I just got back from my first trip to London to present a paper at SOAS’s Hong Kong in Transition conference on the Hong Kong theatre group Zuni Icosahedron’s East Wing, West Wing series of plays (see photo below). It was great to meet other scholars and practitioners interested in Hong Kong theatre, history, and politics. One highlight was getting to see a curated performance of both the traditional Kun Qu “Flee by Night” and the modern, experimental version directed by Danny Yung. I will try to keep in touch with them to continue our dialogues. I stuck around a few days after the conference and explored the city. I found London to be a lovely metropolis and it seemed that every time your turned your head you would see some historical building or street. There were wonderful paintings and beautifully preserved medieval arms and armor at the Wallace Collection (see photo below). I could have spent another day in that museum. Ah well! Until next time, London!
The Brown County Playhouse staged a production of the comedy Moonlight and Magnolias and I got the chance to choreograph a three-person comedic slap fight for the production. The choreography itself was a bit challenging due to the physical constraints of the older actors. Once I familiarized myself with what each actor was comfortable with, I tailored the choreography to the specific actor. The most dramatic move of the fight was a powerful slap which caused one character to fall back onto the sofa in a daze. We carefully worked out a way to safely have the actor fall back while effectively telling the story of the fight in an exciting way. Besides being tons of fun, it was the first time I had gotten paid to choreograph a fight for a professional production. I hope it will be the first of many fight choreography gigs.
It has been such a great experience for me to teach Script Analysis at IU. Students seem to really respond to the plays I select for the course. Last semester we covered Antigone, Venus, The Hypochondriac, Three Sisters and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, among other works. The focus of the course is on envisioning fully-realized productions and in service of that, I have built a design project and staged reading project into the syllabus. This gives students an opportunity to apply the analytical tools we have learned to the practical problem of putting a play onstage. Hopefully, they will take these tools and make use of them for the rest of their theatrical career.
I was a bit jet lagged after flying direct from Hong Kong to Las Vegas (first time in Vegas, baby!), but I had a fantastic time presenting a paper I had written on the Hong Kong avant-garde theatre group Zuni Icosahedron. It was great to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones too! As AAP’s grad rep, I was tasked with running the grad student events: a pre-conference meetup, a mentor lunch, and the post-schmoozefest grad student cocktail time- affectionately called the “grad student drinky-poo.” A good time was had by all. The contingent of grad students from Hawai’i were lovely to meet and they all presented interesting scholarship as well. I managed to see one Cirque du Soleil show- but alas- I shall have to see more the next time I’m in Vegas!
The PhD in Theatre History, Theory, and Literature at Indiana University has a system of comprehensive exams that cover a wide range of, unsurprisingly, theatre history, theory, and literature. The exams are broken into four categories: Ancient to Medieval times, The Renaissance to 1800, 1800 to World War I, and finally World War I to Contemporary times. After reading all the works from one particular time period, the student takes an oral exam where they discuss the material and field questions from professors. The full exam reading list is mostly based on European and American theatre but there are a significant amount of important theory books and plays from India, Japan, China, and Indonesia. By reading each list, one can discover how theatre during that particular time period was affected by unique cultural, political, and economic forces. The readings are a particularly useful resource to draw upon when holding discussions in class, giving a firm foundation from which to teach plays, theory, and history from any time period.
It was such a pleasure to direct Flower and Sword in IU’s studio theatre. The production came about as part of the College of Arts and Humanities Council’s “China Remixed” semester-long exploration of the diverse aspects of Chinese culture. The play, by Taiwanese playwright and scholar Ma Sen, tells the story of a child returning home to seek answers about a dark family secret. A strange person meets the child at their family home, but is this the mother, the father, or someone else entirely? The play was a bit of a challenge to stage in the Studio Theatre due to time and space constraints, but my fantastic cast and crew overcome those obstacles to produce a fantastic show.
It was a fantastic experience to perform in the Dream of the Red Chamber opera at the Hong Kong Arts Festival this March. Though I am not an opera singer, and had the glamorous job of moving tables, beds, and the heavy yellow palanquin, it was an educational experience to be backstage. I guess technically I played a servant- they even made me shave my beard and put on a wig- but with no lines and no stage time other than moving things, I was only marginally separated from the running crew. I was particularly interested in how the stage managers organize the production crew for maximum efficiency in a huge venue. The production stage manager stat in front of a cabinet of monitors stage left and orchestrated the show through a mix of microphones, shouted commands, and sign language. Both performances were sold out and it was thrilling to be part of the final production of this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival.
I haven’t been posting too often because I have been busy in rehearsal for Macbeth.
It has been a great experience! The Wells-Metz theatre was transformed into a creepy, spooky Scottish heath, complete with hanging vegetation, lanterns, and soundscape surrounding the audience. A few days ago at our technical rehearsal we produced so much fog we set off the fire alarm! We evacuated outside and had to wait for an hour until the fire department came and cleared the building. But aside from that, out tech went well and we opened to a sold out house! Check out a few of these photos from the show.
I have been cast as Lennox and Old Siward in Macbeth at IU. We open in February, so we will have a long rehearsal process broken up by the winter break. The show’s concept and the immersive nature of the set combined with arena staging sounds like a lot of fun work with. I can’t wait to get into the stage combat- I have been told I’ll be doing sword and shield fights! It’s always great to get to use what you just learned the semester before.
I’ve been a busy little bee this summer so I haven’t had the time to post updates here. The Rep shows at IU were fantastic! I played seven roles over two shows, which is what I enjoy. Embodying a different physicality for each character (informed by the costume) helped me keep them separate and distinct. It was great to do the plays in true repertory style, switching the shows every day. It was a small taste of what actors during Shakespeare’s time (and many other time periods) had to do.
The annual ATHE and AAP conference in Montreal was fantastic. I got to renew old friendships, meet new people, and hear the most cutting edge research in theatre and performance studies today. I presented on a Chinese play I had translated with help of my colleagues at IU and got several people pretty interested in my work. Maybe I’ll do a staged reading at IU in the fall.
The other great news is that I passed my second comp exam! This one covered Shakespeare, Moliere, Lope de Vega, Sheridan, Racine, and many others. Comps are a great chance to read a bunch of history and plays from one period, letting you find what you like and don’t like. Two down, two to go!