Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is a test blog...

This is a test... this is only a test...

We've now just arrived in Guangzhou... Peter, Sheilla and I are here
for an overnight trip... we have a press event tomorrow, and then
afterwards are off to Zhengzhou for our short run. We only have 3
shows in that city.

How you're all doing well!


Monday, September 15, 2008

The weekend is all over... thank goodness

Well, it's Sunday night... as I wait for room service to bring me my dinner (for some reason I'm craving Chinese style green beans tonight), I figured it was as good a time as any to blog about the weekend. So far I've written about walking in the rain in Shu Yuan Men (Book Garden Gate)... now time to write a little about work.

In Beijing, our musical director Michael Duff gave Peter and me the heads-up on what could have potentially been a disaster... because of visa problems, our touring musicians from Canada and the Ukraine were going to arrive later than expected.  The Xi'an presentor had to then hire local musicians to cover for the missing players.  At first, it seemed like something out of a musical director's worst nightmare: one player wouldn't produce the best sound, but read music like a demon... another would make the most hauntingly beautiful tones, but can barely read. Michael said that it would take a ton of work, and that he himself didn't know how things would turn out.  Peter (God bless him) kept calm and cool and said, "It'll be fine, no worries." Michael had been working with them, and said that this young group (very, very young... a bulk of them are in the local conservatory, still in training, I think) was incredibly hardworking.  I'll be honest... there was a part of me that was very doubtful of how opening night would be... and then there was another that would work with whatever we were given, and hope for the best.  I just had to trust that it would all be fine...

And thankfully, it was.

Here's Michael working with the orchestra in the lobby of the theater.

(l-r) Brandy Zarle, Peter Saide, Charlie Parker

Sheilla Habab (my adopted sister, personal assistant and dresser)
and Lynn Zhang, my translator

Rehearsing "Loneliness of Evening"

(l-r) Priscilla Duff, who was subbing for our Keyboard 2 player, 
and Janet Roma, our associate musical director and Keyboard 1 player

Peter Saide and Steve Gagliastro,
who would be playing the King on opening night in Xi'an

Jen Bechter and Brandy Zarle rehearsing "Stepsisters' Lament"

At our sitzprobe on September 10, for the most part, we heard the sounds that we were used to hearing in Manila.  It was evident at this music rehearsal just how much work Michael had put into making this orchestra sound good.  Sure, there would be a few bad notes here and there, or one player would go ahead of everyone else, but this was going to be one invaluable experience for these young musicians.  Michael pointed out that these kids had probably never seen the inside of an orchestra pit before... which, if you think about it, was an exciting prospect.  This was going to be a time in their lives that they won't soon forget.  We were rooting for them. Sure, I was angry at the problems that the visa hullabaloo was causing, but I couldn't think about that at this moment... we had work to do.

Only the principals were called at this sitzprobe... the ensemble would get to hear them on our adjustment day on September 11, which was the date of our opening night.  After getting the rundown of what our stage adjustments would be (here's a partial list: no palace terrace drop [the red set], no kitchen railing on the bridge, no blue drop in the prologue [we used the bedroom doors instead, and they floated upstage of the bridge and were therefore unusable], no ballroom drop [the purple drop]).  Plus, because of the where the scrim would be hung, so much had to be adjusted upstage of their original spike marks that were set in Manila. Plus, because of how the fly system works at this theater, there were sacrifices that had to be made. The speed at which the drops rise and fall is incredibly slow... as in, it would take the better part of one scene to complete a set change. Interesting.

The new merchandising set-up in the lobby

Our theatre, the Grand Theatre in Renmin Square, Xi'an

Doing stage adjustments for the opening number

Looking up at me is Amy Nelson, our 1st trumpet player

Michael, looking like he's got a migraine coming on...

This is the house... 

Jen Jenkins (Dance Captain) adjusting choreography for the theater

Jefferson Slinkard (who watched opening night and enjoyed it),
and Peter with his goofy grin

We also had to get acquainted with dressers and backstage crew that spoke very little to no English... there are interpreters stationed on each side of the stage to help the American crew give quick instructions for set moves and whatever else (our head props person brings along her electronic English-Chinese dictionary with her everywhere to communicate)... plus a few more for the hairdressers and dressers.   To be sure, this has been a very interesting as well as educational experience for all of us, and we're having a pretty good time.  (The only downer for me is going past the very -- ahem -- "fragrant" men's room when I need to go to the wardrobe room or to stage left.  Phew!)

