Thursday, September 23, 2010

Direct Arts in San Francisco - Thursday, 9/16

The next morning, Matt and I rolled out of bed and headed to the bank where I took out the per diem money for everyone. I got back half an hour late to the meeting, but none of the actors were there yet; they began crawling in around 11:00 sucking on coffee with rings around their eyes and speaking in monosyllables. Except for Jojo who apparently had gotten up at dawn again. Even though that's when I think he went to sleep. I gave some notes, but most of my worries had to do with the music problems the previous night and after taking care of correspondence and doing some math, I sat down with Richard for another confab.
Richard working on video, random hostel guy behind him.
Heading to Portsmouth Square with Matt afterwards, I went down to  Portsmouth Square Garage to turn their lunchroom into a dressing room. The techies were all late in arriving except for Cristian, but set-up seemed to be a lot more efficient than the day before. After making sure everything was all right, I got on the phone to rent chairs and went shopping for the last of the props. I bought an Asian baby doll from a toy store on the Embarcadero. Helen, who played its mom, was a little creeped out by it since it was the size of a preemie but had a full head of hair. I found a little yellow sweater at Goodwill (well, actually it was white with orange stripes which I hoped would look yellow in the light). I still couldn’t find a stool so we were stuck again with the ladder I had borrowed from the garage.  

At 5PM, the actors arrived for dinner at Chinatown Restaurant, where we had another amazing dinner. Cristian and Tim went off to get chairs from Nextarts but the rest of the crew members managed to sit down with us at the end of the meal. 

After dinner, I took the actors down the elevator to the garage and introduced them to the lunchroom. I think they were a little bemused at the set up, but it actually wasn’t so bad – it was indoors and there was space to sit, warm up and hang your things. Plus they had just renovated the bathroom, which was way better than the mucky bathroom in the Square. Kate came to the dressing room with a new Ng Ga Pei bottle. A mysterious gentleman had given it to her, saying that he had seen the play the previous night and the bottle we had for the scene wasn’t the proper bottle. He also bought four little porcelain cups to go with it since he said no one drinks Ng Ga Pei from the bottle.  Apparently, he then he vanished with the crashing of a gong on a blue dragon that chased a giant floating pearl. 

Carl & Kitty at the entrance to the lunchroom,
I mean dressing room. (Thanks Helen Kim for these photos.) 

Avery & Helen Tong in the inner sanctum of the
dressing room. Note the five bags, not a good idea.
 The actors picked through the five bags to find their costumes, while Kate and I went back up to the Square. We got out of the elevator just as Cristian was arrived with the chairs. The minute that we put a row down, people instantly came swarming from all corners of Portsmouth Square for a seat. In an instant, the house was completely full.  Buck Gee was there (the previous blog entry was wrong; Eddie Wong was there the first night for introductions) and an actor who had been in Genny’s play BITTER CANE, as well as several people who had seen PAPER ANGELS when it premiered at the Asian American Theater Company.

The prologue from Stage Right.
Buck Gee introduced the second night and urged everyone to visit Angel Island. It was a smoother performance than opening night, but second night blahs were in effect and the lack of music during scene changes was excruciating to me. Although everyone was slightly off in their rhythm, the audience didn’t seem to mind.  In my first scene, where I sat on the edge of the stage, I heard some talking in the audience and looking out, saw that our friend the drunk was back. I delivered my next lines straight to him, which seemed to shut him up. When I next looked at him, he was smiling and rocking back and forth. During the Ng Ga Pei scene, I saw an old lady with no teeth in the front row whoop with laughter; I thought that the choice of alcohol must ring very true to her. (Thank you, god of Ng Ga Pei.)

Later, Kate said that during Henderson’s anti-Chinese monologue, a gang of Chinese toughs happened to be walking through the Square when they heard, “The Chinese don’t belong here! Do you think they’d fight for Uncle Sam? Hell, no!” They stopped cold and for a minute, all the techies worried that Max was going to get lynched. The kids took a step towards the stage in unison and then another step and then they stopped and just watched the show. Max got off the stage and half of them left, but the other half stayed. At the end, the ones who stayed asked Kate what time the play began so they could come back and see it from the beginning.
Max stops the show.
After the play, we went to the opening of a new branch of Fluevog Shoes on Grant Street. Fluevog was a sponsor of the play and they threw an amazing party that extended throughout their four-story building, complete with a DJ and an auction of some fabulous artwork that was created in response to an advertising contest.  We drank, danced and salivated over gorgeous shoes. Max gave in and bought himself a pair of blue buckle shoes.
Max & William in front of artwork being auctioned.
Matt & the Fluevogs.
Helen's choice.
Hansel talked about these shoes for the rest of the trip.
Kate with Stephen Fluevog looking on (left, obscured).
Fluevog was about five blocks from Portsmouth Square and we walked through the Chinatown gate on Grant Street in order to get there. It was interesting to note the disparity in just one block – okay, sure Grant Street must be the capital of kitschy Chinese tchotchke for tourists, but it’s obvious that the Chinatown residents are for the most part low-income. Passing through the gate, all of a sudden, you are faced with boutique designer shops that cater to a whole other income bracket. The old lady with no teeth who enjoyed the Ng Ga Pei scene, the people who passed the day playing cards and xiang qi in the Square obviously weren't going to shop on the other side of that gate. 

Hansel & the Foo Dog at the gate.
I mentioned to some of the actors that if I had a million dollars, I’d  stop traffic for three hours, plunk a stage right in that intersection, and do the play right in front of the gate.

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