Behind The Lie’s Nick Rongjun Yu

Behind The Lie’s Nick Rongjun Yu

This is our final installment of our Behind The Lie blog series, featuring an interview with playwright Nick Rongjun Yu.  Nick is China’s most published living playwright, having written more than 35 plays.  He is the deputy general manager of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and is also founder and director of the annual Asia Contemporary Theatre Festival and the Shanghai College Theatre Festival.



Mr. Guiltner: Thank you for sharing your play with our U.S. audiences, and for contributing such a compelling story to the world of theatre. We often hear that good playwrights should “write what they know.” So, where did you draw inspiration for writing these characters and this story?

Nick Rongjun Yu: Behind the Lie is my earlier work, and during that time, I was interested in the relationships between people in the big city. All kinds of relationships bring lots of stories to me, especially the situation of people in modern society. I want to tear off the skin of people’s lives and show the real inside. The people in the big city inspired me to write that play. I sat in the subway and watched the faces of people through the windows; they were strange, lonely and no-expression, they were all around me in my life, and I wanted to know what happened to them. These characters were always in my mind, so I did think I would write a play about them. I just needed the chance and a story.

Mr. Guiltner: It seems that Behind the Lie could be categorized as “police drama,” but the human side of the “Policeman” character is especially well developed throughout the play. Who did you intend this play to be about — in other words, is it the Policeman’s story or the Doctor’s story which is being told?

Nick Rongjun Yu: It is a play about two men, but all they talk about is women. Both the policeman’s story and the doctor’s story are being told through their connection, which is the wife of doctor, and her story is the central one.

Mr. Guiltner: The themes of this story seem universal. The characters and scenario play well for American audiences as well as Chinese audiences. Can you talk about your approach to writing the play for a larger, more universal audience? How did the translation contribute to the universality of the play?

Nick Rongjun Yu: It is a universal subject. At the beginning, I wrote this story as if it happened in China, but the company thought maybe the subject of policemen was too sensitive here in China, so I changed the story and made it happen in Latin America.

Mr. Guiltner: A question I recently asked Robert Woods, the director of our U.S. premiere of the play, is a question I would like to ask of you as playwright: What do you hope the audience will leave with after seeing a production of this play?

Nick Rongjun Yu: How will they see inside of themselves in their normal or boring lives, especially in a big city, and how can we find the hope to make a good situation for our lives when everything becomes “the usual.”

Mr. Guiltner: Finally, do you find that any of your intentions have been lost, or enhanced through the translating of your play.

Nick Rongjun Yu: Claire knows me very well, she knows China and Chinese very well, and we talked a lot when she translated this play, so I do think she did not lose anything. I am also happy that Robert directed this play cause he also lived in China for some time, and that is helpful.