In 2014, Fang Jufen was 85 years old and played a role with only two lines in the drama “The Seagull and Other Birds”. She appeared on the stage of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in a wheelchair, pushed around by people.
After the stroke, Fang Jufen hurriedly bid farewell to the stage. This is her second time on stage after 25 years. She smiles at the audience, like a ship that is stable in the wind and waves. For the last performance of his life, Fang Jufen closed perfectly.
Fang Jufen is the first adult actor in a children’s drama after the founding of New China. Her childhood was suspended by gunfire but continued on stage. Over half a hundred years old, she was still a young and lively child on stage.
At 8:05 on December 31, 2020, Fang Jufen died in Beijing. This old lady who claimed to be “will never grow up” ended her 91-year “childhood”.
In the autobiography “Long Childhood”, Fang Jufen said this sentence helplessly and proudly. Her toys started in the hall in the middle of the house and have been placed on the bedroom table. There are Russian dolls, African masks, Western exquisite dolls, and traditional Chinese tiger puppets.
The guests found it fresh and liked to touch two of them. Fang Jufen hid the rarest cow doll for fear of being touched. But she will show off her beloved Kookaburra toy generously. Every time someone comes to the house, she has to hold a pair of “birds” in her hands and squeeze it hard. The toy makes a “haha” cry, “Fun “She raised her eyebrows and asked expectantly.
This is a bird from Australia. According to local legend, the exhilarating call of Kookaburra is a signal to the gods to light up the sun and bring morning light to the earth.
Whenever the sun rises, the sunlight casts a shadow on the ground. As a child, Fang Jufen always danced to the shadow, and animal-shaped hand shadows appeared on the ground. Even if she later hid in a damp air-raid shelter, accompanied by centipedes and poisonous insects, she could still find a garden with camellia and dance in it.
Fang Jufen was born on November 11, 1929 in a family of elementary school teachers in Hankou, Hubei Province. Her childhood ended in a hurry in the drastic changes of the times.
In 1937, when the Anti-Japanese War broke out, 8-year-old Fang Jufen began to flee with his family, taking small boats, walking mountain trails, and running the alarm. Her home was destroyed by Japanese artillery shells, and the hens that had been fed from childhood were also hit by shrapnel and scribbled to death on the ground.
When he was less than 12 years old, Fang Jufen was sent to a nursing home for children with difficulties. Like the girls there, she was wearing a uniform white coarse cloth top and black skirt, and there was a big red mark on her left chest—a mark of a child in difficulty and a scar from her childhood.
Fang Jufen often can’t eat enough. Listening to the “grumbling” calls in his stomach during the nights when he can’t sleep, all he thinks about is his parents who made a living in the war. Once, she and her younger siblings always imitated the gesture of their father shaking their heads and chanting poems, and they also liked to sing in the voice of their mother. The tuned sound of reading and the singing of “Yun Er Piao, Xing Er Yao Yao” swayed like ripples at home.
Her home is gone. His mother remarried and died, and his father was unemployed. As the eldest sister in the family, Fang Jufen chose to teach after graduating from the Normal Department of the High School Affiliated to Suzhou National Institute of Social Education, carrying the burden of the family.
In 1948, Fang Jufen was admitted to the drama major of Suzhou National Institute of Social Education. Since then, she has become a children’s drama actor.
Fang Jufen played Biejia in “In the Name of Revolution”.Photo courtesy of respondents
“My childhood was short because it was full of misery. I left home very early and experienced the hardships of the world. My childhood was long again, because I was engaged in children’s drama throughout my life. Observe children, experience their hearts, and try to figure out their movements.”
Fang Jufen has always maintained a child-like curiosity and innocence about the world. She likes to try all kinds of food. The second daughter, Wang Zhaohui, said, “She loves pickles, rotten eggs, hot pot, and spicy and oily ones.” She also likes to play around. “As long as you are in a good spirit, you must travel around in a wheelchair. world.”
On his last trip in her eighties, Fang Jufen went to Australia and met a kookaburra who could “laugh”.
After the liberation in 1949, Fang Jufen joined the newly established China Youth Art Theatre. Only 1.49 meters, she has a white complexion, a high and pointed nose, and yellow hair, like a doll. There is no suitable role for her in the theater. Fang Jufen doubted her career choice and wanted to find another way out in distress.
In 1952, the China Children’s Theatre Company affiliated to the China Youth Art Theatre was established, and Fang Jufen was assigned to the Children’s Theatre Company as an actor. In “The Cocky Little White Rabbit”, Fang Jufen finally got his first role-a small female rabbit.
She couldn’t be happy, “It was the first time in my life that I was asked to act as a rabbit. How to do it?” She recalled in her autobiography that the other actors were childish children, and only she was a university graduate. The thought of putting on a tight fleece, wearing a “little tail” like a child, and slapped buttocks, Fang Jufen felt hot and embarrassed.
