Chapter One Modern Chinese Theatre as Public Sphere
As a forum for public speech, the theatre can serve a social function by presenting political messages. Dialogue can be turned into speech exchanges between the stage and the audience, and hence its impact upon the audience is direct and effective. Because of this didactic and social function, Western-inspired spoken drama became a platform for revolution in modern China. Compared with fiction and poetry, Chinese drama has been constantly exposed to Western influence since the end of the nineteenth century, so much so that modern Chinese drama is a complete departure from its traditional form. Plays with realistic scenery and dialogue that were totally foreign to the Chinese at the end of the nineteenth century have since become the mainstream of drama in China. As defined by Tian Han 田漢, modern Chinese drama refers to “plays with plots and dialogue, with scenes and acts, realistic décor and lighting, mirroring contemporary life founded on historical facts.” The new drama was introduced to China in 1907.