The audiences here in Xi'an have been really, really great.  We were told to expect a conservative, polite crowd that only really erupts at the very end during curtain call... that possibly there wouldn't be applause after song numbers because, it was explained to us, that the audience doesn't want to interrupt the show as it's going.   That's really sweet!  So we go in not expecting anything, but being pleasantly surprised when applause arrives.   It's all good.   And yes, they really go full out at curtain call. It's really wonderful.

Yes, we've all been learning some functional Mandarin... I can now say "Hello," "I'm sorry," "Excuse me, let me pass," "Thank you," "bathroom," and "What's your name?"  It's not much, but it's something!  We all try with our very Western (and in my case, Pinoy) accents to learn more and more vocabulary and phrases... it does send our "teachers" (the interpreters and wardrobe department heads) into fits of laughter when we say things with the wrong tone or inflection. But it's been fun!

Our run in Xi'an so far has been really fantastic, despite the challenges that have come our way. The challenges turned out to not be insurmountable, thankfully... all the hard work that everyone in the company is putting in is really paying off.  The crew is doing a great job, the dressers and hairdressers as well, and the show is running like a machine once again.

Next stop for me: the Terra Cotta Warriors.  I have been waiting for this field trip for so long!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Rainy Day in Xi'an

The very first thing that struck me when we touched down in Xi'an a few days ago was the smell.

Rather... the fragrance.

I took a deep breath upon exiting the airport, and it was... so... mmmmm... clean!  The air smelled so fresh and fragrant, I couldn't get over it!  And take note, this was the airport... what more when we travelled further from here?

The car ride into the city was long, but it really didn't matter... since our company manager Jamey was in the car with me, the work-related conversation kept us mentally busy enough... but once we entered the city proper, I found it to be well planned, well laid out, and very beautiful.  And this was at night.  A lovely, fragrant, clear night.

The next day was our press day in Xi'an to promote Cinderella in the city before we open on Thursday... thank goodness we weren't going to be in costume.  The last two cities we visited for press (Shanghai and Beijing), we had to wear our ball finery. Beautiful, but not always the most comfortable.  So the news that we could just wear our own clothing (I chose a Cinderella t-shirt with diamantes and a pair of jeans) was very welcome.  The press conference was held in the in-progress Land of Lotus. I didn't get a tour or a description of the complex, but from the looks of it, it's a residential community being built by one of our presentors in Xi'an.  It's not far from the Tang Paradise (where the Emperor of China resided in the Tang dynasty) and the Great Wild Goose Pagoda... and we spied this billboard on our way home:

This is somewhere in Tang Paradise

And this one was on the adjacent corner. Sorry about that car...

Yesterday morning, we visited the Immigration Office to get our photos taken for what's going to be our temporary residence certificates... it took all of 5 minutes to do.  Go in, sit down, check all your info to make sure it's correct, take a digital photo, and leave.  A representative from the presentor's office as well as our associate company manager were there to help with translating.  I had my own translator with me as well (her name is Lynn), so there were enough English-Mandarin speakers there.  It was a bit early in the morning to be awake, so my whole day was spent somewhat bleary-eyed.  Two other members of the touring group (our trumpet player Amy and one of the backstage guys Noah) were at immigrations with us too, so we dropped them off at their hotel first.

Since the cast was staying at that same hotel, I thought to alight and see who was milling around in the lobby... jackpot!  I found quite a few people going online (there was free wi-fi in the lobby) so we decided to stay and hang out for a nice long while.  I got the update from Kristin on what was going on in the company... Jefferson's run-in with a bike pedal on the city walls... the hotel peacocks being unafraid of the human visitors... expensive laundry and package sending... and going around and about in Xi'an, complete with Mandarin cheat sheets and plenty of pointing.

We had lunch with two cast members, Brandy and Kristin at a Malaysian restaurant called Melaka.  And yes, authentic Malaysian food!  I had myself some Nasi Lemak... Brandy ordered the most beautiful eggplant and prawn dish I've ever eaten in my life, ever, and the rest ordered some really tasty fare.  Yummy!

After lunch, we dropped Brandy and Kristin off at their hotel, and we then headed to a place whose name translates to "book garden gate".  According to Lynn, it was formerly a school or collection of schools.  Now, it's a place of shopping... stalls that sell all kinds of jewelry, souvenirs and trinkets, and the main stores sell art supplies, tea cups, jade, artifacts, copies of the Terra Cotta warriors, and jewelry.  Here are a few pictures:

And here's a view of part of the City Walls from where we were parked:

Yeah, we'll definitely have to visit that site too...

