Grass Stage was founded in Shanghai in 2005, with writer/theatre director Zhao Chuan as its mastermind, and has since accumulated followers and influence. Grass Stage creates alternative, social related theatre in Shanghai. Their work devote to the promotion of new social theatre movement and the creation of non-profit public space. Within a framework of the most basic "poor theatre", works by Grass Stage use a diverse set of techniques including physical theatre, texts, documentary footage, oral storytelling, clown performance and performance art etc, engendering powerful spaces for intellectual exchange. Zhao Chaun have been developed the concept and method of "Interrogating Theatre" to focus on deepening the connection between theatre and society. Grass Stage events made use of a wide range of venues and situations for performances and discussions, are not only spaces for bringing together diverse elements of society, but also provide, in a country relatively lacking in opportunities for public participation, a fluid and varied range of public social spaces. Their theatre works have been performed in many Chinese cities, as well as in Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, India, Singapore, Italy, Germany and USA. Those works are including: World Factory (2014-2016), Unsettling Stones (2012-2013), The Little Society series (2009-2011), Lu Xun 2008 (2008-2012), A Madman's Story (2006-2007) and 38th Parallel Still Play (2005) etc.

Brief Description on Major Theater Works by Grass Stage

World Factory
105 minutes, performed in Shanghai, Xian, Lanzhou, Xining, Yinchuan, Huhehaote, Beijing, Shenzhen, Nanjing and San Francisco, 2014, 2015 and 2016
Created collectively by Grass Stage, directed by Zhao Chuan, the work of World Factory was inspired from Zhao Chuan’s visit to Manchester, UK in 2009, and underwent 4–5 years of preparation. It explores the historical and geopolitical aspects, and especially the living conditions of the workers, in the global manufacturing industry. Members of Grass Stage has incorporated materials generated from their discussions, research, documentation and workshops into this collective creation, completed the play in middle of 2014, and toured in 9 cities in China. In 2015, Grass Stage created another production under same topic titled Apple and Moon, was performed in Shanghai and Hefei. Then two productions were toured to Shenzhen again for Foxconn workers, together with 10 days theatre workshop and seminars. The World Factory was also invited to present at LaborFest and Stanford University in San Francisco. A new version of World Factory were performed in Shanghai in early 2016. Since it's premier in 2014, lectures and seminars were organized connected to the project, with involvements of international scholars and leading intellectual figures from the country.

Download PDF 2014 OCAT Performance WORLD FACTORY

Unsettling Stones
60 minutes, performed in Shanghai, Mumbai, New Delhi and Nanjing, 2012 and 2013; series of theatre workshops under same title with students and local participants were also presented in Roma, Berlin and Singapore, 2013)
This play written and directed by Zhao Chuan, is a product of an unsettled time and of unsettled souls, and is also a contemplation of that unsettledness. Unsettling Stones looks at what it means to live in a society under the rule of law, where the notions of safety, danger, security, freedom are all meshed together. Where media wears masks to entertain their audience and the monopoly of power gets passed on to successive generations of the privileged elite. Unease has led to further unease and we all live in varying levels of panic and fear. In these times of powerless and impotence, can one turn to stones for hope?

The Little Society Series (also under titles: The Little Society volume I, The Little Society volume II and The Little Society volume I and II)
80 minutes for each I and II. The combined version is in 100 minutes, performed in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Jinan, Beijing, Macao, Guiyang, Chongqing and Huaihua, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012
Members of Grass Stage began worked on The Little Society since early 2009, resulting in three versions: The Little Society volume I, The Little Society volume II, and The Little Society volume I and II from 2009 to 2011. These three plays were all directed by Zhao Chuan. The Little Society volume I was a product of members’ close-up social research and observation on the lower social strata, aiming to present, through careful studied of discourse and body practices, a characterization of the bodily attitudes, language, hopes, and contradictions of those persons commonly neglected on the Chinese mainstream stage. The Little Society volume II took The Communist Manifesto as a thread to seek a series of deeper and broader contemporary reflections on the material taken from the group’s earlier social investigations. The aim was to inquire into China’s future through a trenchant dissection of discrepant layers of thought and ideology. The Little Society Series was staged in two national tours in 2009 and 2011, and has been performed over 50 shows in 11 Chinese cities.

