Thursday, March 30, 2006

Last night's Nameless Poetry Festival at Beijing University was a success. The event also marked the 50th anniversary of the May Fourth Literature Society, which seemed to add something more to the proceedings.

Zhou, Jorge, Josh, and myself (the four of us who were billed as the Subterranean Poets), Sarah, and Seth (handling our video) met at Lush, and we all ate burgers before catching cabs to Beijing University. We were about 30 minutes late and made our way through the campus quickly. We arrived at the Centenary Memorial Hall and were a little surprised as no lights were on either outside or inside the building. It seemed like we were in the wrong place, although there were a number of people crowded around what appeared to be the entrance.

We approached and learned that none of us would be allowed admittance as the auditorium was already full. Fortunately, Zhou had a nice connection with the event organizer and, after a brief phone conversation, we found ourselves being shoved through a small space between the doors. All of us had invited a number of people and could only hope that, if they were not already inside, they would somehow get in before we performed.

The lobby, empty aside from a few giant marble pillars and shadowy plants along the wall, was quite dark. The event was being held on the second floor and we ascended the wide marble staircase in front of us, which seemed the only way to go, toward the light and the few people we could see at the top of the stairs.

There were some people selling Chinese poetry books at a small table at the top. We turned to our right, walked down a short hallway lined with people having quiet conversations, and entered the crowded auditorium. Standing room only. The room was quite modern and the stage was impressively wide and spacious. It was the most high-tech poetry reading I had ever attended. There was a huge screen behind the stage showing various images and ambient sounds playing in the background as poets read their work. I was blown away.

We watched a handful of poets read before a drama troupe took the stage. The group presented a piece, scripts in hand and otherwise somewhat lacking in movement, which lasted nigh an hour and seemed to kill any enthusiasm for the event. This dramatic intrigue finally came to a close and, after a brief intermission which consisted of the viewing of a sound/image collage and a few interviews on the video screen, a few more poets presented poems. At last, The Subterranean Poets were announced.

We had spent about ten hours together, writing, arranging and practicing our performance. We also recorded all of our conversation surrounding the creation of this piece. The poem revolved around the contrasting ideas of LOVE/HATE and FUTURE/PAST. It was our suggestion that these things together represented the PRESENT. We called the poem Nameless and, after a brief introduction in Chinese, we proceeded to do our thing.

Everything really went as we had planned. We hadn't rehearsed in such a large space, which we could have done more to use, and we hadn't been prepared for the ambient background sounds, which seemed to drown us out at times, but we all felt good and positive afterwards. Certainly, we learned a great deal from the experience. It was our first time working together as a group on a project of this kind, but we have been performing with each other for the past eight months and we seemed to know each other well. We're all anxious to watch the video to see how we looked and then, hopefully, we will make it available to all of you far far away folk.

I think all of us are excited to continue with another project and see how far we can develop and sustain our efforts. We're scheduled to give another performance with the Beijing Actor's Workshop, a group with which we've worked in the past, on Friday evening at another venue...

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