The UpHill Chinese Theatre Group hosted three showings of their spring performance “Goodbye Mr. Loser” on Friday and Saturday. The performance was in Chinese, with English subtitles provided on a screen.
“Goodbye Mr. Loser” is a Chinese comedy film released in 2015 adapted from a successful play of the same name that gained significant traction in China, according to Autumn Qiu ’25, the show’s director. She said that the drama club, which includes Brown and Rhode Island School of Design students, chose to put on the show because of the high esteem it holds in the Chinese community. She added that the society was able to secure the rights to the script and the show did not require elaborate props.
“The choices were limited because we didn’t want to bring (a story) that’s too heavy for audiences,” Qiu said.
According to Qiu, the club chose the script in August 2022, with casting occurring in September and rehearsals starting in October. She mentioned that around 30 people auditioned for various roles within the play and 18 actors were selected for the final cast. Qiu added that in addition to hosting auditions, she also scouted tech team members with an interest in lighting, sound and design.
The show’s set and props were built by RISD students, according to Gary Zheng ’24, who played the male lead Xia Luo in the show and was involved in the club’s production last year. “They worked really hard, so we appreciate their work,” he said. “This was the most difficult show in terms of tech that we’ve ever done.”
Some members of the cast had no prior acting experience, while others had extensive theater backgrounds.
“I’ve never auditioned for anything before, so when I got the role, I was overjoyed,” said Olivia He ’26, who played Qiu Ya, another leading character in the show. Ivy Zhuang ’25, who played the female lead character Ma Dongmei, said she has acted in many plays and musicals in high school.
Zhuang told The Herald that she wanted to try something new by joining the show. “I’ve never acted in Chinese before,” she said.
According to Qiu, rehearsals occurred in weekly four-hour blocks in the List Art Center.
Booking a rehearsal space was not a simple process, Qiu said.
“We wanted to book spaces as early as possible because, at Brown, all student performance groups are trying to” reserve rehearsal venues, she said. Qiu added that the cast needed to quickly adapt to the new stage dimensions in Alumnae Hall during tech week because they had not been able to rehearse there previously.
For He, one of the greatest challenges of the show was maintaining her character’s emotions in times when she had no lines. She added that getting into character occasionally posed a challenge since she disagreed with her character’s decisions at times. “It was hard for me to actually act it, but then I slowly accepted her (personality),” He said.
According to Qiu, around 400 audience members attended the three shows in total. Multiple cast members noted that audience laughter often was unpredictable, citing discrepancies due to language barriers and the use of subtitles.
“It definitely surprised me,” Zhuang said. During Saturday night’s performance, “around half of them (didn’t) speak Chinese, so they were laughing a little before or after the actual laughing points that we expected.”
The cast became more comfortable as the shows progressed. “I did enjoy the stage a lot more as I performed more,” wrote Jintao Yue ’26, who played supporting male lead Yuan Hua, in an email to The Herald. “There was less anxiety and uncertainty as I became more confident in my portrayal of the character.”
Audience members Jialiang Zhou ’24 and Xiaoyue Hou ’25 both expressed their enjoyment of the play.
“I know a lot of (the cast) never acted before, but the play was really good (and) everybody’s acting skills were really on point,” Zhou said.
Hou added that she really liked that the performance had “a lot of references to Chinese pop culture” and “a lot of scene changes.”
The Uphill Chinese Drama Club hopes to start booking spaces for next year’s rehearsals and showtimes soon, according to Qiu. Zheng mentioned that the club hopes to start leading workshops for those who are interested in joining shows for successive years.