Yu Xiaoyu

b. 1935, Hubei
Xiqu (sung-drama/opera) director, playwright, actor
Yu Xiaoyu started to perform on stage at three years old and grew up in the theatrical world of Chuju, one of the regional theatre genres in Hubei province. Since 1970, he has served as playwright, director and artistic leader for the Beijing Opera Troupe of Hubei Province (Hubeisheng jingjutuan). He has played an extremely important role in making this once unknown troupe in the mid 1970s into a present-day nationally renowned troupe. Under his leadership, the style of the troupe’s productions since the late 1970s has been recognized as ‘Hubei Style’ (E’pai), equally distinctive as ‘Beijing Style’ (Jingpai) and ‘Shanghai Style’ (Haipai)—the two leading styles on the Beijing opera stage since the early twentieth century.
He has authored and co-authored successful plays such as Wrapped Honey (Yibao mi), Zhang the Dogskin-Plaster Seller (Gaoyao Zhang), and All Living Creatures at the Famen Temple (Famen zhongsheng xiang). More importantly, he guided the troupe’s other playwrights in writing other well-known plays of which Xu Jiujing’s Promotion (Xu Jiujing shengguanji) and Legends of the Temple of Medicine God (Yaowang miao chuanqi) are among the best of Jing ju (Peking opera) plays created since the late 1970s. Yu directed all five aforementioned plays, receiving five national awards in succession. His contribution to the contemporary Beijing opera stage has been manifested in at least four areas: (1) he has established a system of creating a different stage design for each individual play that goes beyond the traditional one-desk, two-chair set, while still keeping the aesthetic concept of a bare stage; (2) he has created a series of new conventions for actors’ gestures and body movements, as seen in the ‘Wheel-Chair Dance’ in Legends of the Temple of Medicine God which employs older physical skills to reflect a new body language; (3) he cast Zhu Shihui, who specializes in wenchou (civil clown) roles, as the lead role in a series of successful plays, thus broadening the range of wenchou’s capability of expression and promoting this secondary role type to the level of laosheng (male lead); and (4) he has championed the absorption of the best elements from other regional theatres to vivify Beijing opera.
Yu is better known as a Xiqu (sung-drama/opera) director. He has been invited by various troupes of other regional theatres as renowned guest director. His artistic influence in directorship has touched Hanju, Chuju, Quju, Guiju, Yuju, Jingzhou huaguxi, Huangmeixi and Cantonese opera (see Yueju (Guangdong, Guanxi opera)).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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