for financial tie-ups. And, we are now seeing the start of such tie-ups in the field of arts and culture. Although the Guangdong region tends to draw less attention from Japan than the northern centers of Beijing and Shanghai, it is often said that the winds of change blow from the south and certainly Guangdong seems to be leading reform in this area.

Government-affiliated agents venture into production
Another movement being seen in the general privatization of the performing arts is government-affiliated agents becoming involved in the creation of new works and production. Until now, many agents have been involved in the performing arts as short-term managers for a set number of performances of a given production. Recently, however, some agents have begun to broaden the scope of their activities in light of the current trend toward independent (commercial-based) financing.
China’s largest agency is the China Performing Arts Agency of the Ministry of Culture (CPAA) established in 1957, and its primary business has been serving as intermediary in performing arts exchanges with other governments. However, since they have no experience or know-how with regard to holding commercial productions overseas and have little consciousness of copyrights and intellectual property rights, they have often suffered experiences when their prices were kept unnecessarily low. As a result, a new organization named the CPAA International Performing Arts Production Co., Ltd. was formed to undertake their own production of works and management of overseas performances.
The company’s first production was a performance based on Shaolin Kungfu martial arts that toured North America, Australia and other markets with a total of over 200 performances over a five-year period beginning in 2000. During this time, the production played before a total audience of over 400,000. Also, the affiliated CPAA Metropolitan Theater Management Co., Ltd. was entrusted with the management of the Tianqiao Theater (1,200 seats) in Beijing as a rental theater. This is the theater where a production of Madame Butterfly was staged in 2002 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between China and Japan.
The organization says that it intends to use its growing experience and know-how to create its own productions in the future in pursuit of greater profits. Presently, agencies like CPAA are headed in the direction of working together with other large-scale agents in tie-ups aimed at expanding the performing arts market and are making use of facilities like the Tianqiao Theater with a long-term perspective as venues for development of their production management business.
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