History and Milieu (15)
Great Enlightenment Storytellers’ House Da guangming shuchang is not the only place in Yangzhou where storytelling and storysinging are regularly performed nowadays, but it is the only place in the town where daily performances of long tales are performed all year round during the appropriate seasons. Storytelling and -singing are also performed quite regularly in recreation centres such as Guangling Culture Station Guangling wenhua zhan, situated in the eastern part of the town. But in these places storytelling is arranged only occasionally, often in weekends, as a kind of get-together for old aficionados of the art, as well as being a cultural activity offered to the local inhabitants. There are often several performers in the entertainment of an afternoon, and only selected titbits are performed, without being continued. However, the arrangement of the performance by and large follows the above description, and the serving of tea is a mandatory ingredient of the whole.
Schools and hotels now and then arrange storytelling as entertainment on special occasions. But such performances usually serve as a kind of ’side dish’, in order to add 'local colour' to the arrangement proper. They are short intermezzos of half an hour or less, to humour an audience that has come together for more 'serious' matters. The storyteller often performs in a standing position, with neither table nor chair and without his requisites, storyteller's stick, etc. There is no drinking of tea, and the audience is special for each occasion: a gathering of students, a group of tourists, a delegation of politicians or businessmen, etc. The acting and contents of these performances are also dissimilar in many aspects to the traditional style of Yangzhou pinghua.
As mentioned above, Yangzhou storytelling and -singing is performed not only in the city of Yangzhou, but also in many other towns all over the area where the Yangzhou dialect is spoken. In Nanjing and Shanghai there are large populations of people speaking Yangzhou dialect, and Yangzhou pinghua has traditionally had famous storytellers' houses here, too. As far back as memory goes, the professional storytellers have always been on the roads, travelling from one place to another, taking turns to perform their repertoires for a couple of months at one place after another. Although the storytellers of today are on a monthly salary, and not directly dependent on the income from their performances, this is still their habitual way of life.
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