Posts tagged #Grace Lin

Hello, Old Friend

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I haven’t opened this script in almost two years. After my post-production dramaturgical meeting, I decided to let The Four Immigrants rest on my bookshelf until the time for revisiting emerged. Thanks to the upcoming concert presentation at USC this fall, that time is now. And while I have thoughts about what I might want to revise, I find myself a tad overwhelmed. How do you even begin to approach something that has been such a huge part of your career? To focus in on the minutiae of something that consumed a large chunk of your time previously, and yielded such memorable and rewarding results? Where do you even start to deconstruct something that has felt so central to your sense of self?

I could learn a lesson here from Grace Lin’s Minli, who, as she gazes upon the Paper of Happiness reads the word that is meant for her: Thankfulness.

I am so thankful for the relationship I have had to The Four Immigrants, both Henry Kiyama’s original work and my adaptation. All of the people I have crossed paths with as a result. And the ways in which I grew.

And it turns out, with thankfulness acknowledged, the script allows itself to be revisited. And the work is no different than before. Bigger picture, specific moments, character arcs all come back when I put aside the idea of how daunting it all is and replace it with a sense of gratitude for what it has all meant. Time to get to work.

Mountain Rehearsals - Week Five

Brian Chow and his  erhu.

Brian Chow and his erhu.

Say hello to the erhu (pronounced ar-hoo). The erhu is a traditional Chinese two-stringed instrument that I've included in the orchestrations for Mountain. It has been a welcome challenge getting to know the erhu and composing for its specific qualities. There were some limitations: no pizzicato, no double-stops (since the bow is placed between the two strings), and the combination of a very rich low range and a thinner high range.  The erhu also favors certain keys over others, so I did my best to keep the key signatures throughout the show within that realm.  I am still learning the instrument, and will probably learn more once we get it amped in our performance space and mixed in with mic'd actors. I can't say I've perfected the ability to write for erhu, but I have found the process of getting to know it very rewarding. The result is that I have woven a Chinese instrument into the fabric of the score, giving the music a connection to the culture from which the stories stem.

I would be amiss if I neglected to mention our erhu player, Mr. Brian Chow. Finding him was quite the feat. I Google- and Facebook-stalked, I mean... searched, for hours trying to find a Bay Area erhu player who would be open to being part of a theatrical piece. Last Fall, I found Brian, who at the time was studying erhu at the Conservatory of Music in Beijing. As luck would have it, Brian was returning to the States in January, just in time to start rehearsals for Mountain. I was beyond thrilled! Working with Brian has been such a treat, and he brings a level of professionalism and dedication to his art and performance that has been a great asset to our production as a whole. So, audiences will not just be taking in Grace Lin's re-imagining of traditional Chinese folk tales; they will also be able to experience the beautiful tones of a traditional Chinese instrument!

In other news, I made a few more script changes to tighten up the pacing this past weekend. These flexible and up-for-anything actors are rolling with the changes and making this magic happen! We're at the stage of running the show, working specific notes and smoothing out transitions to get us ready for TECH NEXT WEEK!!! Can't wait for you all to see this brand-new work!

Mountain Rehearsals - Week One

Rehearsals have officially begun for the world premiere of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. These early days are fascinating because what began as words and sheet music slowly starts to get its own skeleton as a performance piece. We are in a modest dance room in Oakland. We use some props that are just for rehearsal, and sometimes props that will make it to the actual production once they are painted and embellished. We try things, throwing ideas out and taking cues from each other. There is spike tape in a variety of colors outlining our imaginary set. We have looked at sketches and color swatches. We've listened to sound samples. There's a lot of waiting, discussion and thinking.

Minli's dining table in the rehearsalroom. Inside the bowl are two coins, one of which starts our protagonist on her journey.

Minli's dining table in the rehearsalroom. Inside the bowl are two coins, one of which starts our protagonist on her journey.

Perhaps what fascinates me the most is that the final product will be built upon this skeleton, but only after much has been pruned and plucked away. To the audience's eyes, it will arrive as a complete package. But those of us in this dance room will know the sparser versions of the show that had to come before. The discarded drafts, the revised movements, the great ideas that ultimately had to be cut will still be with us. As well as the joy, the jokes, the shared memories that come from working together on this project. It's funny because from day one of rehearsals, the end is always in sight. But I already know that the end will come much too soon.

So I take to heart the lesson that Grace Lin teaches us through her novel. "Thankfulness."

I am thankful to be here in the midst of this creating, as it unfolds before me.