Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let Go of My Fin

At long last, we had our first performance of "Oops, I Killed A Penguin." I don't think I ever mentioned it before (because I don't like to brag), but I am the Penguin. I also play a pirate (sadly, no time to put on a puffy shirt) and character called Smogman, in which I have a smoke machine attached to my costume.
This maiden performance went....chaotic. We, the "brilliant actors" (that's what they call us) were fine, but did not expect the audience reaction. We banked on zero response based on past experience with Cantonese kids. There are several times when we break the 4th wall and try to force audience participation (make them chant, read signs, other things to promote language learning).
There's also a time when I, as the Penguin, skate into the audience, and pelt Tim with trash. I give pieces of rubbish to students and encourage them to throw it at Tim. I thought I would have to coerce them into doing it, but no. The moment I handed a piece to some kids in the front row, about 80 kids swarmed me, trying to grab garbage from my bag and yanking on my fins. In abject fear, I scurried back on-stage before the masses destroyed the costume.
Despite the actors' stressed-out state and the audience's amazingly destructive enthusiasm, we go the message across. The principal told us that after the show, she asked the students who wanted to kill the penguin and none of them did (out of an audience of about 300). This either means that they don't want to promote environmental damage...or my Penguin was incredibly empathetic.
That same day, we had another performance at the museum and then that night, I helped out with a rehearsal for Jungle Book. One of the kids at that rehearsal told me that he saw a drama that day from the Dramatic English company.
"You did?! Did you see me?"
"Oh...uh, did you see a penguin?"

I feel like a broken record, but once again, no day off since last posting, hence no new pictures. But in other news, I just got cast in a film called "Hollywood Road." It's a romantic comedy set in Hong Kong, and I'm one of the leads: Julia, a sarcastic florist. It's almost like my real life, but more fragrant. I met with the director today, and he seems completely normal. There's also a part for a Japanese girl (it's a multi-lingual film: English, Cantonese, and Japanese), so Kazumi is going to step in for that. We plan to attempt to incorporate our juggling skills wherever possible.
Now I need to go iron my puffy shirt.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Final! Final! No More! Goodbye! Final!

That's how one store in Wan Chai says, "Going out of business sale".
The bamboo scaffolding is gone. I actually saw some of the dismantling from the inside and was stunned at the method. There were several men climbing around outside my 26th floor window with absolutely no ropes, pully systems, safety nets or spiderman glue. I didn't see anyone fall. Although I did see someone about to jump off a building. Vera and I were out shopping for props and we saw someone on the roof of a building, surrounded by police and their giant inflatable device. We didn't linger there...
Well, now that I've brightened your day, I won't ruin it with the gruesome details of seeing a man jump in front of a bus. Hong Kong is grating on me. And so, like anyone would, I've started juggling.
There's a group of people who get together and juggle every Monday night. Kazumi (my new roommate) and I decided to go last week. The group's website just said "meet in Victoria Park" which is comparable to saying "meet in Central Park" with no further direction. But we figured that a juggling group would be easy to spot. It's not like we were searching for a Quaker meeting. About an hour later, we entered some sort of portal in the park where there were people with swords, women doing fan dances, and our long-sought-after jugglers. When we approached them and asked to join, they just stared at us, completely silent. [Dallas, add this to our collection of awkward stories (less awkward than saying "Happy Easter" to a Muslim, but awkward still)] Apparently, only one guy there really spoke English, so when he saw the awkward staredown, he came over to save the day and taught us the basics of juggling. From then on, we were accepted into the fold and we both plan to go back tomorrow night.
I'm also coping by taking dance classes. They're mostly conducted in Cantonese, which is great for learning things like left, right, and body parts. Lowintry, my ballet teacher, is what you might call elderly, but she can kick over her head. She probably can't kick over my head since I'm such an ogre. I don't blend in very well. My favorite is on the MTR (subway) when it's packed but I can still see over everyone's head to the end of the train.
And work. Again, no day off since last post, so no amazing pictures. We have our first Penguin show this Friday, and the script, in its current and 9th reincarnation, is still not where we want it. And I seem to be the only one with a real concern about this.
Pork = jew-yuk. I remember this by thinking about how Jewish people can't eat pork, so if they were offered any, they'd say "yuk."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's a Decoration

American custom does not generally involve eating chicken heads. Neither does Chinese custom, but this does not stop them from displaying the severed head on a plate with other, more edible parts of the bird: Yes, that is my hand. I'm sure I touched grosser things on the NYC subway. Incidentally, this was taken at my birthday dinner, shared with all of these amazing people:

