The Department of Theatre Literature is one of the earliest departments established by Shanghai Theatre Academy, the predecessor of which was the writing and directing research class set up by Shanghai Experimental Theatre School in 1946, with Xiong Foxi as the first head teacher. In 1949, the research class was transformed to the Division of Theoretical Playwrighting and was then renamed the Division of Theatre Literature, with a study length of three years and Li Jianwu as the department’s director. In March 1959, the Ministry of Culture established the Department of Theatre Studies at the Central Academy of Drama and Shanghai Theatre Academy due to the demand for cultural development, and the department was later renamed the Department of Theatre Literature. In 1979, the Department of Theatre Literature at Shanghai Theatre Academy became the first in China to enroll master’s degree candidates in theatre studies. In 1999, it began to enroll PhD students. Apart from the undergraduate and postgraduate education, the department also offers variable advanced playwrighting training programmes to students of all levels. Since the 1990s, the department has set up three new programmes including Radio and Television Directing, Art Management and Art Education, and the former two programmes were later merged into other departments. Currently, the department offers three programmes including Literature of Theatre Film and Television, Theatre Studies, and Theatre Education. Among them, the Literature of Theatre Film and Television programme is listed as the “National Featured Programme” (2009) and the “National First-Class Bachelor’s Programme” (2019), while the Theatre Studies programme is listed as “Shanghai First-Class Bachelor’s Programme” (2020). The Theatre and XiquStudies programme is the national key discipline (2007), and the Theatre, Film and Television Studies programme is the authorised center for doctoral degrees and the first-class discipline and peak discipline (Class A) of institutions of higher education in Shanghai.
Looking back upon history, many renowned researchers and educators have come forth in the Department of Theatre Literature. Dramatists came successively to give classes in the Shanghai Theatre School during the early days, including famous ones like Hong Shen, Ouyang Yuqian, Cao Yu, Li Jianwu, Chen Baichen, Yang Cunbin, Huang Zuolin, Zhao Jingshen, Zhang jinyi, and Zhao Qingge. After the founding of New China, there were more reputed masters teaching in the department, such as Xiong Foxi, Wei Zhaofeng, Li Jianwu, Wu Renzhi, Yu Shangyuan, Gu Zhongyi, Zhao Mingyi, Chen Ruheng, Song Guangzu, Yan Zhewu, Liu Ruzeng, Ding Xiaozeng, Liu Housheng, Zhou Duanmu, Chen Bohong, Jiang Xingyu, Chen Duo, Xu Fuming, Chen Guyu, Chen Jialin, Bo Bin, Yu Qiuyu, Dai Ping, Ye Changhai, Ding Luonan, Sun Huizhu, Lu Jun, Sun Zuping, Wang Yiqun, and Cao Shujun. They passed on the torch to future generations and laid a solid foundation for the development of the department. Through more than 70 years of accumulation and inheritance, the department has built up a teaching/research/creating team of a sound structure. There are currently 32 teaching fellows (including departmental members who serve important positions in other departments of the university), including 14 professors, 10 associate professors, and 25 PhDs. Many fellows have been awarded titles of honors like “National Experts of Outstanding Contribution”, “Experts of the State Council’s Special Allowance”, “National Model Workers of the Cultural System”, “Eexcellent Experts of the Ministry of Culture”, candidates of the “Talents Supporting Plan of the New Century of the Ministry of Education”, “Outstanding Faculty Member of Colleges in Shanghai”, and “Baosteel Excellent Teachers Award”. Many also serve as the president and vice president of national and Shanghai municipal professional associations.
Achievements have been made in the creation and writing of the curriculum and textbooks of the Department of Theatre Literature. Major pieces includeChinese Opera History, Chinese Stage Play History, Foreign Theatre History, An Introduction to Aesthetics, An Introduction to Art, An Introduction to Playwrighting, Reading and Observation, Selected Readings of Chinese and Foreign Drama, Theory and Writing of Playwrighting, Theoretical Writing, Foundation of Performing and Directin,andTheory and Practice of Educational Theatre. Among them, Chinese Opera History is listed as the National Quality Course (2009), and An Introduction to Playwrighting, Chinese Opera History, and Appreciation of Chinese Opera are selected as the first batch of national first-class undergraduate courses (2020). An Introduction of Playwrighting, Opera Writing and Theory and Practice of Educational Theatre are listed as Shanghai Quality Course, and Chinese Stage Play History, Foreign Theatre History, Opera Writing, Theory and Techniques of Playwrighting, Theory of Playwrighting, An Introduction to Art, An Analysis of Famous Films, Audio-visual Principles of Films and Theory and Practice of Educational Theatre are listed as Shanghai Key Courses. The textbooks Theory and Techniques of Playwrighting and Chinese Theatre History–Illustrated Edition respectively won the first and second prize of Excellent Shanghai College Textbook in 2007. In recent years, the department has committed itself to educational reform and innovation with continuous award-winning accomplishments in teaching and research. In 2017, the Playwrighting Studies programme was listed as “Shanghai Peak Disciplines Construction Project”. The “Qian, Bai, Wan” playwrighting workshop (2018) and “A Research On Undergraduate Dissertation Writing Training of Art Colleges” (2020) were both approved as Shanghai’s “Key Undergraduate Teaching Reform Programmes” while the former was also recognized as the talent funding project of National Art Foundation in 2018. Led by Lu Jun, “Cultivating playwrights with feelings – The exploration and innovation of training patterns for playwrighting talents” won the special prize of “Shanghai Teaching Achievement Award” (2017) and the second prize of “National Teaching Achievement Award” (2018).
