The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011)

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「中國皇后號」 Last words.

Filed in Events, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), Work

Just over one year ago, I was approached by a very nice gentleman at the HKREP to meet for a cup of coffee. They were planning a new stage play which involved Caucasian actors, one of which would need to speak significant amounts of Cantonese dialog. With 20 years of Cantonese television and five Cantonese stage productions behind me, I was perhaps their best hope. It was in the coffee shop at the Sheraton Hotel that I met with this gentleman and the script writer/director Sister Joanna.

Very little happened in that short meeting. It was a quick conversation and I was treated to a great plate of Fish & Chips. There were implied promises but nothing more. A short while later, I helped the HKREP to take publicity photos for "The Empress of China" and then heard nothing from them until October of 2010 when my part in the play was finally confirmed.

Rehearsals began in December, and it was a very tough eight weeks. Days into rehearsals, our beloved Beethoven was taken ill with Acute Pancreatitis, and we lost him several days later. Later in rehearsals, issues developed at home that complicated life for a while. Then in mid January, I became ill myself with the flu and fever. Unfortunately, my role was extremely challenging and I couldn't afford to take time off from rehearsals, so I attended even with my fever. After just a few shows at City Hall, our helper's father died and we had to send her home so that she could get the care she needed from her family, so the kids became my morning responsibility. Fortunately, our shows were all afternoon or evening shows, so I had time to look after them and take them for their walks.

The shows themselves were challenging. As an actor speaking in a language learnt as an adult, my dialog was challenging. I was speaking words and grammar that I had never used in my entire life. When you're filming tv or film, you can make mistakes and re-record, but when you're on stage, that's not an option, so the pressure was real. However, I was fortunate to be able to complete all of our shows without any significant mistakes, and I enjoyed almost every single show we performed.

As I've stated in previous posts, we had a special group of people involved in this play, a group of more than 25 actors including seven Caucasians. We had different attitudes, different techniques, different lifestyles and different roles, and yet we all respected each other and worked together extremely well. And we all had one important trait; we all respected the work and worked very hard to be the best we could be right up to the very last show, irrespective of our role in the play.

"The Empress of China" is now over, but it will always be one of the most significant highlights of my life.

「中國皇后號」 A Photo

Filed in Events, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), Work

The HKREP was kind enough to give me permission to post this photo from our final dress rehearsal. I hope you like it. The handsome man on the right is one of our guest actors from New York, Andrei Drooz.

The Empress of China

「中國皇后號」 Our last day in Sheung Wan, and flooding in my home town of Gympie, Qld.

Filed in Events, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), WorkTags: ,

We spent our last day rehearsing for The Empress of China in Sheung Wan today. After a break, we'll begin technical rehearsals in City Hall on Wednesday.

After two full run-throughs today while still recovering from the flu, I'm feeling extremely tired, but nothing can prevent me from checking the flood status in my home town of Gympie in Queensland where my parents still live.

Gympie is rather unique. The Mary River is the source of flooding there, and the river bank separating the larger Eastern side of Gympie is quite high, so the Mary River needs to rise significantly to flood to the East. Unfortunately, once it gets that high, it's like watching water run out of a full bathtub with the taps turned on, and the flooding can be severe. Main Street is definitely in trouble, again!

With rain predicted to continue for several days yet, and the ground already completely soaked, deeper flooding is almost guaranteed.

Fortunately, my parents live in a very high area of Gympie, and they're still reachable by phone and internet.

Last Day at Sheung Wan

「中國皇后號」 The Flu and Double Run-throughs!

Filed in Events, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), Work

The weather is cooler now. I don't know if it's the sudden weather change or if it's the air conditioning on the MTR (which for anyone over 6' tall can be a big problem) but I picked up a serious flu bug several days ago. By Tuesday afternoon, I could feel the flu hallmarks of nasal swelling, exhaustion and muscle pain all over. With so little time left until we perform for the public, I didn't want to risk not recovering quickly and dashed off to see my favourite doctor.

I was a little surprised to discover that I was feverish! I shouldn't have been surprised because I had been experiencing hot and cold all day long; i.e., my body's thermostat was out of wack. My doctor prescribed the best medicine he could (not all medicines are created equal) and suggested that I take one or two days off rehearsals to recover. I shook my head in response to indicate that taking time off would not be an option. There was still so much to work on in the play and so little time left to do it in.

