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From Don’s Blackberry…

The choreographer and translator arrive after a 2 day journey from Hohhut…11 hour busses after other flights or busses to WuHai.

The morning is dedicated to setting the last piece in the show, but we know what the props, music and dance intend. Now the only hole is the song where I wish to see a real mongol bao, a yurt to be constructed. They love them, it is their image, they are so proud of the tradition but it is like pulling teeth, bad teeth, to get the team behind the idea. The request to start rehearsing with one 2 weeks ago was lost on bad ears. Now the yurts we have are here and the master will not show us, or the cast and crew cannot even bring themselves to try.

First answer was the owner rents and only they wish to put it up. Nobody else touches it. Ok so our scenic guy didn’t listen for the last 2 weeks. He is a TV guy that wants to fill the stage with stuff….more stuff than what’s needed, which is what they do. More the better. My intent is to open and close with only trees. A creative conflict buried in the interpretation and avoidance of conflict is now fully clear.

The producer resolves the issue and buys the yurt. 5000 rmb (850 dollars or so). It is a 100 + year old yurt. Ok…a little challenge as it is already falling apart. A 2 wheeled cart, even older, is brought in to carry the unassembled yurt across the stage before we set it up.

Lunch is spent with SiQi at the hostpital. Her brother MuRen also a lead in the show comes too. And then shows me the video of the first lift and the last fall. My body cringes …those TV bloopers and such may be just as bad but it’s different when you know the victim. And I realize for the first time how the happy sound effects on the TV shows take out the cries of pain.

Other cast members come to the room which is generally making sure it’s a happy visit so the conversation is lively and flips between mandarin and Mongolian as if they were one. I can hear the difference most times…when in doubt I know it’s Mongolian when Jiazi, the translator shrugs her shoulders.

Today is like any other show…add some costumes (which are all borrowed without regard to size or design), add some props, a pack of camels, 4 horses and it all slows down
. After the second run when the cute baby camel decided that she couldn’t find her mom and walked willy-nilly all over the site, stage, audience, I had to say ‘lose the baby!’

Ji Ri is the lead in one of the 3 acts. In short – where else can you find a Chinese army sergeant who is an operatic tenor, willing to try the musical form, live in a yurt without plumbing or electricity, speaks 2 languages and can sing in 3 others, and can expertly ride a horse up and down sand dunes with ease. Where else?

The evening starts with another slowly paced rehearsal of the Silk Road caravan which we went over at dinner. When the caravan comes to the stage, it is nothing like the plan – anyone that could of jumped on any (and every) animal did…again more the better is the philosophy. Of course when the camels come to stage with lights and sound the commotion causes an immediate discharge of all waste.

So let’s try it again…according to the plan…and lose the baby camel! Asked the trainers if they have any solutions about getting the animals to dump before the show:
“can’t be done.”
“there are tricks, please ask.”
“can’t be done.”
“look I don’t know the tricks but there are animal acts all over the world that face this problem, maybe they have some ideas.”
“like what?”
“ok…here’s a new English word for you. Raking. In the circus it means standing the elephant up on their its legs, wearing a long glove and sticking your hand up its butt and pulling out the poop.”
– stunned disbelief – finally
‘wow, you’re so professional. Ok, I’ll ask.”

The evening ended with a stroll when the one and only music editor calls from a van. Deng yi xia! Wait a minute. He comes back within moments and walks with me for a beer. Phone calls to the translator confirm we go to a pool hall. This is Nasan who we desperately need to edit the music but has generally disappeared. The music director says he is not officially on the show and has just been doing favors and now…is tired of favors. But accompanying me and buying some beers is not over his limit.

At the pool hall we meet Dalai who is one of the dancers who stands on the giant bow at the end of the newly finished number. He’s a shark. And after some easy games on me and Nasan– and teaching me Shi Li , to Win, he wipes off the table and takes the victory sip – Wo shi li le!

We part with a toast to the show, good friends and I hop on the back of a motorcycle in a motorcycle helmetless country for a ride to the hotel.

Tomorrow we shift to a 2pm to 2am schedule.