Frank and Jeanmarie, the main characters of “The Dwarf in China”, have taken up a new adventure in the city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. They performed their dwarf show in kindergartens from March 10th until April 10th 2015. Frank & Jeanmarie will write about this period on this blog.
Read bottom posts first to read in chronological order!
The Future of the Dwarf in China
By Frank Hitman
Upon our return in the capital we were once again confronted with reality. Fact was that we hadn’t done enough shows in the first few weeks and we had to make up for this by planning as much performances as possible in the last few weeks. So we were back to a highly hectic expedition, with heavy insecurities about the potential financial return. At the same time, we had a lot of valuable experiences and learned a lot.
One of the good things was that we had gained a significant momentum. During our efforts to sell the show on such a short term, I steadily built up a circle of highly interested pedagogues. I tried to invite as many new people to the shows we had already planned and the reactions were usually very positive. We steadily improved our repertoire, and were able to consistently creating consistent waves of quiet, focused attention and pure ecstatic joy with the kids in the audience. It made the rooms brim with a truly magical energy.
In all the different schools we visited, we encountered both the problems as well as some pillars of hope. We witnessed some typically painful segregation in the more expensive schools. The poshest of all, in a walled-off compound in the middle of towering skyscrapers with fancy apartments, was an actual “little-emperor-factory”. Kids were dropped there with bright race cars every morning to be received by a committee of forty (!) foreign teachers. Lunch and dinner was served on plates of silver and gold, and all arranged neatly to look like Disney figures. It left us constantly wondering how some of the behavior cultivated in these kids was inevitably going to be a problem for China in the long run. Nevertheless, we found it very interesting to have these kids and their parents as an audience for our show. We all had a blast.
We also did shows in the most beautiful, well-organized and conscious kindergartens we had ever set foot in. The principal, Mrs. Luo, was an energetic young woman with a very clear vision. She seemed to run her team perfectly, and was constantly working to expand her school in a good way. The school grounds were inhabited by many giant trees, many a few centuries old. Also had she convinced the local government to renovate an old courtyard quarter that used to be a school before (it goes without saying that this kind of preservation is rare in China). They did calligraphy and traditional music classes in these rooms. There was almost no plastic in the school, and all toys were artifacts from nature such as pine cones, sticks and rocks. When we expressed her surprise about this, the principal informed us that she found it “most important” for children of this age to get a feeling with nature and to learn that “everything comes from nature.”
We got to know some truly fascinating and inspiring individuals. We got to do our show for them in their schools and were delighted to build on their feedback. Our show grew tremendously, and became a product that was even more suitable for the enormous market. So, how come we worked so hard on our expedition, on an increasingly successful show, in a country with a gigantic potential market, and didn’t reap the financial benefits? All the ingredients seemed to be there. But maybe we had wanted to move a little bit too fast. Maybe we had skipped some crucial steps, just trusting in our good faith and confident we’d learn on the way, like we did before. Because of the success we had encountered during the shows, we had just been overly eager to get this off the ground with our personal funding.
We clearly should have worked together with an agent in China helping us to book our show into schools in advance. I had been quick to find someone like this, but he was quick to show signs that he wasn’t that suitable to act as our agent as we had hoped. In turn, I was quick to go on with the whole expedition anyway because we were so strongly attached to the project with our hearts. Going on with it might not have been the smartest move, but it certainly made us finally learn how to really plan such a project and what to exactly outsource and to whom. And in the end, we acquainted a few enthusiastic and trustworthy potential agents with whom we are currently planning our next tour in Sichuan. For the moment, all eyes are on spring 2016…