A Madman’s Stories
60 minutes, performed in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Taipei and Hong Kong, 2006 and 2007
A Madman’s Stories, directed by Zhao Chuan, was created and performed in 2006 and 2007 by Grass Stage collectively. It furthered the method of Interrogating Theatre, worked to intensify the links between individual, society, and theatrical space. The protagonist in the piece is a person who dreamed of becoming Head of a zoo, and, desperate to achieve this goal, felt forced to sell her internal organs. The intention was to expose the frenetic desire for material goods and the spiritual malaise that resulted from contemporary capitalist development. The original piece was performed in Beijing and Shanghai. A further developed version of this piece, A Madman’s Stories: Year Zero Upgrade, received invitations for performance in a “Southern Tour,” including Taipei, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The “upgrade version” was a deeper excavation of a society gone mad, and was a clear look at the various means available to solve life’s problems, where the only means available were expressed, in one of the play’s lines, as follows: “I guess now the only way is to sell other people, as you do, or to sell myself.”

38th Parallel Still Play
60 minutes, performed in Kwangju, Shanghai and Taipei 2005
38th Parallel Still Play created collectively by Grass Stage, co-directed by Zhao Chuan and Liu Yang, deployed a workshop format, comprising various skits using either direct or metaphorical critique to express popular denunciations and criticism of the psychic wounds resulting from the Cold War era’s division of the Korean peninsula, and the severing of Taiwan from Mainland China, which resulted both in a situation of heartless division, and of unavoidable mutual imbrication. The piece was premiered in May 2005 at the 2005 Gwangju Asian Madang Theatre Festival and was later performed in Shanghai. In October of that year, an extended version of the piece, 38th Parallel In Taipei was performed in Taipei, Taiwan. The performance included major figures from the theater scene in Taiwan and China, including Wang Molin, Zhang Xian, and Zhong Qiao.


Works in collaboration with 'Asian meet Asian' project

Lu Xun 2008
The Japanese performance was titled Lu Xun "A Madman's Diary"
60 minutes, performed in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo and Bangalore, 2008, 2011 and 2012
A contemporary theatre piece inspired by a masterpiece written by Chinese writer, Lu Xun who had a great influence on East Asia in 20th century. Co-directed by Hiroshi Ohashi, Zhao Chuan, Wang Molin and Tom Sze Hong from four cities such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong, participated performers from those cities also collaborated intensely. This production represent images of people’s protests against oppression, exploring physical expression of latent beastliness in our stifling contemporary society. It was performed in four cities in 2008 and was highly evaluated. It was presented again in Tokyo in the Tagtas Project under the theme of “Nation and Extermination” in 2011 and went on tour to Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo and Bangalore in 2012.

Unbearable Dreams Series, including Lost Home, Return and Hope
Each in 60 minutes, all performed in Tokyo; Hope even went to performed in Hong Kong, Taipei and Bangalore, Busan and a city of Indonesia from 2012 to 2014
Since 2009, members of Grass Stage had participated annually in the Unbearable Dreams series as member of collective team, as co-director, text writer or performers. Members of the participants were also included artists from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, India, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Philippine, Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong etc. These pieces bring into the theatre reflections on the common fates of Asians from diverse regions, painting a heterogeneous through coherent portrait of contemporary conditions, including struggles and resistance. Normally we spent around 10 days to workshop, rehearsal and present in Tokyo. Hope went on tour after Tokyo to Hong Kong, Taipei and Bangalore in 2012.


Pubic performances and activities organised and promoted by Grass Stage

April-December.  The “Culture Outpost” program put on six public lectures in Shanghai and other cities. Featured were Zhang Jimi, Li Jianlong, Wen Jixing, Ding Dang, and Zhao Chuan.May-July.  Grass Stage accepted the Tudou Gongshe group invitation  to participate in their program entitled “iPhone: A Dissection of the Mobile Phone Phenomenon”.  Grass Stage presented a new version of The Apple and the Moon.  In the second part of June, Grass Stage began their “Fifth Field Manoeuvers” tour, performing this production in Guangzhou at Shangyangtai (public art space) and at the Nansha Community School, in Shenzhen at the Diaolou Theater, in Shanghai at the Art and Science Bay, and in Suzhou at the Xingxing Garden.  From July through August, Zhao Chuan had an art residency at the “Red Factory” in Zurich, Switzerland. From July-December, Grass Stage carried out a series of workshops and seminars on the topic of “youth",  leading to the creation of the new production, Wild Seed, which premiered in February 2018 at the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. In September, Wu Jiamin worked with the Shenzhen-based North Gate Theater Company (a factory workers’ theater group) in their production of the third version of  Our Stories,  which won second prize in the “Non-professional theater group” category at the Nanshan Theater festival in Shenzhen.   In October, Wu Jiamin organized a children’s theater workshop and performance at the “Temple-side Cultural Program” in Maofengshan in Guangzhou. In November, Zhao Chuan and Chen Jianhe presented their joint production Circus: Thought Struggle at the Shanghai Ming Contemporary Art Museum, as part of the “Precariat’s Meeting” exhibition. In January 2018 they performed Raw Materials for Thought Struggle, II at the exhibit’s closing ceremony.

