Journal from China (Part 2)

by Scott Savage, cast member

[Note from the dramaturg: As mentioned previously, the cast of The Nightingale had the unique opportunity to travel to China and train with the Peking Opera. While in China, they had the opportunity to learn theatre movement, costuming, makeup and vocal techniques while also experiencing the culture, so they could better understand the world of the play. The next couple of posts will be from cast members sharing their experiences. Enjoy!]

June 14, 2013

Today was more busy and wow, I love the people with the Peking Opera. I don’t know if it can be said enough, but they’re just so great. We met the quintessential Asian man (the costume designer for the Peking Opera). We had three parts of training today. The first was more lecture, that was really cool. It was about the costuming and make up. We got to learn great details, such as the roles of Phoenix and Dragon in the Chinese culture, the colors, more about the roles of Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou. We saw how the costumes were put together, and really, they just come together so well.Costume lecture

The afternoon we had training where we broke up into groups. Clayton, Alecia and I were trained by a tall slender man to do the horse movement. I wasn’t sure how the movement and what we were being told the movement meant correlated at first, but it was really neat to see it come together. The movements all made sense, and we truly learned to ride a horse with nothing but our bodies and a stick. It was very cool to see the many things they did with simple props.Horse training

In the evening, we had the chance to show what we had learned and to dress up in the Peking opera style. We all got the makeup, the girls got to put on the hair, I got a crazy beard/mustache and the beautiful costumes were perfect. Cast in costume

We took group and individual pictures and then we exchanged gifts with our teachers and the performers. They gave us shirts and we gave them gifts from BYU. They were fantastic, and I hope to see them again someday.Cast with Peking Opera

A couple other fun notes from the past two days. Clayton hadn’t shaved so his make-up made him look like a drag queen, we all laughed about that. We ate McDonald’s in China. Shame on us, but the ice cream was great. McDonalds in China

I love the tiny motorized carts everywhere. Traffic is nuts. Pollution is nuts. I hate the indoor smoking. Squatty Potty’s are weird. People come up to us just to take our picture. I feel very at home in China. I’m not sure if that’s because it doesn’t feel like I’m really gone, or if it’s because I feel like I could survive in the culture with the language here.

Journal from China (Part 1)

by Scott Savage, cast member

[Note from the dramaturg: As mentioned previously, the cast of The Nightingale had the unique opportunity to travel to China and train with the Peking Opera. While in China, they had the opportunity to learn theatre movement, costuming, makeup and vocal techniques while also experiencing the culture, so they could better understand the world of the play. The next couple of posts will be from cast members sharing their experiences. Enjoy!]

June 13, 2013

Today I’m not nearly as tired or jet lagged as I thought I might be, or at least I wasn’t for most of the day. We got up pretty early to go to the Peking Opera training. China is interesting because everything is set in a single time-zone (centered around the city of Xi’an), so the further East you are in China, the earlier it gets light. Our room was filled with light about 4 a.m. and I thought for sure we were going to be late to the training. As it turns out, we weren’t.

We met one of leaders of the Peking Opera (JingJu Company), and he received us very warmly. We were given the chance to see some amazing demonstrations of the fixed form that the Peking Opera uses. Peking Introduction

There are five main types of Characters. Sheng, which are male leads. They can be old, young, or otherwise defined, but they have certain fixed movements and facial expressions they use. Emperor

Next are the Dan characters which are female leads with similar qualifications. The Dan characters use really intricate hand motions and movements to indicate what they’re doing; such as opening doors, feeding chickens or smelling flowers. They take tiny feminine footsteps which were part of the desirable culture of women in China anciently (thus the bound feet in the Wild Swans book). Dan

The Jing character has a painted face that we tend to think of when Chinese Theater is brought up. The paint on their face means specific things based on color and design and their role in a show. Again, the fixed precision required to do this form is remarkable. Everything means something and it must be done the right way.  Jing

The Chou character (similar to what my part as the High Lord Chamberlain will be in the play) is a clown type character. The man we saw was a remarkable acrobat. Chou Acrobat

There’s a fifth type that can be either a Chou or a Sheng. This character is the Monkey King. His role is lively, he has detailed face paint, and he can do all the things of the other two roles.Chou

