Behind the Scenes with Super Kuei-ming

Posted by Vancouver Opera On 11:06 AM

February 26
A rainy day, off to the hall for rehearsal. As I enter the rehearsal hall, I see some dancers warming up, stretching and practicing their steps. The assistant stage managers are busy sweeping the floor extra clean for them because some were dancing in barefeet. I recognize some of these dancers because they were local well-known and respected artists, such as Wen Wei, Fei, Amber, etc. Sometimes, I see them at Harbour Dance Centre.

We also had the principles in with us today. It was an exciting day because all of us were here, except the camera crew supers.

Another birthday gal today and we sang Happy Birthday to Katherine. Lots of birthdays this month with Jason, Rae and Katherine, and was so beautiful to see people caring.

We ran the ballet scene and boy, were these dancers the most beautiful and agile people I have ever seen. It makes me humble to think I will be sharing the same stage with these artists.

Because it's the Olympic time, the casts were secretly texting and listening to the scores on the radio. Of course, Canada wins!

Also, we ran the "Red Book" song. It's about the Mao's Little Red Book that was supposed to change people's lives. Gosh! It must be a really good book if these people are so fascinated about it...made me want to go and read it myself to see what's so great about it.

After the rehearsal, we left the bright hall into the dark rainy world and the cheering Olympic crowds.

February 27
Today's rehearsal is only for the supers. I guess supers need more time to practice. It was only 12 hours ago since I was last in the rehearsal hall, and seeing the familiar faces is still comforting.

Today was one of the most embarrassing days for me. I was told to ride a bike across the stage and (having not ridden one for about 9 years) crashed into the table and floor. I was thinking the director would give up on me for the bike gig because I am so clumsy, but he asked me to keep practicing. I am absolutely terrified of bikes because I used to dream of falling into ditches in Taiwan. It is a time to face the fear of falling!

Later, we practice the airplane scene, removing objects and also the sky banners. It is a productive day because we get through many scenes.

March 1
Finally, the Olympic crowds are gone! That kind of big excitement happens once in a blue moon in Vancouver, and it was nice to have that kind of spirit here. Unfortunately, all the hockey watching and cheering have caused our beloved director to lose his voice. He was barely whispering in rehearsal. There were also some students who came to watch us. The eyes are on us, yikes!

We have to be very quiet today since Michael cannot speak very loudly. We repeated the beginning scene and the banquet scene over and over again. I really enjoy the meticulous practice til it's perfect.

The banquet scene is tricky because we have lots of cups and props to handle. There are either too many props or not enough of them; since we don't have a wine bottle for every super, Stephen asked some of the supers to be the "bottle pourer's friend" and just follow them around.

March 2
Rehearsal is the only thing I was look forward these days (and nights). Life seems so much better in the land of make-believe! I love being surrounded by lovely music and dancing.

Tonight, we run the ballet scene and the scenes of Pat Nixon touring China. I really admire those beautiful dancers. How I wish I could move like them! They are so graceful.

My greatest fear in this whole show is riding the bicycle. Crowds and bicycles just don't belong together! Thank goodness people like Malcolm and Polina believe in me. They are on bicycles too!

March 3
I feel that the cast is starting to know each other better and talk to each other more. Everyone is so supportive.

Another birthday: Glenn. We sing Happy Birthday again!

Tonight, we connect all the scenes together, which really helps me figure out the transitions. I am amazed with how Michael can visualize the stage so well and directs us in achieving the ideal. With just a few chorus members and supers, we can create the streets of China!

Again, the music and dance never fail to move me. My favorite music is during the pig farm scene: it's cute but slightly sad. There is lots of interesting stuff, such as dragging the dancers onto the stage for a bloody execution!

March 5
This is the last night we rehearse at the Holy Rosary Hall. I can tell people are becoming more comfortable in their roles and each other as they have more fun. We run through the entire opera and it comes out to be around 3 hours.

We have another birthday boy: Doug. We sing Happy Birthday and eat chocolate cake. I really like the cast. They are so much fun to be around.

The singers are really great! I am always moved by their voices. ChenYe, Robert and Thomas are quite good in acting. I like watching the women who play Mao's secretaries too, especially Grace. They really add to the show.

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