The “Culture Outpost” program put on nine public lectures and one musical performance.  In April Sun Dasi gave a music and song performance in Shanghai.  In May and June, Zhao Chuan gave lectures and workshops on Grass Stage in Chongqing, Berlin, Hefei, and Yiwu.  In November and December, Christopher Connery gave a five-week long series of public lectures entitled “ Lao Kang’s Night Classes”.   In January, Grass Stage performed the “2016 version” of World Factory at the Small Stage in the 1933 Complex. Wu Meng performed Sound Journey: I am Pursued by Life II at the Old Theater in the 1933 Complex. From April to June,  Grass Stage performed their new group composition Weeds in Shanghai at the Minsheng 21st Century Art Museum and at the Science and Art Bay, in Hefei at the Youth Theater Festival, and in Yiwu at the Gebi Bar. Between June and December, Grass Stage sent one or two members to the Qinghu Institute in Shenzhen to conduct theater workshops and to assist the factory workers in their formation of a workers’ theater group. This became the North Gate Theater Group, which has performed many times indoors and outdoors. In July, the experimental group “So What” performed A Lucky Summer Day  at the New Line Media Art Center in Shanghai. In September and October, Grass Stage produced the third version of  World Factory, and further developed Weeds.  At the end of September the group took these productions on tour, performing in Hangzhou, Chongqing, Deyang, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.  Throughout the tour, in addition to performances, the group conducted workshops, lectures, and seminars. Wu Meng and Sun Dasi’s piece Sound Journey: The World Roils My Life, was commissioned by and performed in the Sanxingdui Theater Festival in Deyang, Sichuan. In December, Zhao Chuan planned and curated “The Stage of Alterity: Different Theaters/Different World Dialogues”, a program of events at the Minsheng Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai.

From January to December, 7 public talks were held in multiple cities featuring speakers including Cao Kefei, Ophelia Huang, GaoZipeng, Jiang Zhe and Zhao Chuan etc. /In May, new production Apple and Moon devised by Grass Stage performed in 1912 Theatre as part of Hefei Youth Theatre Festival. Yu Kai performed in Long Day’s Journey into Night which performed in Zhang Xinyu Theatre of Nanjing University. /In June, Grass Stage and NGO QinghuXuetang co-curated series of theatre events including talk, workshop and performances for industrial workers, and performed part of World Factory and Apple and Moon. /In July, Wu Meng and Yu Kai performed Forest Fringe mini-festival Shanghai, curated by Ophelia Huang. Zhao Chuan hosted workshops focusing on Labor for Ray Art Center. Invited by LaborFest, Grass Stage brought World Factory to ILWU34 Hall in San Francisco and Stanford University, together with Xu Duo from New Workers Group and Dong Jun from Zhong D Yin band. /In August, Zhao Chuan hosts talks in Chengdu, Deyang (San Xing Dui Theatre Season) and Zhejiang Art Museum on Grass Stage and World Factory. /In September, Zhao Chuan led devising workshop on the theme of ‘Seoul Station’ and presented at BeSeTo festival in Korea. /In October, Grass Stage collaborated with Kai Tuchmann on documentary theatre workshop project supported by Goethe Institute, resulting a new work named The Refuse presented in am Art Space. Wu Meng, Wu Jiamin and Chen Lin created Fish Bone which was performed at Wuzhen Theatre Festival. /In November, Grass Stage participated ‘Xiteng Electronics - Production Line Exhibition’ with Factory Afternoon. /In December, Sun Dasi, Chen Cheng and Yu Kai organised “Shadow Play - Root” project with first performance Red House, Green House in Ding HaiQiao, Shanghai. Grass Stage started a new round of collection creation on World Factory and performed in 1933 Mini Theatre, Shanghai in January 2016.

learn more

Download PDF
TdZ-Spezial-China Issue_11.2015_on Grass Stage's work in German/English
'Physical Odyssey' by Zhao Chuan at 'The Body at Stake‘ in English
Mouvement65 Shanghai in French

alias 20110115 in Italian