Today was mostly a lot of learning and observing. I was really engaged because I was trying to pick out the Chinese and because I was among the more alert in our group. I can thrive off of less sleep because of the way I worked nights for so long. We had a really nice lunch with many foods that I’d never had before. My hand hurt from the use of chopsticks, but I got past that because of all the good things there were to try. I also was able to have my first interaction only in Chinese with a stranger. I walked to a store with Jordan and bought a coke. “你有没有可乐?” (Do you have Coke?) “有,等一下。” (Yes, wait a minute.) “谢谢!可乐多少?” (Thank you! How much?) “六元。” (Six yuan.) “好。” (Good.) That was it! The whole conversation! He didn’t look at me funny or ask what I meant. It was very liberating.

The Peking Opera Performance was cool. There was neat fighting, fantastic singing, and I found that I’m at a place in my life where I can appreciate the work and skill required. Previously in my life I’d have been fairly unmoved by such a performance. While I admit I was one of many to sleep a little during the show (I did say I was ok most of the day!) it was still really great to see them perform. I hope tomorrow we can be a little more active with what we do, particularly since we’re going to be there all day!

 

Pictures from China!

by Cosette Hatch, cast member

[Note from the dramaturg: As mentioned previously, the cast of The Nightingale had the unique opportunity to travel to China and train with the Peking Opera. While in China, they had the opportunity to learn theatre movement, costuming, makeup and vocal techniques while also experiencing the culture, so they could better understand the world of the play. The next couple of posts will be from cast members sharing their experiences. Enjoy!]

This is one of the actresses in the Beijing Opera putting on her makeup. After she would add something to her makeup she would stop and pull her eyes up from her temples. This was preparing her makeup for the “pulled” look she was going to have later when they use tree sap to glue on hair pieces for her full costume.

This is one of the actresses in the Beijing Opera putting on her makeup. After she would add something to her makeup she would stop and pull her eyes up from her temples. This was preparing her makeup for the “pulled” look she was going to have later when they use tree sap to glue on hair pieces for her full costume.

 

This is the same actress from the picture above putting her hair pieces on. Each individual drape of hair was soaked in tree sap overnight to make it sticky. Then they would layer the hair on and tie it very tightly with rope-like material. After they add all of the hair pieces, they add large hairpins and berets. Our translator told us that after they have all of their costuming, hair, and makeup done they develop a throbbing headache, but “just have to endure the pain.” We were later told they had to feel like this for at least 4 hours every night.

This is the same actress from the picture above putting her hair pieces on. Each individual drape of hair was soaked in tree sap overnight to make it sticky. Then they would layer the hair on and tie it very tightly with rope-like material. After they add all of the hair pieces, they add large hairpins and berets. Our translator told us that after they have all of their costuming, hair, and makeup done they develop a throbbing headache, but “just have to endure the pain.” We were later told they had to feel like this for at least 4 hours every night.

 

This is one of the male actors putting on his makeup. Each character has their own specific design on their face in order to differentiate between characters. Certain colors have specific meanings for the characters and their personalities. For example, black represents strength and loyalty. These kinds of characters (with the full painted faces) are called “masked characters.”

This is one of the male actors putting on his makeup. Each character has their own specific design on their face in order to differentiate between characters. Certain colors have specific meanings for the characters and their personalities. For example, black represents strength and loyalty. These kinds of characters (with the full painted faces) are called “masked characters.”

 

During our training at the Peking Opera training in Beijing, they decided it would be a good idea to put us all in their traditional hair and makeup. It was not very comfortable, but definitely will make for a good memory later!

During our training at the Peking Opera training in Beijing, they decided it would be a good idea to put us all in their traditional hair and makeup. It was not very comfortable, but definitely will make for a good memory later!

 

Our favorite breakfast in Beijing! Typical morning of dumplings, dragon fruit, lychee, and pastries. We missed this after we traveled to Xi'an.

Our favorite breakfast in Beijing! Typical morning of dumplings, dragon fruit, lychee, and pastries. We missed this after we traveled to Xi’an.

 

The Great Wall of China! So neat to spend a day with one of the world's wonders.

The Great Wall of China! So neat to spend a day with one of the world’s wonders.

