Maria Niechwiadowicz


One more time. One more chance to audition, coach, and watch the annual English Play Competition!

Once again, I was impressed with the students’ abilities to create and rehearse a show in such a short time. In two weeks they put their 10-15 minute plays together, while I eagerly scheduled time with them to tweak and critique! The result was a marvelous night of dramas, comedies, and fairytales.

The process was much different than last year. For one, I am now used to the way the University works when scheduling and rehearsing. When the date was set I didn’t even write in in my calendar, knowing that it would change…and sure enough, it did. Having access to the Music Hall space, the students were in charge of their sets and costumes, but didn’t have to worry about doing the lights and sound on their own. This meant that I got to focus on coaching, rather than assisting in designing and tech as well, which was more relaxing for me!

Overall, I was most impressed with how far the students have come since I came to Guyuan a year and a half ago. Last year much of my coaching focus was on basic technique: facing the audience, projecting the voice, hand gestures, etc. But this year even the first year students seemed to have those skills down. I found myself focusing much more on character development, expression, and a bit of script adaption (watching the 15-minute rendition of “The Marriage of Figaro” was both confusing and painful the first go around).

Watching the culminating performance on Sunday was emotional. I was a proud momma in the audience, feeling nostalgia for the process that I had thought was so strange a year ago. It was one of those moments that reality hit – that this was my last competition with the English department and that this was my last performance to attend at Ningxia Shifan. And everyone else felt it too. As my sophomore students took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the competition, my heart soared. The actors overwhelmed me with hugs and words of thanks. Even the Dean expressed how much growth she has seen the in students over the past two years and wonders how they will do it without me next year! I hate to count “last” moments, but I let the feeling fill me, knowing that I needed to say goodbye to this properly. I took in the joy of students, the corny Chinese congratulations music, and the excessive photography. I took a deep breath after it was all said and done, and walked out of the Music Hall. My mind shouted “Encore, encore,” but my heart knew it was time to say goodbye.


1st Place – “Dream Show”



“Beauty & the Beast”


“Butterfly Lovers”


2nd place – “Figaro’s Wedding”


“A Midsummer Nights Dream”



3rd place – “Notre Dame de Paris”


“The Merchant of Venice”


“Enchanted Ella”

Photos property of Maria Niechwiadowicz.

Cover photo thanks to Ningxia Shifan Xueyuan. More photos, click here.