What can you get from a group of passionate people? The directors, cast and production team at Emory Chinese Theater Club (ECTC) come together to put on plays that entertain audiences while gaining acting experience. 

Earlier this spring, the club performed “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay” on Feb. 10 and 11. The ECTC will unveil a new production, “The Birth of An Actor,” in April, ECTC Vice President and Spring Production Vice Director Aileen He (24C) said.

(Photo courtesy of Freya Li) From left to right: Xiaonan Li, Aileen He, Cheryl Chung, Lingxi Li, Edith Wang, Yiyi (Daisy) Gu, Yufan Wu, Alex Mao.

ECTC encourages its members to get out of their comfort zones and experience different parts of theater production. All three of the directors of this year’s production are directing for the first time. 

Main Director Edith Wang (23C) said the group gave her a lot of confidence in this new role. Wang had played a minor acting role in last year’s “Red Rose White Rose” production when she entered the club, she was still able to play an integral role in the club’s February production. She said she wanted the audience to have fun and that the experience felt “like a dream.” 

“Although I don’t have as much experience, I know this group would provide enough support for me to do it,” Wang said. “My overarching goal for the audience of ECTC is just to have fun and to have a good laugh.”

After the performance, Wang said her friends told her there was “constant” laughter in the  audience during the show. 

He has extensive acting experience, but she decided to switch the role to directing because of the opportunity to view the production from a “holistic point of view” while giving insightful suggestions about comedic acting. 

Another Vice Director, Yiyi (Daisy) Gu (24C), took a stagecraft course last year and wanted to experience theater as a director. In this year’s production, she primarily worked on communicating with actors and ensuring a smooth rehearsal process.

ECTC also creates different experiences and opportunities for each actor. While some actors got characters that represented their own characteristics, others were challenged to play roles that were completely different from their own. Yufan Wu (26C) played the role of Guoqiang in this spring’s production. He said that the parallels between himself and his character made the comedic acting come naturally. However, Wu had around 70 pages of lines, which he said made it challenging to memorize. 

“I actually started to memorize the lines during winter break,” Wu said. “Luckily, my directors, co-directors and all the actors in the play are very helpful with me. They helped me to go over the scripts before the rehearsals.”

Additionally, Xiaonan Li (25C), who played Qiangsao, said that she also saw similarities between herself and her character because of their shared family and human rights values. These similarities, along with efforts to start memorizing the lines early, allowed her to recreate the character successfully, she said.

Some ECTC members were able to find a sense of great accomplishment in the ECTC experience, such as Cheryl Chung (25C). In the spring show, Chung played a character who does not express opinions of her own. Chung, who said she’s much more expressive, had to adapt to this character’s distinct personality. 

“I would think about what [my character] would do,” Chung said. “How should I express that? Basically [it] is just [trying] to put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Alex Mao (26C) came to Emory with high-school acting experience. In ECTC, he said he was able to perform on a bigger platform and work with people who are very open to constructive communication that allows everyone to give insightful opinions on the production. 

“It’s easy for us actors to discuss our ideas of the show, of the character, with the directors,” Mao said. “We can all share ideas and thoughts about the specific thing or the specific set or the emotions of others in the scene.”

One actress was faced with the challenge of playing five male characters. Lingxi Li (25C) said the experience pushed her acting limits. To make each character clear to the audience, Lingxi Li worked with the directors to assign different accents, voices and gestures to each character. Besides committing to acting, she also designed and incorporated sound effects into the production.

“It’s one of the best things about being in this production,” Lingxi Li said. “It helped me definitely learn not only the front stage part of this play but also the backstage part of a production.” 

A dedicated production team worked behind the scenes to support the performances. Production managers Freya Li (24C) and Vivienne Yu (23C) facilitated communication between different teams and worked with the production team to ensure everything was in place. 

“Every weekly meeting is kind of stressful, so we try to lure everyone to come by ordering boba and food,” Freya Li said. “It’s heavy work … having the meeting time within our group and just talking through and … being able to bond in the process is definitely the best part.”

Yu said the production team began planning last October and spent around ten to twelve hours each week since January on this production and was happy to see the amazing final product.

“That’s really fulfilling and really satisfying,” Yu said. “Everyone in the production team is so nice and it’s just really interesting to hang out with them.”

The directors, actors and production team members also built long-term friendships, Xiaonan Li said.

“Even though I’m kind of an outgoing person, I still need some chance to meet new people, and I think participating in the theater is a chance for me to meet with all of them,” Xiaonan Li said.

Chung, who did not have a theater acting background prior to joining ECTC, encouraged interested Emory students to get involved.

“Give the things you like a try,” she said. “Don’t be afraid that you will mess it up.”

Mao considers acting his hobby and said being in ECTC was a wonderful experience.

“I’m just so happy to be in this cast, in this production team, and to produce such a wonderful and fun show,” Mao said. “It’s a happy experience. I want to keep it. I want to cherish it and do more things like this.”

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Heather(Zeyi) Lu (24C) is from Xinjiang, China, majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Law & International Studies. She enjoys exercising and baking outside of the Wheel.