Significance and Symbolism

by Lola Danielson, dramaturg

China is an ancient country built on ceremony and tradition. It is home to the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and one of the oldest and largest imperial tombs with its army of Terracotta Warriors. It has been rocked by multiple wars and changes of power, beginning with the Xia dynasty around 2000 B.C. After World War II, the Japanese forces that occupied China were defeated, but civil war broke out among two political groups – the Kuomintang and Communist parties. In 1949, the Communist party had won control of China and the country became known as The People’s Republic of China – what we know it as today. The borders of China were closed at that time and reopened to tourists around 1972. Because of its long period of isolation from the rest of the world, China became a place of wonder and mystery, one that many nations still desire to explore today.

Because of its long standing history of traditions, there is a lot of symbolism in the culture. The way families interact with each other and with their community is steeped in tradition. Even the world around them holds meaning – the trees, flowers, and plants are said to have spirits that can help them if they respect them. Certain colors and animals are also symbolic. For example, the color yellow and the dragon were reserved for the emperor as symbols of his position and power. The Forbidden City, home to the emperor of China, is the only place in China you will see a building with yellow tiles on the roof.

In theatre, their movements are carefully planned as each hand gesture and arm position hold meaning. Because of the unique style of Chinese theatre and opera, it was an amazing opportunity for the cast of The Nightingale to go to China and train with the Peking Opera – to see and learn the different theatrical techniques. Some of the cast will share their pictures and experiences from their trip to China over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for their stories.

One aspect of Chinese culture that plays a part in our production is the use of color. You may have been taught that all colors have meaning, and they do. However, colors can mean different things in different countries. The significance of each color is a little different in China than what we are used to in America. Here is a comparison of Chinese and American meanings of color. There are many different meanings for one color; these compare just some of the many meanings associated to the color.

Color ComparisonWhile creating the costumes and scenery for the show, the production team payed close attention to how color was used. While not all uses of color in the show follow Chinese tradition, they were conscious decisions. For example, in China, yellow was reserved just for the emperor and purple was meant for the empress. However, in order to create costumes that work with stage lighting and complement each other on-stage, some uses of color needed to be adjusted. The use of white as underclothing that can be seen on each character was intentional and meant to show human frailty and remind us that life is fragile and what we do with the time we have is important. So, while some liberties needed to be taken, there is still significance attached to the choices and the team preserved the Chinese meanings where they could.

So, while you enjoy the show, pay close attention to the symbols and colors you see. What does it mean? How do they help your understanding of the character and their actions? Everything has meaning, if you only know where to look.

“Do not be deceived by glitter and show”

by Lola Danielson, dramaturg

As you can imagine, there are many adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. There have been numerous plays, cartoons, storybooks, and movies about his stories and life. When it came to choosing a script for their production of The Nightingale, Brigham Young University’s Young Company wanted a unique experience that holds a special message for its audience. Timothy Mason’s adaptation had everything they were looking for.

Timothy Mason is an author and a playwright. He adapted Hans Christan Andersen's "The Nightingale" for children's theatre.

Timothy Mason

Timothy Mason adapted The Nightingale in partnership with Seattle Children’s Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company – Minneapolis for their 1975-76 season. Mason has produced plays across the United States and in London, but is best known for his musical adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. His adaptation of The Nightingale merges elements of dance and storytelling, with the narrator speaking English and the other characters speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Mason weaves proverbs into the script to relay important messages to the audience. A proverb is a popular phrase that expresses truth through messages of common sense or reflections on humanity. Here are a few examples of Chinese proverbs:

This is a Chinese proverb. It says, "Learn till old, live till old, and there is still one-third not learned." It means that no matter how old you are, there is still more learning or studying left to do.

This is a Chinese proverb. It says, “Learn till old, live till old, and there is still one-third not learned.” It means that no matter how old you are, there is still more learning or studying left to do.

  • A closed mind is like a closed book; just a block of wood.
  • The longer the night lasts, the more our dreams will be.
  • Of all the stratagems, to know when to quit is the best.
  • Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.
  • One joy scatters a hundred griefs.
  • If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else.

While there are many Chinese proverbs, some more bizarre than others (i.e. Play a harp before a cow), Mason uses proverbs that are recognizable to younger audiences in America. Like Hans Christian Andersen, Timothy Mason used his knowledge and experience with China to influence his work, but blended English phrases and culture into the script as well.