Today, I finally will get some work done at the theatre... there's a sitzprobe scheduled with our orchestra and musical director, and then I don't know what I'll be doing!  Perhaps I'll ask my translator what would be a good place to visit in the evening.

My stay in China has unfolded another purpose... my husband's great-grandfather was a general in World War II (his name is Chien Ta-chun, or Qian Dajun) so I'm trying to find as much as I can in whatever non-working time I have.  I just found out he had an office here in Xi'an, close to the hot springs, so I'm going to make time to go see it and take some pictures.  I'm sad that Rob isn't here to see this with me, I'm sure he would have really enjoyed this trip.

Oh goodness, it's time for me to get ready!  I've got work this afternoon!  Bye for now!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wow... amazing what technology can do

RSS feeds ROCK!!!

I've just linked my brand-spanking new Blogger site to Facebook... whatever entries I write there get cross-posted here. Cool... no one will have to try and search long and hard for the new site.

Oh... Xi'an is very beautiful! I'm looking forward to seeing more of the city (in the few free days that I have here). There are some immigration-related errands that I'll have to run (accompanied by my handy dandy interpreter named Ling), and then a visit to the Tang Paradise. According to Ling, that was the home of the emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)... there's much to research on in China's incredibly colorful history. Makes me wish I paid far better attention in Asian History class... if I knew then what I'm discovering now...

TIme to bury my face in my Terra Cotta Army book by John Man. It's a very interesting read so far, talking of how the Terra Cotta Warriors were discovered... how they came to be... I'm seeing them on Monday, and I'm going to make sure my camera is fully charged and my memory card empty.

My stomach has been undergoing an "adjustment period" since arriving in China... I haven't quite pinpointed exactly what's causing the slight upset, but I'm thanking my mother's paranoia for making sure I had Imodium in my bag of medicines. Speaking of which, I've got a great supply of meds and other pills to get me through the run: cough meds, cold meds, vitamins, antacids, anti-reflux meds, acetaminophen/paracetamol, antihistamines... plus arnica cream and muscle balm for when my feet and legs are crying for help. I have a list of other supplies as well: Kleenex travel packs (a LOT of them), toilet paper, my favorite shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, bath soap, facial soap, make-up to last me the entire tour (and most probably beyond... way beyond), medical tape for the backs of my ankles (to prevent blisters), bath towels for when the hotel bathrooms are... well... lacking in towel quality, facial moisturizer and body lotion.

I know that many hotels (regardless of the number of stars attached to them) carry these basic toiletry items, prominently displayed near the bathroom sink. That's not the point. More often than not I've needed to carry my own personal supply because the shampoo does some funky thing to my hair, or the conditioner isn't more effective than plain water. My mother does enjoy collecting the little bottles though, when she likes the product (Crabtree & Evelyn's Le Spa collection is a favorite of hers). I guess she keeps them for her house guests.


So here you go!

To the West Side people, CONGRATULATIONS on a fantastic opening weekend! I've been hearing nothing but raves about your performances. Keep it up!

To the Cinderella people, I'M HERE IN XI'AN!!! I guess I'll see you all on Thursday... or before if a rehearsal/stage adjustment is called.

And that's it for right now... keep in touch and tell me please what's going on with you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I am in China

At last, I have arrived in China.

You may be wondering why I've returned to Blogspot... well... Multiply cannot be accessed from here. Believe me, I've tried every way that I could find to get to my site. So for the next 2 months, I won't be able to post or view anything over there. I guess that's just fine... so, here I am, back on Blogspot... at least until I get back to Manila or Hong Kong, where I can check Multiply again.

Anyway... it's been a busy few days... Cinderella has me running around China for a different reason, other than being ordered around onstage by the lovely trio of Julia, Brandy and Jen... I've been doing publicity work. Interviews (print and TV), and press conferences in my lovely golden press gown singing a song or two from the show. In Hong Kong I did my press stuff solo; in China, I'm doing press with Peter Saide, our lovely Prince Charming. So far, the press tour has hit Hong Kong and Shanghai... we have just Beijing and Xi'an left. I'm looking forward to arriving in Xi'an, so that I can properly unpack my suitcase and settle my self somewhere. It'll also be nice to not ride a plane for a few weeks... the flights have been short, but the packing and checking in and security... well, you get the idea. It's not been fun doing it every single day.