The Department of Theatre Literature has a strong background in creation and research. Teachers and students are diligent in combining theoretical education with creative practices. Multiple works have won national awards such as the “Five Top Project Prize” of the Publicity Department of CPC Central Committee, “Wenhua Award”, “Flying Apsaras Award”, “Golden Eagle Award” and “Tian Han Theatre Award”. Funded by the National Art Foundation and Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation, many works received positive repercussions after being brought to the public stage. Teachers are devoted to their work and have made great achievements. Research projects in the department have been approved to list as eight national major projects including “major public relations research projects in philosophy and social science of the Ministry of Education”, “major art project of national social science fund”, “major project of national social science fund” and so on, ranking first among art colleges of similar categories. Multiple research fields such as theatre studies, playwrighting studies and performance studies, have entered the forefront of the discipline, enjoying a high reputation in the academic community. In the research area of Chinese classical opera, the older generation of scholars like Chen Guyu and Chen Duo have made great contribution, followed by remarkable teaching and research achievements of teachers such as Ye Changhai, Song Guangzu, Jin Dengcai, Zhang Fuhai and Liu Qing. Works like “Research on Wang Jide’s Qu-lti”, “Historical Manuscript of Chinese Theatre Studies”, “Theatre Aesthetics”, “Chinese Opera Dictionary” and “Chinese Peking Opera” have been honored with national prizes. In the research area of the Chinese stage play, the older generation of scholars like Wei Zhaofeng, Zhao Mingyi and Bo Bin have accomplished pioneering achievements, followed by professors such as Ding Luonan, Cao Shujun, Tang Yipei, and Chen Jun, who have been continuously producing relevant teaching and research works. Academic works of “The Holistic View of Chinese Theatre in the 20th Century”, “The Performing History of Cao Yu’s Plays”, “The Stage of Narrators”, and “Guo, Lao, Cao and Beijing People’s Art Theatre--- A Study of the Relationship Between Theatre Literature and Theatres” are well received. In the research area of foreign theatre and performance studies, scholars like Sun Huizhu, Gong Baorong and Liu Minghou have kept a broad vision with profound skills. They have published academic works such as “Whose Madame Butterfly”, “Theatre Conflicts and Civilization Conflicts”, “Social Performance Studies”, “The Hundred Year of French Theatre”, “Opera of the Seine – A Study of French Theatre Schools in the 20th Century”, and “French Theatre in the 20th Century”, which have won national research awards. In the research area of playwrighting studies and art theory, scholars like Sun Zuping, Lu Jun and Zhu Guoqing have produced academic achievements and textbooks such as “Scriptwriting Tutorial of Theatre Sketches”, “Theory and Techniques of Playwrighting”, “Manuscript of Playwrighting Studies” and “Principles of Art”, which have been highly recognized by peers all over the country.
Over the past 70 years, the Department of Theatre Literature has produced a large number of preeminent theorists, playwrights, directors, and production talents, such as Chen Gongmin, Chen Yun, Yang Lvfang, Xie Min, Chen Duo, Song Guangzu, Sha Yexin, Wang Renjie, Yu Qiuyu, Ye Changhai, Ding Luonan, Sun Huizhu, Lu Jun, Luo Huaizhen, Zhao Yaoming, Sun Zuping, Cao Lusheng, Yao Jincheng, Li Li, and Le Meiqin. They produced many outstanding works: “ The Younger Generation”, “Cuckoo Cuckoo Again”, “Why Am I Dead”, “China Dream”, “Mayor Chen Yi”, “Black Stallion”, “Genius and Maniac”, “Dong and Li”, “Jinlong and Fuyou (Golden Dragon and Mayfly)”, “Xiao He”, “A Summer to Remember”, “Original Sin”, “Children of the Nation”, “Qian Xuesen” and “Jiao Yulu”. Since the 21st century, a new generation of well-known screenwriters has come to the fore, including Rao Jun, Zhang Yuan’ang, Fei Huijun, Xia Tianheng, Tao Qianni, Sang Yidan, Zhang Jian, Wang Yuzhe, Chen Yinuo, Zhao Ying, Tang Qicen, Liu Fei, Zhang Xiaohan, Wang Feiyi, and Zhu Meng. Their famous television works include “The Journey of Flower”, “Weekend Couples”, “Les Interprètes”, “The Mystic Nine”, “The Death Notice”, “Rush to the Dead Summer”, “Lost Love in Times” and “Delicious Destiny”.
The Department of Theatre Literature attaches great importance to talent cultivation. It has been stabilizing the enrollment scale, adhering to small class teaching and elite education to consolidate students’ professional foundation and improve their practical skills. As a renowned national comprehensive art college in China, Shanghai Theatre Academy has a complete range of disciplines and talented faculty, as well as a wealth of theoretical books and audio-visual materials, first-class theatre facilities, and plentiful opportunities to watch performances.All has created a superior environment for students of the department to carry out theatre, film, and television activities and artistic practices. The department also integrates social resources into teaching and invites Chinese and foreign famous dramatists to give lectures, so all department members can get in touch with the most cutting-edge developments of the academic field. Students in the department have multiple chances of attending international exchange programmes, during which they develop their ideas and vision. With a solid foundation, high qualities, profound academic perceptions and strong abilities, their works have won many domestic and international awards and have been funded by the National Art Foundation and Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation. The department also boasts a high enrollment rate and a high employment rate for graduates, which is highly praised by domestic and foreign colleges, troupes, media and other employers.
“A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves, and I will set my cloudy sail and cross the sea which raves.” The Department of Theatre Literature will inherit and carry forward the fine tradition of the predecessors, strive for self-improvement and forge ahead, making unremitting efforts to build a “domestically best and internationally foremost” programme in the literature of theatre, film and television. (January 2021)