The Chinese emperor in Mason’s adaptation of The Nightingale provides sage advice to members of his court when he says, “Do not be deceived by glitter and show. A true voice and a gentle heart are all you will ever need.” The emperor learns a hard lesson throughout the play and finally realizes that friendship is what really matters. He is deceived by the beauty of a golden, mechanical nightingale which leads to him turning away from the real nightingale. It is only when he is faced with death and saved by the real nightingale that he realizes what is really important in life – friendship. The emperor realizes that keeping promises and being kind to others, especially your friends, are more important than anything else mankind can make.

Proverbs may also act as a theme or a moral to the story. While Hans Christian Andersen did not write obvious morals into the end of his stories, there is always something to learn. The same goes for any book you read! Think of your favorite story. What is the moral of that story? What message did you take away? Why is it your favorite story? Is it because of what it taught you? The beauty of a great story is not just the great characters and the exciting plot, but what it teaches us. Great stories make us what to be better. Timothy Mason’s The Nightingale is no different.

I will leave you with another proverb from the play – something to reflect on as you continue through the rest of your week: “Do not be in such a hurry to get there, that you forget why you went.” Enjoy your journey!

The Birth of “The Nightingale”

by Lola Danielson, dramaturg

Hans Christen Andersen, as I stated in my last post, based many of his stories on events and people from his own life. The Nightingale is no different. The Nightingale (Nattergalen in Danish) was first published in 1844 and tells the story of a Chinese emperor who trades his real nightingale for a mechanical one. The emperor begins to die and longs to hear the nightingale, but the mechanical bird has broken. As Death attempts to take the emperor, the real nightingale returns and sings to save the emperor from Death.

The Chinese motif for the story came from Andersen’s time in the Tivioli Gardens that were opened in Copenhagen in August 1843. Andersen had never traveled further than Istanbul and stayed mostly in Europe during his travels abroad; so, his knowledge of China came from the decorative styles that were popular in Europe at that time. Andersen visited Tivioli Gardens again in October and wrote in his datebook that night that he had begun writing his Chinese fairytale. He finished the story in two days.

The Pagoda at Tivioli Gardens in Copenhagen, August 2012.

The Pagoda at Tivioli Gardens in Copenhagen, August 2012.

Many believe that Andersen’s model for the nightingale was Jenny Lind, a famous Swedish opera soprano. Andersen first met Lind in 1840 and developed an unrequited love for her. Due to Andersen’s belief that he was not interesting or attractive to the opposite sex, he had great difficulty when it came to expressing his affection. He was very shy and found it difficult to propose to Lind. Andersen finally managed his proposal through a letter he handed to Lind while she was boarding a train to an opera concert. Lind did not return his affections but often wrote to Andersen that she wished him well, as a sister to a brother.

Jenny Lind was approximately 20 years old when Andersen, 35, first met her. This is a rendering of Lind in 1840, the year Andersen met her.

Jenny Lind was approximately 20 years old when Andersen, 35, first met her. This is a rendering of Lind in 1840, the year she and Andersen met.

After Andersen published The Nightingale, Lind was given the title of “Swedish Nightingale.” Her voice, like the nightingale, is said to sing so sweetly about good and evil that even death was affected by her voice. So, given the rumored healing power of Lind’s vocal ability, it has become a common belief that Andersen based the nightingale in his story on Lind and the love of the emperor for the bird speaks of his feelings for Lind.

While Andersen was often in love, he never married. His disposition was of such a nature that he felt everything so deeply. Perhaps that is why there is so much feeling in his stories and why we read them – to see beyond the ordinary and to feel something extraordinary.

The Man Behind the Fairytale

by Lola Danielson, dramaturg

Hans Christian Andersen is a name many are familiar with because of the many adaptations of his fairy tales. Most have heard of his stories, such as The Little MermaidThe Ugly Duckling, ThumbelinaThe Nightingale, or The Emperor’s New Clothes. But, how many know the man behind the stories?

HansChristianAndersenBorn in Odense, Denmark on April 2, 1805, Hans Christian Andersen was the only child of a poor cobbler and his wife. At the age of eleven, his father passed away. To help support his mother, he began working in factories telling stories to his coworkers and making up songs to entertain them. At the age of fourteen, shortly after his mother remarried, Andersen set off for Copenhagen to become famous.

