Friday, May 29, 2009

Blog Update

Our internet was erratic for a couple weeks, but now seems to be stable again. Access to the blog, however, is still being blocked. Thankfully our kids came home with a back-door proxy around the great China Firewall. (Isn’t modern education great!) The proxy does not allow us to post pictures, so we'll post some photos on Facebook (Judy McMorrow page).

Strut and Fret: Romeo & Juliet Update

Romeo & Juliet had a preview night on May 6th and officially opened May 8th. The cast of 18 puts on a wonderful show, drawing us into the amazing tale. The first half if full of lightness and fun, and the second half would give any current slasher film a run for its money. Lord Capulet, of course, is the highlight in our eyes. He is perfectly cast, walking proudly with a cane as a prop. His hand clap to call forth the musicians for the party is regal. His anger at Juliet’s defiance is startling. The audience draws back as he calls her a “green sickness carrion” and “you baggage” and “ungrateful wench.” The audience gasps as he runs toward Juliet with his cane to hit her as she cowers on the floor. As the production has progressed, so has Rick. He continues to work on his role. A few years ago our nephew Joe Howarth told us that every night in his play was different. At the time Rick said he didn’t understand, but now he comes home each night with a description of the slight variation that came through an injured actor or a dropped line or an intentional change in the action.

The day after opening night was media night, where several English language papers were to attend. Alas, there was a power outage in the block around the theatre and for only the second time in several years they had to cancel the performance. That impaired the publicity plan, but as with everything in China (and life), one needs to be nimble and flexible!

The theatre is an intimate stage in the round, with about 150 seats. Judy has now gone to 5 shows, Anna to 3, and Elizabeth to 2. Each of the three sections of the theatre offers a different view not just literally but also in the nuance of the action and the facial expression of the actors. It once again shows the subtly of both Shakespeare’s unbelievable gift and the creativity of this production. The show closes May 31st. We’ll miss it.

Continue on My Lord!

About that Next Gig…. (Rick)

The Beijing Playhouse also runs a casting agency and last week a filmmaker filmed me to see if I might be good for a role in a movie about Harry Truman and China. They emailed and wanted me to come for a final tryout for the role of John Leighton Stuart, who was the ambassador to China from 1946-49. They were going to pay me 4000 Yuan (about $600). 

The night before the final arrangements the head of The Beijing Playhouse called and said they were not going to participate in the casting of this movie because it was a propaganda film! Here’s some of the dialogue for my part. What do you think? (P.s. Since we are in China on a US government grant it seemed better not to take the chance at embarrassing the government. They’ve been too good to us. I passed up the role.)

The CCP wants to establish a new government before Jiang and Li’s inauguration, how could that be possible?

It’s just talk. The May 1st slogan is nothing more than Mao’s announcement of his existence to the world. Jiang’s military might is greater. The so-called political consultation is just a joke.

Mr. Ambassador, I hope the US government can participate directly in the intermediation between the KMT and the CCP.

Mr. President, I’d be happy to oblige personally. But unfortunately, I’m afraid the CCP won’t accept your conditions for peace.

The CCP has set their foot along the Yangtze frontlines. Mao delivered a strongly worded statement yesterday, calling Mr. Commissioner the foremost war criminal. I need support.

Yes, things look dangerous. It’s time for the deputy president to step up and alleviate the risks.

International Day

For the children, plays and films are just background noise in the daily life of school and friends. A variety of terrific school events have kept us busy. International Day and Spring Fair was held on Sat May 16th. At an International School in Beijing this is not just symbolic but a true celebration of the wonderful depth and diversity of the student and faculty at BISS School. The parade of nations was a colorful walk around the track, with costumes from South Korea, Japan, Africa, Indonesia, China (of course) and many other counties. The Yanks dressed in a cowboy theme, so the weekend before we went to our favorite market Jin Wu Xing, which has everything amidst its 1000+ stalls – assuming you can find it! We did find the hat area and for 90 kuai bought 4 cowboy hats (about $3.50 each). Some bandana type material was all it took to give the overall effect. Each nationality also provided food, and for 10 kuai (about $1.50) you could eat your fill. The proceeds of the lunch went to a charity. Thankfully one of the US teachers hit on the great idea to order pumpkin pies. That was much better than our original plan, which was to try and coax chocolate chip cookies from our small toaster oven.

Track, Swimming and Basketball

In May Anna participated in a track-and-field event for all the international schools. BISS took a big contingent. Anna won two (!) medals, a gold and silver, for her fast efforts. She trained with vigor and used the techniques taught by her daddy. In an elementary school swim meet last week she came home with two gold medals in swimming. She’s blossomed into a great athlete.

