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Creating Across Cultures, Part 3

creating across cultures
By Penelope Quarry

When we arrived at what would be our new home we were in awe, to say the least.  The scale of the Han Show Theatre is something that really needs to be seen to be believed.

The first of the many tasks assigned to the stage management department was of course “Signage” and we sat around for the first day discussing the pros and cons of the various options.  Being Australian, I was against North / South / East / West as this is not a natural way for me to think and I would be lost for sure.

We settled on a combination of colour and clock times on the basis that no matter what nationality you are, most people can read a clock and numbers.

The colour was to coincide with the aquatics department and the codes required for underwater.

So, the Green Room / Upstage area became 12:00 and the foyer/downstage area 6:00.

3:00 (Blue)/ 6:00 (Red) and 9:00 (Green) were over the wet / dry performance area. This is where the artists would have access to the pool and this would become the colours of the aquatics teams.

Now that we had decided on the code, we had to do this around a building that spanned so many levels.  For example; the cast would need to go the 2nd basement if they were to load on one of the dry lifts during the show, the 1st basement is the location of the Dressing Rooms, Level 1 is the stage, Level 2 is the canteen, Level 3 are the Offices, Level 4 is the Catwalk level which is the first access point for any of the aerial work from +19 metres, from there they travel internally to +26 metres for the other aerial access point.

Level 7 is the Gym, training room and performer wellness and upstairs from there is the dance studio.  The top grid for artistic loading is at +46 metres.  There are passenger elevators at 2, 4, 8 and 10 o’clock and one freight elevator and arrows for days.  Even with the extensive signage moving around a vast space with 80 odd artists is both a time consuming and daunting task so during creation the artists tended to remain in the Green Room.  This is something that has stuck with them and many still use this space unconventionally as their dressing rooms!

“Creation” is not a natural concept for a Chinese artist, they tend to function very well when they are given a specific task but improvisation is not necessarily something that comes naturally.  So we had session after session where the same individuals were onstage proposing things.  I think at times this was a very frustrating time both for the creative team as well as for the artists and it meant in the early days the artist show tracks were not evenly weighted. Those who proposed more ended up doing more.  For the stage management team, it meant when they were piecing parts of the show together, they constantly faced conflict after conflict of cast availability.  They did their best to keep a track of this but again this was also a foreign way to work for them too.

The Han Show opened in December 2014 and in the middle of 2015 we went into a re-creation Period.

This was better the second time around because the company had settled into the operations of the show and they had a stronger understanding of the more you participate the more you will do in the show.

We had been rushed to open the show and this pace would be the same through re-creation but we had a greater understanding of the capabilities of the artists and the space so in June 2015 the second incarnation of The Han Show was born.  Since then we have played hundreds of shows, had artistic team members come and go but I still get great pleasure watching the level of the Artists grow especially the kids from the early days that started without being able to swim and are now flying from the Russian Swings or doing big tricks off the trapeze.  We have come a long way and at times, against all the odds, but as a team we are going from strength to strength.

Return to Creating Across Cultures, Part 1


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