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From Don’s Blackberry…

The 4th day the car didn’t show up..even after I paid the driver 100rmb and made a deal with him personally. Today I found out he gave the 100 back to my assistant who didn’t tell me. Alas.

The missing car is not a surprise. The raining drizzle was. So I was wet before I found a taxi. And the rehearsal hall was wet before I got there. The local team went around finding drips for their buckets
. The wet stain from previous rains from the ceiling to the electrical breaker box was glistening.
We had a full cast arrive 30 minutes late and 30 minutes later they threw the power switch off before the wires arced. “It never rains here so we don’t take that much care about water proofing.”

Shortly thereafter we heard the power was out in the entire town.

For some American companies with experience, especially in the film biz, I heard a generalization about china – they don’t know how to problem solve. I don’t know if I would stand by such a generalization but certainly it is what I saw next. OR I might assume the general attitude was equivalent to 3 ft of snow in NYC. “It’s raining! Wow! Vacation!” it was like pulling teeth to focus and work! OR…ok there was probably a contribution to inefficiency by the amount of alcohol consumed last night. But we smiled a lot at each other remembering the dances, hugs, and songs.

I got the belt pack public address speakers (like for tour groups) when I asked for a bullhorn (another tale of miscommunication) that didn’t work.

Then my 2 bags that were left behind for 10 days in Hohhut, finally arrived at the studio. In it I had computer speakers which get power from the laptop, which has batteries of course. WE set this up for dance rehearsal, but the concept that the battery was going to run out was not comprehended. Our dear stage manager QiQiGe was assigned to turn on and off the speakers as they were needed.

We now have the 2 choreographers assigned to different scenes. That seems to work…except that one of them has such a limited range of dance…and now I’m told that the original choreographer I wanted in Hohhut will come for 2 days to help. Ok…how does that help exactly?

Ge Jian our producer who initiated the project dropped by with his Hulunbuir bother, Dong Ge and YY. We had a discussion about whether or not the Turkish dancers (with the Ambassador of Wusun) that arrive in the caravan with 8 camels, 2 horses and soldiers can be dressed in black leotards with feathers like birds..oy! Maybe we can use the 130 costumes from the Expo parade… OK, we’ll bring them all and figure it out in 2 days. See…they can problem solve!

Before lunch the cast lined up for the local leader and they were told they have rehearsal all afternoon and evening for ANOTHER SHOW on the 22nd. Also another performance on the 29th. What does this mean for us? Ok, another 2/3 of one of those 14 days is gone.

They say there is no power in the city…somehow I figured that they may turn off all the power except the hotel where all the leaders are staying for the conference in process. Yes. There is power for the leaders and my computer can recharge for the afternoon!


We worked on the last number – rearranged the song, dance and dialogue to make we just need a final chord!

Electricity came back on so we did a full run/limp thru for the Producer team of 3. Some moments were painful. We had a talk afterwards for 1 hour 15 minutes and of course with me out of the rehearsal – all stopped…lost that hour. Seems like all I do is count lost hours. The discussion was interesting…historical inaccuracies were pointed out in the story. The young actor playing the old general seemed to be a problem. YEAH! But most was the discussion about Mongolian actors performing mandarin.
Me: “Did you understand them?”
Them:“Oh, we read along no problem.”
Me:“I think that might be a problem.”
Them: “might be. Especially in the first story where they are reciting in ancient han style. We could not understand anything.’
Me:“oh, that’s the long scene, yes. What about making it shorter?”
Them: “mmmm…maybe they don’t understand the story.”
Me: “we will work on that. What about the language..”

Ok…1/2 hour later they think we can ask the writer to edit a little. But they should drill for the next 7 days too. The last point was better…maybe we open on the 28th. Maybe the 27th.
Ok…maybe the 27th. Any one experienced in China knows the terrible vagueness of ‘maybe.’

The second big topic… “what is your plan concerning the recording?”
Me: “record the chorus and the solos are live”
Lots of Chinese chatter. I know the drill…they love recording everything and watching the pretty faces lip-sync and not worry about a thing…especially when it comes down to the quality of the performer. I felt a trap coming on…get less than the best performer and force the pre-record. This is not what I nor any of the cast signed up for after our live success at the Expo with “The Promise.” Yet I saw the senior members of the cast nod their head in understanding.

Of course the subject may not have come up if the singers made any attempt to sell the songs. But, oh, they didn’t…they really didn’t. At any time in rehearsal. Of course some songs arrived 4 days ago…but the lack of any commitment scared the Leaders into ‘let’s do it the old safe way.’

I took the position ‘I didn’t come to Erjina to do a lip-sync show. And you didn’t start this work to be a follower of every past failure. You’re a leader, it is not your place to fall back.’ Ge responded, “I just asked what your plan was. You do as you think.” Gotta love him sometimes.

Later at a dinner in the yurt with the leaders to discuss more was as most dinners are in china, chit chat. It was good food though as 7 cooks were brought to Erjina to cook for the company.

My key interpreter is ready to return from Hohhut! Yeah. It takes one day to take a 7 hour bus to Wuhai and another to bus for 10 hours to Erjina. OH..but there is only a bus every other day. So she can leave on the 22nd. And get here the evening of the 24th and we have 2 whole days before opening, and 5 more days of sign language and bad chinglish.

A foot massage for 40 rmb as I wrote out the rest of the schedule to opening. Strong pressure on the foot matched the pressure on the brain.