Four Seas Players Premiere a New Play “RUAN LINGYU”

Article By Wenqiang Zhou
Photo by Xue Liang

RUAN LINGYU, the 46th Spring Season’s melodrama of Four Seas Players, releases on May 21, at Abrons Art Center. The play was written by Shiyao Gu and directed by Jackie Huang, in Cantonese with English and Chinese subtitles.

This play is based on legendary life of Miss Ruan Lingyu, the most celebrated Chinese movie actress in the 30’s. Focusing on the glamorous life of a movie icon of the time, the playwright highlights the changes in Ruan Lingyu’s private world and her complicated love triangles, ultimately revealing Ruan’s personality and her inner being.

Her journey through to her collapse is portrayed poignantly through the relationships she has with the three men (Zhang Damin, Tang Jisan, and Cai Chusheng) who controlled her heart. At the end of her life, Ruan Lingyu’s exhaustion and depression overpowers her as she gently slips away, reminding us that there are many kinds of exploitation through the mind and in the heart.

The most expected in this play are the set, make-up and costume design. “You can see a lot of costumes, to maintain that era, with qipao, the makeup, and the hairstyle. I try to make the audience get the feel of old Shanghai.” Director Jackie Huang said. The stage will deliver an abstract effect with a big screen with changing background. 1930s tone of the play combines with classic pictures and movie clips on the back screen to drive audience back to that time with a simultaneous, astonishing experience.

Besides the visual effects, the story itself is very interesting. “I also find it interesting because of the difference between the woman in that era and nowadays. So she was the most famous actress in that time but in her stories, she didn’t live like modern woman. So the society in that time was very male-dominated.” Jackie said, “ Ruan Lingyu had a kind of dependency in that era.”

Four Seas Players started this new play last December. Team members are volunteers from different occupations including lawyers, businessperson, architects, technical person, accountant, reporters and more. The play costs six months to produce. The preparation time seems ample but actually is limited since all jobs were done in their limited spare time. Jessie Liu, the first Miss NY Chinese winner, who plays the role of Run Lingyu, thought that the biggest challenge for her was to act the slight change from age16-25 in 1930’s background. Some sing and dance performance by Jessie was also the most surprising part in the play.

For more, please visit Four Seas Players’ website:

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