The thought of changing career continues to torment her. Director Sun Weishi recognized Fang Jufen’s concerns and explained to her why the troupe chose adults to play children’s plays. Compared with children, professional adult actors have rich life and artistic experience and can create images of children with different personalities. It also borrowed from the Soviet professional theater model at the time.
A picture emerged in Fang Jufen’s mind-those old foreign artists with gray hair and high heels became lively children as soon as they came on stage. She was moved and finally took the first step on this road and became the first adult actor in a children’s drama in New China.
In 1954, Fang Jufen applied for the performance cadre training class of the Central Academy of Drama. On June 1, 1956, the China Children’s Art Theater was formally established. After graduating from the training class, Fang Jufen became an actor and acting teacher in the theater.
She played a lot of “little people”. In “In the Name of Revolution”, she is a hungry wandering child. Don’t be better. In “Newsboy”, she is a crippled child who makes home everywhere.
Wang Zhaohui watched all his mother’s plays. It was the “Yue Yun” that “especially didn’t like to watch”. Fang Jufen, who played the golden ball of Jin Guo, was beaten to death on stage. Fang Jufen designed a unique action for this character: climb up like an octopus. Wang Zhaohui felt that in the 18-minute play, his mother played the role alive. “Mother always said that she was not a particularly’fast’ actor, but she could figure it out slowly and was very focused.”
Fang Jufen plays the golden marble in “Yue Yun”.Photo courtesy of respondents
In 1980, Fang Jufen served as the deputy director of China Children’s Art Theater. In 1981, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the academy, China Children’s Art launched a children’s play “Twelve Months” in which the 52-year-old Fang Jufen played a 12-year-old girl.
In order to show the little girl’s agility, she began to lose weight. “My mother’s waist circumference was 2 feet 3 at the time, but the clothing size provided by the director was 2 feet 1.” In Wang Zhaohui’s memory, his mother practiced waist every day. “I practice morning and evening, and practice on the bed. She helps the door frame to lower waist every day. They sweat a lot.” In the end, Fang Jufen finally put on a costume with a waist circumference of 2 feet 1.
Fang Jufen plays a big girl in “Twelve Months”.Photo courtesy of respondents
In 1988, Fang Jufen’s husband and playwright Wang Zheng created “Brother Xi”. Fang Jufen played the protagonist in the play, a little girl from the old society, wandering everywhere, suffering but optimistic, tortured but also strong. Wang Zhaohui felt, “It’s a bit similar to her autobiography.”
“Life is an unsinkable lake. I am always naive, optimistic and confident.” Fang Jufen often said to his daughter, “Learn to survive in the cracks.”
Not long after acting, Fang Jufen suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. The 59-year-old hurriedly bid farewell to the stage. “Brother Xi” became Fang Jufen’s last role in children’s art.
“She has dedicated her life to Eryi, and Eryi is home to her mother.”
The last stage
After retiring, Fang Jufen still uses makeup, eyebrows, lipstick, and perfume every day. “When I was a child, I was poor at home and didn’t have perfume. My mother sprinkled toilet water on the handkerchief before going out.” When he grows up, every time he goes abroad on business, Wang Zhaohui will do it. Bringing cosmetics to her mother, Wang Ziyin, the eldest daughter who lives in Australia, often buys lipstick and perfume for her mother.
When he was in his 70s, Fang Jufen half jokingly said that he was going to write eyebrows in front of a family member. Her husband Wang Zheng lowered his voice and quietly said to her, “We don’t seem to be at the right age.” Fang Jufen laughed.
Fang Jufen’s 80th birthday.Photo courtesy of respondents
“Women want to be beautiful.” This is Fang Jufen’s belief. When he first entered the China Youth Art Theatre, Fang Jufen tried his best to wear the fat and long uniforms with his personality-the trouser legs were pulled between the calves, the sleeves were pulled under the elbows, the military hat was on the back of the head, the front of the hair was exposed, and the brim of the hat was close to the top of the head. , With the neckline wide open, and the white, red or flowery shirt collar inside turned over the outside of the uniform, she wrote in her autobiography, “I think it looks chic and not so rustic.”
Later, the daughters often bought her clothes, but after two days they would find that the mother had cut the trouser legs or collar again. The daughter said that her hair is less and not black, so it is better to cut her hair shorter, but Fang Jufen does her own way and insists on tying a braid on her head. She was called the “Little Beauty” by the theater people, “When my mother went to the theater,’Yo! The Little Beauty is here!’ Everyone said so.”
Fang Jufen never left the drama career. After retiring, she watched and served as a judge. Later, because of cataracts, her eyesight was not good, but every time she watched a drama, she would give the actors a few instructions.
Sisters Wang Ziyin and Wang Zhaohui accompanied his mother to watch play after play. Fang Jufen would go to Australia to live for a period of time almost every year, accompanied by his eldest daughter to watch various plays. Although Fang Jufen had never said it, the daughters knew the regret in her heart-she had not been able to bid farewell to the stage after acting for most of her life.
In 2014, the drama “Seagulls and Other Birds” adapted from Chekhov’s “Seagulls” began, with Wang Zhaohui as the producer. At that time, there was a lack of an old actor in the play, and the director asked Wang Zhaohui, “Do you think your mother can act for us?”
