Noel Coward’s Private Lives Adapted for Chinese Stage
NYU Shanghai faculty and students have helped bring Noel Coward’s comedy Private Lives to the Shanghai stage, with two performances at the Fairmont Peace Hotel — the very location the playwright penned the story in 1930.
The play was incorporated into a special tea dance event at the hotel’s art deco Jasmine Lounge on December 3 and 10, with ballroom dancers and a pianist adding to the 1930s glamor.
"The concept of performing this work at the Peace Hotel is two-fold,” said Dianna Heldman, affiliate assistant arts professor at NYU Shanghai. “Primarily because this is where Noel Coward lived and where he wrote the play, and also because his works were contemporary, set in his time, the beautifully maintained art deco lounge serves as the perfect setting for the work.”
“We included piano music because not only was Someday I'll Find You included in the original work, the piano we used was the very one he played while there,” she added. “In essence, we brought Noel Coward back to the Peace Hotel.”
Directed by NYU Shanghai dramatic arts professor James P Mirrione and supported by a grant from the New York University Arts Council, the cast brought together five professional actors, many of them graduates of the Shanghai Theatre Academy, as well as five students from NYU Shanghai.
The play opened with a rendition of the classic Chinese song “Oh Shanghai” by Claire (Kaixuan) Yao ‘18, who also performed several other songs written by Noel Coward.
After researching the play and the environment of 1930s Shanghai, students from Mirrione’s theater class Ensemble: Private Lives, also contributed to the staging of the event, emerging as ancillary characters from 1930s Shanghai, who greeted audience members as they entered the Peace Hotel’s Jasmine Lounge for the show. Introductory music was also provided by NYU Tisch School of the Arts alumnus Justin Scholar, who played the guzheng.