So I spent two days; perhaps three; rehearsing with a fever, all the while keeping everyone else on the cast at least an arm's length away from me, and not talking unless I absolutely had to. Sneezing and coughing were simply not permitted! Not that that helped much. As my doctor indicated to me, the recent sudden cold snap combined with the high pollution levels in Hong Kong has led to a great many people coming down with the flu, including several on our cast.

I'm getting better, but to be extra safe, I revisited my doctor yesterday and he agreed that I would need a second course of medicine to be sure of full recovery, with a few small changes to the medicine just in case I'm dealing with more than one type of bug.

Fortunately, we have this weekend off so I can relax; physically at least; and recover more before returning to rehearsals next week.

Next week! Ah... fun! Double full run-throughs every day except Tuesday. It will be tiring without a doubt. On Wednesday, we move rehearsals to the City Hall theatre where we'll remain until the last show on Jan 31. With double run-throughs daily, next week will probably be the most taxing week in our 8-week period together. Once the show goes live, work will be relatively light weight, with double run-throughs only occurring four times during the two weeks that we'll be performing.

I have just checked with URBIX, and have found that tickets have sold very quickly for most of the shows. There are still reasonable selections available for the last three shows but they might not last long.

Well I'm off to get a little warm sun on our porch while going over the various scenes of the play in my head ;-)

Cheers all.

「中國皇后號」 Less than two weeks to go!

Filed in Events, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), Work

Less than two weeks to go.

We, the family at the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, have been working hard on the new bilingual play 中國皇后號 for almost five weeks. During this time, my wife and I personally suffered a loss in the family with the passing of Beethoven; another actress in the group spent several days visiting her grandfather in the hospital; and yet another actress sadly lost her father just this morning.

Despite the losses and emotional hits, we have all continued to work hard on the play, which has presented us with multiple challenges due to its unique structure, something I think audiences will find very interesting.

It's great to be working with so many talented people including members of the HKREP, caucasian actors living locally in Hong Kong, and of course those wonderful actors from New York. Everyone is talented and dedicated to being the best they can irrespective of their role in the play. I was especially delighted by the local Caucasian actors. One, of Irish decent, speaks fluent Spanish (one of the languages I'm learning) is excellent with accents and quite a character to be around. Another is a professional voice actor and can readily produce multiple voices all of great quality. Yet another is simply a fun guy to be around and to watch on stage. And every one of the Caucasian actors; both local and from New York; have incredible voices, voices that will ring free through the City Hall theatre when we perform there from January 15.

But the most interesting person in the group is definitely the director. Sister Joanna 陳尹瑩 is intelligent, demanding, experienced and gracious. She is knowledgeable in many things including so many things not related to the stage. It has been an honour to work with her, and I mean this from my heart. She's a very special lady.

More later. I need to shower and sleep now so that I can continue to work hard refining my bilingual role in "The Empress of China" tomorrow ;-)

Friendly reminder. Tickets are available now from all Urbtix outlets.

Merry Christmas (2010)

Filed in Dogs of our Lives, General, The Empress of China 中國皇后號 (2011), WorkTags: ,

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, spending time with family and friends.

For us, it wasn't a merry Christmas, having lost Beethoven only less than three weeks ago. Having just lost someone special, the joyfulness of the season only accentuates the sorrow. Between Beethoven and a busy rehearsal schedule for the new The Empress of China play, there were no decorations at home, no Christmas tree, and strangely no gifts either. (Sadly, my sister in Australia is mourning the recent loss of two of their 'kids'; one to kidney failure, the other to insect sting complications. I feel for her.)

But it wasn't a total loss. For the first time in a month, I had two and a half days free to spend with my family and we made the most of it. Today, we even took nine of our kids up the (smallish) mountain beside our village here in Clear Water Bay which we haven't done in three or four years. One or two of the kids will be in arthritic discomfort tomorrow, but with pain relief and exercise management, they'll be fine. They loved the walk and that's what counts.

Beethoven's departure reminded us that the kids' time with us is a limited luxury, something that needs to be treasured. His departure also reminded us that we need to take more photos and movies, and that's what we did today; at least until the camera battery ran out of juice!

For most people here in Hong Kong, tomorrow is a public holiday. For me however, it's back to work. With only three weeks until our play goes live at City Hall in Central, we have to make the most of the time we have, to be the best we can.

Once again, Merry Christmas everyone.