After many failed attempts to join the Copenhagen’s Royal Theater, Andersen received help from Jonas Collin, the director of the Royal Theater, and was provided the opportunity to receive an education at the expense of the theater. After finishing his exams, Andersen decided to pursue his career instead of attending university. He began writing travelogues, poems, novels and plays as he traveled around Europe; documenting his experiences and capturing his imagination on paper.

Andersen was not a collector of folktales, like the Grimm brothers, but a unique creator and weaver of the written word. Some of his tales are based on Danish stories he was told as a child, but he was able to create his own characters, change the events of the stories and add his own unique flair to the tales. Other stories he wrote are based on his personal adventures; like The Ugly Duckling, which seems to speak of Andersen’s own experiences growing up. He did not write with the intention that his stories would be for children; Andersen wrote for the enjoyment of all ages.

Hans Christian Andersen had a very unique physical appearance with his tall, gangly frame and rather large feet. He was uncomfortable with how he looked and felt that no one would find him terribly interesting or attractive. He was also rather moody and would soar at a compliment and become miserable if someone looked at him with a sour expression. While a literary genius, he was lonely and always seeking approval from his friends and other prominent figures from fellow literary figures, to royalty, and even little children who would read his stories.

Andersen never married, but he loved often and only at a distance. He often fell in love with unavailable women and many read his stories as interpretations of those loves. It was his love for a woman named Jenny Lind that inspired The Nightingale, but I will save that story for next time.

The height of Andersen’s life came on December 6, 1867, when he was made an honorary citizen of Odense, his birthplace. It was a major event with schools being closed, a torchlight procession through the streets and everyone in the city came out to honor him. Andersen later moved in with his close friends, Moritz Melchior and his wife, and died August 4, 1875, of liver cancer.

Hans Christen Andersen’s stories have stood the test of time and have been translated in almost every language around the world. Movies, plays, books and other adaptations of his works grace almost every home. This man has touched so many hundreds and thousands of people with his stories. It gives one hope that, no matter how awkward they may be, there is a something special and unique inside each of us that is worth sharing with the world. Like Hans Christian Andersen, who knows where your passion will lead!

The Journey Begins

by Lola Danielson, dramaturg

Welcome to the magical world of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale. This fairytale is set in China during a time of emperors, generals and witches. It is a tale of friendship, overcoming pride and discovering what truly matters in life.

My name is Lola Danielson, the dramaturg for The Nightingale, and I will be your guide as we navigate through the production process for the show. The directors for The Nightingale, Julia Ashworth and Kori Wakamatsu, wanted to create a unique experience for this Theatre for Young Audience production – a combination of East meets West. So, over the next few weeks, I will be sharing information with you about China and not only how it has influenced the world as we know it today, but also how China has been changed by the rest of the world. We will embark on a journey to discover more about the author, Hans Christian Andersen, and take a look at the actors’ and directors’ experiences when they traveled to China. Some of the actors will share pictures and stories from their trip, so keep following the posts for The Nightingale!

It is my hope that as you embark on this journey through China with us that we can bring some of the wonderful and mysterious history of China to you, as well as some of those special feelings that only come when you encounter something new, rare and beautiful. Please join us as we take the winding journey on the wide and majestic Yangtze River, climb the Great Wall of China and embark into the fairytale land of Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale.

 chinawallarge

Welcome to the 2013-2014 Season!

Welcome back to the 4th WALL for BYU’s 2013-2014 theatre season.  The 4th WALL will be your one stop shop for all sorts of insider information about our upcoming productions, which include:

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, adapted for the stage by Timothy Mason

The Light in the Piazza, by Craig Lucas (book) and Adam Guettel (music and lyrics)

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a NEW adaptation for the stage by Melissa Leilani Larson

and

Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, adapted for the stage by Teresa Dayley Love

Take a moment to meet our dramaturgs, and then check back regularly as they take you inside the world of each of these productions.  You can also make sure you never miss a post by choosing to Follow the 4th WALL (to the right), with an email arriving in your inbox every time new information is added.

For those of you returning from last season, you will notice some slight changes in the design of the site.  It is our hope that this new design will make it easier for you to follow along with any specific shows.

As always, we love to hear from our audience members, so please feel free to engage with our dramaturgs or with the productions by leaving comments on any of the posts.

Thank you for visiting the 4th WALL!