Elements of Performance (3)
One session of storytelling yichang shu, also called "a day of storytelling" yitian shu, will nowadays last about two hours with a break of ten minutes after the first hour. In the storytellers' house the performances are from 2-4 p.m. Tickets are bought at the entrance. In former times one session was longer, often more than three hours and divided into four sections, called "rounds" zhuan, now called "parts" duanzi, with a "rest between the rounds" xie zhuan. One pot of tea was brewed for every guest, or two or more might share a large pot. A "tea fee" chajin was paid by the members of the audience and another "storytelling fee" shujin was collected together with the fee for tea, usually after the first round. There might also be some extra fees, called "small debts" xiao zhang, i.e. payment for extra service such as brewing fine tea, bringing hot napkins, etc. Sometimes there were also non-paying "special guests" jiayan, friends or relatives of the storyteller or of the owner. There used to be another kind of non-paying audience as well - the so-called "standing listeners" ting zhan shu who would crowd outside the entrance and listen for free, also called "crane listeners" ting xianhe shu, because they were standing on tiptoe like these birds.
After the fourth round, called "final round" mozhuan or "tail round" weizhuan, the audience would sometimes demand still another passage and loudly shout: "Add a round!" da zhuan, i.e. "Encore!". The owner would then collect extra money from the audience, but the amount would not be fixed, and people out of money would not be pressed; this income would belong entirely to the storyteller. In the recent period payment is only taken for the entrance ticket. People bring their own cups with tea leaves and are served hot water from a big kettle for free. There are no extra services.
Beginning the performance (Wang Xiaotang)
Ending the performance (Wang Xiaotang)
Next: A storytelling engagement