These are all people from Dramatic English, except for the girl in the green. That is my fantastic new flatmate, Kazumi. Kazumi won, beating out hundreds or perhaps even dozens of other applicants. She is Japanese and wants to be a translator and has agreed to translate my memoirs into Japanese. Reserve your copy today. The freak with the jazz hands is Tim, of course. Sitting down from left to right: Cloris, Vera, Angel, Joan, and Eric, the new guy. Vera and Angel are displaying the "birthday buns"--filled with lotus seed paste. Also, we had to eat a specific type of noodle; a long variety to coincide with a long life.
Just to spice up your life, here's a blurry night-shot of Hong Kong: It's been one of those no-day-off weeks, so I have no photos of new lands or exciting cultural discoveries. So I'll try to thrill you with my own fascinating internal observations.

Masculinity. Herein lies a wide cultural gap. I've seen men, grown men, professional men...wearing a tiny Mickey Mouse backpack. Mickey is hardcore. But if you are even more of a bad(a)--(censored for the children and my dad), you adorn your van with sparkly boas and Hello Kitty paraphernalia. Yes. Here, Hello Kitty means tough guy, whereas in America, it means, kindergarten girl.

This may not be an impressive photo, but the name makes up for it: The Splendid Bronze Cauldron of the Return of Sovereignty. It's at the Po Lin Monastary (home of the Big Buddha). May not look like much, but really it's quite Splendid.
At rehearsal today; little kids:
"My grandpa eats scorpians. Not the cooked ones, the live ones."
The older kids:
"Enoch, what is the number one rule when you are on the stage?"
Enoch: "Never put your butt on the audience's face."
"Right!" I should have given him a chicken head for that one.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It's no Spain...but it will do.

When I wear fake muscles and a toga for the Greek show, I have to hang around the exhibit as I wait for my turn to thrill the kids with fun facts about jugs. During this time, I have grown accustomed to people (not on our tour) laughing at me or taking my picture next to a Herakles statue. I got a new one yesterday. An older lady approached me and started asking me questions, as though I were the curator or a registered expert on the subject.

"I'm sorry, I don't know which tribe destroyed the temple, but I can tell you the difference between and amphora, a kylix, and a hydria."

I helped the new actor we hired, Eric, to move to Hong Kong from Macau. It's only an hour by ferry to get there, but since it's a different "country," I got to go through customs and activate my work visa. With a giant empty suitcase in hand for him to fill with his accouterments (I'm getting away from using "stuff"), I set off for Macau a few hours early to tour around before meeting up with Eric. Macau was a Portuguese colony until 1999. Signs are written in Chinese and Portuguese, English if you're lucky. It's amazing how much Portuguese one can read when Chinese is the only other option. Also, the colonial architecture is preserved much better than it is in Hong Kong.

It also looks like a comic book:

One of the most famous sites in Macau is this, the Ruins of St. Paul:

Japanese Christians built this cathedral while they self-exiled themselves to escape persecution in Japan. Everything except this, the stone facade, burned down in 1835.

And here I am, posing obnoxiously with it:

Yes, I was ridiculous enough to climb to the top with a giant empty suitcase. This next photo is a fine example of Portuguese architecture. In other words, I have no idea what it is:

I ended up getting really lost and wandered around back alleys where I saw this store. Those are fish, hanging out to dry.

Since Eric will be living on his own, I have set out to find a new flatmate. The search has yielded unexpected results. The result I expected was to never find anyone. As of right now, I have 5 people coming to view it tomorrow. The key is honesty. I wrote the ads in my usual style/tone and was sure to mention the lizards.

One more from Macau:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What have I done?

Usually, a rather eldery man "guards" my flat building, but sometimes, the happiest woman in the world does the job. This woman likes me to an inexplicably high degree. I greet her with the usual "jo sun" (good morning) and "lay ho ma" (how are you?) and she grins and says "jo sun" at least 6 times before I walk out the door. It's all very nice and brightens my day. afternoon, I said something profound to her--like, "Hello, the weather is hot right now," which apparently led her to believe that I spoke fluent Cantonese, because she started talking very fast, with grand gestures. In my state of shock, I simply responded to everything she said with "high-a" (yeah) and an affirmative nod.

I can't be sure, but it's possible that I agreed to wear a puffy shirt.