Guest Blog: Passport to Broadway in China - Day #5

Guest Blog: Passport to Broadway in China - Day #5

by Seth Weinstein

After six intense days of learning, studying, practicing, and expressing, the big day arrived, and in the morning we drove to our venue and walked upstairs to the second-floor theatre. It was chilly inside, but things warmed up throughout the day, aided by a single ambitious backstage heater.

The stage had the advantage of being about the same size as the hotel's rehearsal studio, so there was little spacial adjusting to be done, which allowed us to focus on other theatrical enhancements. Floor microphones were tested and adjusted, with gunshot-like pops, and a sound check was performed. Stage lights were turned on, and the students grew accustomed to looking out at the audience without being able to see them. Spike marks were taped to the floor to indicate the limits of upstage and downstage. The students learned the concepts of "backstage" and "places" and what it felt like to wait in the wings for the show to begin, and they were told to remain in character and not peek out from the curtain to wave to their families.

They were taught to hold their positions at the end of each act until the lights went out-many students naturally dropped their arms, and their focus, immediately at the final musical button. Bows were staged, with the appropriate acknowledgment to the pianist. We had a run-through, but energy was down. Were the students bewildered by the new stage additions?

We took a break for lunch, which was ladled onto metal trays by the theatre manager. He did so methodically and with great calculation and care, while seemingly reciting a story with each dollop. But the eating went quickly, and we held a final dress rehearsal before our 2:30 p.m. curtain. Parents stampeded their way to the front rows of the house, vying for the best sightlines and camera positions. Amy gave a short speech, and then we were under way.

Our young performers summoned their energy and expression to deliver an exciting half hour. They clearly enjoyed themselves while doing so, which is the best we could have wished-and that they told their story with mastery of the music and movement was icing on the cake. If applause seemed light, it was only because half the parents were pointing phones or cameras at the stage, and hands were otherwise occupied.

After the final bow, Amy presented each student with a certificate, and parents were invited onstage to comment on what they had seen and embarrass their children individually. One mother brought Amy a bouquet of juicy strawberries. Pictures were taken, and then it was suddenly all over, like a meal that takes days to prepare and is eaten in an hour. But the memories will linger, and everyone, students and teachers alike, has been much enriched by the experience.

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