So far, what I've observed of China is beautiful. I haven't yet had the time to explore the country, since I've needed to be on call for work, but I know that I'll have the time in which to do all this. There's the Terra Cotta Army, City Walls and Great Mosque in Xi'an... the Great Wall, Tianenmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing... and the shopping district in Shanghai which looks very, very dangerous... to my wallet.

The press here has been really sweet and nice, as have been the people from Broadway Asia taking care of us. There was one little glitch (the check-in person at the airport in Hong Kong was asking if I have this Alien Certification of Employment... picture me with a glazed look in my eye, with no knowledge of what he's talking about since I have no such document in my possession... only a Z visa which, from what I've been told, should suffice, and actually did)... but the rest has been smooth sailing.

Here are a few things I've found amusing since my arrival:

- a little console on the left hand side of the immigration officer's booth... it lights up when he/she is almost done examining your travel documents... it asks you to rate the level of service, ranging from Very Satisfactory to Poor. I pressed the Very Satisfactory button, only because it was midnight, and her efficiency at the time of day was admirable. She didn't smile, but she did her job right.

- the labels on two of the light switches in my hotel room in Beijing... I've posted them here so you see what I mean.

This was the light switch for the toilet.

 And this was for the light over the bar area.

- students studying English get to pick their English name... one of the marketing people's name is Barney. It's a name he picked out for himself while a student. At first he picked the name Chieftain, but since that wasn't a real name, he went for Barney instead, as inspired by Neil Patrick Harris' character on How I Met Your Mother. Cute. And Barney was very cute.

- the brand new Beijing airport looks like the Hong Kong airport on steroids. Seriously. See the photos below.

- Shanghai was first described to me as a city where you have old buildings and new buildings side by side... or one in front of the other. I didn't quite understand that, until I got there and looked outside my bedroom window after waking up. By golly, he was right!

- the infrastructure here is MARVELOUS!!! Wide streets, fabulous airports (the Shanghai Pudong airport is another one to behold)... as always, when I see airports that nice only a few hours from home, it gives me major penis envy.

So far, that's it. I'll keep posting more as my travels continue... but for now, I have to sleep. I have another long day before we finally fly to Xi'an. Good night!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Prejudice, and wanting to kill someone

We almost got killed yesterday.

My husband and I along with our driver were heading home after a meeting in Intramuros on a very pretty Monday morning... it was around 11 o'clock, and we were nearing an intersection in one of the inner roads of our village.  The speed limit is 40 kph on these roads, to take care that no one hits anyone else. 

As we near the intersection, on our right, there was a sedan making a left, the driving going like a bat out of hell.  The sedan would have hit us head on, had it not been for our driver's quick reflexes, for which we shall always be grateful.  The oncoming car then slowed, enough for us to see that it was a Korean lady driver who gave us that evil eye, as if to say "what the fuck were you doing???"  Let me state this one more time... she was making a fucking left turn... she didn't fucking slow down (heck she didn't drive slow) as she was preparing to make a turn... didn't fucking turn on her signals... nothing.  She came into the road like some sort of speed demon, without any consideration for oncoming traffic.  Fucking stupid cunt.  Needless to say the three of us were angry, with me spewing the most invectives of all.  I wanted to turn the car right around and ram hers from behind, without a care to the damage that ours would cause.  I wanted to pull her hair.  I wanted to make her bleed.  I wanted to kill her.

Fucking cunt.  That's all I could think about.  Dead fucking cunt... I liked that thought better.

Thankfully I had my temper in check... spewing lava in the car does have its good side... I don't then take it out on my loved ones.  I was going to see my daughter in only seconds following that near accident, so I needed to calm down, and be ready to care for her.

I completely forgot for a few moments that I dated a Korean man, and remembered that his upbringing was such that he turned out to be a good guy.  We didn't click in the end, but still.  He was quite a lovely man, and his wife -- another Korean friend of mine that I worked with -- was herself a lovely and bright spark too.  That one incident immediately colored my perception of all peoples from that country with black.

Fucking cunt.

Fast forward to this evening... I sat in the meat locker known as Meralco, watching a show about how prejudice can destroy the lives of good people, how a few can color the world black for someone else.

Yes, I know that prejudice is wrong... yes, I know that it can be easy to judge a whole entire race based on one person's actions... I know, I know, I already know.  And seeing West Side Story didn't make me know any more.

But I still want to kill her.  Just her.  Not all Korean people... just her.  In case you don't know, I'm really good with a gun.

I'm calming down... and of course I'm not going to make trouble for anyone.  At the end of the day, it isn't worth the effort or the thought.

But... she's still a stupid fucking cunt.