07 June 2009

Day 1: A walk in town, meet & greet, workshops, and more

Sunday, 5.00pm

Breakfast was at 9am sharp, and was a buffet in the hotel restaurant. There were lots of western dishes there (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.), but I made a beeline for the Chinese food. On my plate: brown rice soup, dumpling, sweet bean bun, fruit, kimchee (I know, I know. not really Chinese), hearty wheat bread, fried noodles, and grilled sesame flatbread. Mmmmm.

After breakfast, the four of us wandered around the hotel, peeking into shops and getting a lay of the land. Here's a lovely Chinese fire hazard:

At noon, we met a new hostess (Cynthia), who took us to the Academy cafeteria for lunch. Lunch was okay – bock choy, cucumbers, chicken, and, of course, rice.

Lunch and Dinner is provided by the Academy, but I have a feeling that since we’re in a new place with such a rich culinary tradition, we will be spending our mealtimes exploring other food places.

Next, we went to tour the Shanghai Theatre Academy and see the venues.

Then, an afternoon of workshop performances. Our performance was supposed to be one of the workshops, but it got too big for the space, so the Festival organizers kindly moved it to a different venue. We were supposed to see four pieces, but the group from Vietman cancelled, leaving just three. The first was a group from New Zealand, doing a piece based on Caucasian Chalk Circle, which was really interesting in the way it incorporated geography. After them were a few pieces by a group in the Phillipines, which were basically retellings of plays with a south Asian dance vocabulary. Less interesting intellectually, but more beautifully in performance.

Then, a walk with Michelle, our student host, to the lovely Jing An Temple in downtown Shanghai. There were some striking architectural features to it, but the most amazing part was the full Buddhist shrine in what was basically a cement-lined warehouse room. Weird.

Benny, Michelle, and Jaymi:

Michelle dropped us off at our hotel and we went to grab a bite before the evening show. We had dim sum at a little café. Here’s the spring rolls and fried wontons. Sarah, you’d LOVE these fried wontons.

Then, the show. It was a production by a group in Vietnam, and it was disappointing on many levels. The way the show was described in the program led us to believe that we’d be seeing a fully-fleshed-out play. What we saw instead was a bit of a mess of a dance piece. It was 35 long minutes. We left as soon as we could...

...to head out to find some dinner. We didn’t find dinner, but we did find two bars. One was awful – lousy with teeny pop, expensive drinks, and some stunning beautiful people (eye-candy), but the other was just right! It’s called Jam’s Bar, and it basically has seating for 12 people. We were the only ones in there, and we talked to Lola, the owner. A nice time, though morning will come quickly.

Tomorrow is our performance day. Jaymi and I are getting breakfast at 7.15 to be at the theatre at 8.15. The actors are coming at 11. We have shows at 2 and 7.15. Will post more then.

Oh, one other thought. When traveling in Europe, I’m always aware of how much I do or don’t look like a tourist. I try to be conspicuous with my photo-taking, English-speaking, etc. Here, in Asia, where it’s very obvious that I’m not a local, I don’t feel that concern. My camera’s out, I’m speaking the English, hoo-wee!

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