Written by Amber Espar
Our workshop time with Zhejiang Opera Companyhas been rich and flexibly evolving as we get to know our teachers and they learn more about us. Michael Leibenluft, a recent Yale graduate and 2011 Fulbright fellow and graduate student at Shanghai Theatre Academy has been playing an essential role as translator, site logistics coordinator and mentor for the group.
Our days with the Opera Company have included a chance to see films of the company’s performances from their tours around the world. We learned more about the Beijing Opera “Hang dang” or character types with their respective costumes, make-up, hand gestures, eye focus quality, gaits, voice tones for singing an recitation and the overall “fa” or way that these all come together.
On our first day, the students showed our piece “The Beauty Trap” to the teachers, who were quite impressed with how much everyone had learned in such a short period of time. Our teacher comes from a family of Beijing Opera performers. He began training at 6 years old and when he was 7 it was decided that he would study to take on the roles of the “chou” or martial clown characters. His father played the “wu sheng” or martial male character.
We continued out work today by trying on movement sequences that represent riding a horse and then we followed the master teacher’s rich sing song tones to take on the voice qualities that signify the different character types. The students also received one on one instruction for parts of their particular roles in the show, honing in on timing and specificity of gestures or getting feedback on their intonation and other aspects. What a full day of work!We have two more days of workshops with the troupe leader.
Early Monday morning we take a long train ride to Xiamen for the World Congress of the International Theatre Institute.