Swimming to Shanghai (and Beijing)

by Corey Fischer

in Global Connections

(This post was originally shared by Corey Fischer in January 2013 on his blog, Story Passage. We’re sharing it here to cast more light on our Global Connections recipients. Stay tuned for further posts from Corey’s travels!)

I was one of six theatre-makers to be awarded a “Global Connections” grant, a grant aimed at seeding international collaborations in theatre. It will allow me to accept an invitation from Taiwanese director Stan Lai  to spend time with him in Beijing next March while he rehearses the Beijing premiere of one of his most ambitious projects, A Dream Like a Dream. The play surrounds the audience, who sit on swiveling chair and lasts eight hours.  The inspiration for it came from an experience Stan had in Bodh Gaya, India, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment and Stan’s reading of certain Buddhist texts.  I’m currently reading a rough translation of it and feel a palpable undertow,  something like a gravitational force that its many interweaving characters, their stories and journeys generate. In Beijing, Stan and I will begin talking about ways we might collaborate on a project in the future.

Stan Lai, director and playwrightStan Lai, director and playwright

Some of you will have seen the video of Stan I recorded last August when I met him during his visit to the Bay Area, and know something about the unusual connection between us that began, unbeknownst to me, thirty years ago.

The plan is to spend about three weeks in Beijing observing Stan’s rehearsals and starting the conversation about collaborating. Then, after A Dream Like a Dream opens, I’ll travel to Shanghai where Stan is  arranging a guest workshop for me to teach. I’ll end the trip in Wuzhen, a “water town” built on canals. Stan and two other Chinese theatre artists  are organizing an international experimental theatre festival there with some formidable participants from around the planet. (Such as the legendary Odin Teatret from Denmark).

Corey Fischer is a participant in the Global Connections-ON the ROAD program, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the professional not-for-profit American theatre.

In days to come, I’ll be booking flights, applying for a visa, working on logistics with Stan’s assistant named, charmingly, December. Proceeding as if it’s all really happening though I’m still not quite convinced. As with most improvisations,  the effectiveness of preparation is questionable, but the need to feel in control is unavoidable. My little video camera is working, I’ve got extra memory cards and batteries and electrical adaptors. I’m starting  to imagine fragmentary conversations with Stan about the essence of theatre,  cross-cultural collaborations, stories that need telling and more.  I make lists. I lose the lists. I have plenty of time before departing. I have no time.

Update, 02/21/13: I’ve just been invited to perform my solo piece, Sometimes We Need a Story More than Food at the festival in Wuzhen.  I’m tremendously honored but now have the additional challenge of finding time to rehearse  (and remember) a piece I have not performed in close to 20 years.  Stay tuned.

Corey Fischer is an actor, writer and director who has been creating and performing theatre for over forty years. In 1978, he co-founded Traveling Jewish Theatre with whom he worked as an actor, director and playwright until it closed in May, 2012. He collaborated on more than two dozen works for TJT. His one man show, Sometimes We Need a Story More Than Food was one of the Los Angeles Times’ ten best productions of 1993 and won a Marin county playwriting fellowship. In 1999 he received a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays award for his play, See Under: Love which has since been published in Nine Contemporary Jewish Plays, University of Texas Press. Recent playwriting commissions include, I’m Calling the Police, inspired by a story by psychiatrist and author Irvin Yalom and Robert Berger and In the Maze of Our Own Lives, inspired by the history of the Group Theater, which premiered in TJT’s last season, October, 2011. In 2012 Corey directed Brecht’s The Good Person of Sechuan (Tony Kushner’s translation) at California State University, East Bay.

Before founding TJT, Corey acted in film, television and theatre in Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, B.C. Along the way, he worked with the legendary teacher and actor, Jeff Corey, visionary directors Robert Altman and Joseph Chaikin, and the extraordinary actor and member of Peter Brook’s Théâtre de Bouffes du Nord, Bruce Myers.

He is married to writer China Galland, has three adult step-children and six grandchildren.

The Global Connections program was designed by TCG and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Learn more here.