The setting of this play is very simple, only white cloth, no props. During the audition, when the director saw Fang Jufen wearing a soft pink long skirt, sitting in a wheelchair, being pushed around the stage in the music, “It feels like it’s there all of a sudden, and the rhythm rises.”
After being away from the stage for 25 years, Fang Jufen quickly became an actor, but she was over 80 years old, and it was difficult for her to memorize a large number of lines. In the past, this was the simplest thing for Hufen. Fang Jufen said to Wang Ziyin, “I am adapting to the current style of drama. In fact, if you are younger, you will adapt better.”
Wang Zhaohui was very supportive of her mother’s coming on stage again. She told her sister, “This is a very good thing to let mother bid farewell to the stage.” Wang Zhaohui was also very happy. This is the first time she has worked with her mother. The only time.
In 2020, Fang Jufen spent the last Spring Festival with his daughter (the eldest daughter Wang Ziyin on the left and the younger daughter Wang Zhaohui on the right).Photo courtesy of respondents
Fang Jufen has the same respect for children as adults. She never beats or scolds children. “On the street, she saw anyone hitting a child, she immediately took care of them, shouting,’Children are weak, no hitting children!’” Wang Zhaohui said. Many children who have been in contact with Fang Jufen like her, “As a child, it is so happy to have such a mother.”
The mother has spent her entire life on children’s dramas. As a daughter, her “ignorance” towards her mother is not without resentment. In Wang Zhaohui’s memory, he didn’t spend much time with his mother. “Before I was three years old, my parents were delegated and went to work separately. I lived alone with a nanny in Beijing. I went to a full-care kindergarten when I was four. Go home for one day.” But in a rare day, “Mother is not my own either”-someone who I don’t know always comes to the house to ask Fang Jufen to perform.
Unlike the mother of that era, Fang Jufen did not do well in handwork. She doesn’t know how to make clothes. Wang Zhaohui only wore a pair of woolen trousers knitted by her mother, which broke within half a year, while her sister Wang Ziyin didn’t have any. Wang Zhaohui often feels embarrassed, “Other girls are all well-dressed. There is a red checkered linen. My mother bought cloth to make it, but I don’t have one.”
It’s also the father who goes to the parent conference every time. “Because my father is a playwright, he spends more time at home, and we spend a lot of time with my father.” Fang Jufen occasionally held a parent conference, especially serious, she told the teacher I wrote down the words one by one, and repeated them to his daughter. Wang Zhaohui shook his head impatiently.
Fang Jufen doesn’t have any requirements for children, only one-not allowed to be an actor. When Wang Zhaohui was 6 years old, Fang Jufen said to her, “You don’t look good, you don’t excel. The actor is too hard to be an actor.” Wang Zhaohui, who is ignorant, thinks that being an actor means being like a mother and staying away from home. She didn’t want to. After growing up, while tossing and turning to think about what he would do in the future, this sentence played back again and again in Wang Zhaohui’s mind: the mother said so categorically and mercilessly, it seemed a bit cruel.
In 2002, when Wang Zheng passed away, his family seemed to become smaller all of a sudden, the time for mother and daughter to meet each other increased, and the conflicts between the two generations increased. Wang Zhaohui is not used to his mother’s sudden increase in nagging, “I think you haven’t bothered for so many years, now it’s a bit late to worry about it.” During the quarrel, the aggrieved Wang Zhaohui once said to Fang Hufen, “You are an amateur mother. You know nothing.”
Fang Jufen also had no idea: Is his mother doing enough? In 2009, Fang Jufen, who never directly expressed his emotions in front of others, wrote an article expressing his guilt towards his family and husband for the first time.
“In fact, we understand you very well, and understand your hard work for the family.” Wang Ziyin said to his mother after reading the article. Wang Zhaohui also understood his mother’s guilt and love, and felt sour.
In 2019, on Fang Jufen’s 90th birthday, Wang Zhaohui finally couldn’t help but say what he was saying, “In fact, we really like you as an’amateur’ mother, because you are an’amateur’, so that we can grow into what we are today without any restraint. “Fang Jufen smiled at his daughter, Wang Zhaohui felt, “In the end, my mother knows that we love her.”
On his 90th birthday, Fang Jufen was surrounded by students wearing red scarves.Photo courtesy of respondents
On that day, dozens of colleagues and students of Fang Jufen wore red scarves and surrounded her, as lively as she had always liked. Now, the room was quiet, the toys all over the room were put away, and her favorite pair of kookaburra was also gone because the person who teased it was gone, and she never laughed “haha” again.
The “not growing up” old lady bid farewell to her 91 years of “childhood”, and a birthday gift she received was posted on the bookcase. It was a poem called “Childhood”——
A green pine is in the old age, and the child’s heart remains happy.
Living in a high place in a busy city, the global village is full of urchins.
Beijing News reporter Peng Chong
Edit Liu Qian
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