This spring Elizabeth participated in the junior high basketball team. Her skills also improved steadily throughout the season. Having tried soccer, volleyball and basketball teams (along with all the sports they engage in during gym class) the winner is….. VOLLEYBALL as her favorite.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Law & Journalism Program (Judy)

One advantage of being on a US government program is access to an amazing group of people. Glenn Mott, who is an editor with the Hearst group and teaching on a Fulbright grant at Tsinghua, put together a fascinating program with the public affairs section of the US embassy on “Law and Journalism: A Fact-finding Session.” I helped Glenn brainstorm this project and participated as timekeeper and back-up moderator. The panelists were Eve Burton (General counsel of Hearst), Jim Fallows (reporter for the Atlantic Monthly), and Mo Xiaping and Pu Zhiqiang, two courageous Chinese lawyers willing to take on high-profile cases defending journalists in China.

Both Glenn and I were able to bring about 30 students to the panel. Renmin would provide law students, Tsinghua would send journalism students. This required having everyone’s name, national ID and phone number in advance for security purposes. In addition, the consulates at Shanghai and Guangzhou were also inviting students to participate via teleconference. Alas, the night before the event the Tsinghua international office withdrew permission – without explanation. This one school got nervous. This simple act of cancelling participation sent a pretty powerful signal. I also realized with some distress that I did not want to get my Chinese host at Renmin in difficulty. I had not even known the names of the Chinese lawyers until the day before the program so he did not know who was attending this program, only that it was sponsored by the US Embassy. Since such programs by the embassy are vetted through the political folks at the embassy, we did not expect controversy. But we assume that the upcoming anniversary of Tiananmen Square has raised the official vigilance.

The actual program was terrific. The two Chinese lawyers made clear that their views were not the views of the Party. They were critical of the Chinese government approach to journalism and the press. The challenge facing journalists in China is daunting. My later discussion with my students who attended was interesting. The most common reaction of the students was embarrassment that China was being criticized by two of their own in front of foreigners. A couple students expressed frustration that the Chinese lawyers did not praise all the progress and provide a more “balanced” presentation. There was strong resistance to the ideas presented. I noted in class that such discussions where we focus on problem areas are quite common in the US. At least the students came away with a hint of the difference in how we think about and discuss problems.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Romeo & Juliet Photos

The director of Romeo & Juliet put together a slide show of publicity photos for Romeo & Juliet. We'll update this with more recent photos.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chengdu Travels

The weekend of April 24-26th, the 3 girls flew out to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where Judy was giving a couple talks at Sichuan University. The University treated us to several terrific meals of Sichuan food. We had already learned about their hot pot specialty, but were treated to some new variations. The talks kept us quite close to the university and its beautiful campus, full of greenery, occasional palm trees, and rickshaws that would give you a ride across campus for 3 kuai (about 40 cents). We were able to spend a half day at the Panda preserve at the outskirts of Chengdu. The panda center offered a beautiful landscape and more natural habitat than the Beijing zoo. We saw many pandas, including some young bears playing behind glass. We also enjoyed the lake that was stocked with large and plentiful goldfish. We bought bags of fish food and fed the fish that swarmed to the treats, flopping over each other in their eagerness.

Talking in China is Good for the Ego (Judy)

In mid-April, I went down to Chongqing to give a couple talks at Southwest University School of law. They were gracious hosts, taking me to Ciqikou Street to see the old section of Chongqing and enjoy the vibrant sights. Each city introduces an additional nuance of Chinese cuisine. I’m not sure the name for the banquet where there are dozens of toppings and sauces around the table, which you add to the dofu dish. Whatever its name, it was delicious!

When I arrived at the law school for my talk a large banner was displayed in front of the law school building with my name emblazoned in huge letters. (Suzhou University had my name and talk running on a large marquis in the front of the law school.) This is part of my 15 minutes of fame, so I’m intent on enjoying it to the max!

By the way, one photo has "Flat Andrew," who visited us from Atlanta for about three weeks. Flat Andrew traveled from Beijing, to Chongqing to Chengdu before heading back to the US. You can find more pictures of Flat Andrew on Facebook (Judy McMorrow).

The Glories and Challenges of Street Food (Rick)

I’ve been eating in small shops and street food for 8 months with no problems. The first week of April changed that. I got a small pancake sandwich (jian bing) and then smelled some meat – lamb or pork – so I bought 2 sticks for 5 Yuan (about 75 cents). Well, it attacked me for a week. I lost 12 pounds over 7 days. One night I got up 50 times – no exaggeration – which made a colonoscopy seem like a simple blood test. No more street food (at least meat) for me. Others had warned of this, but I found out the hard way.

No pictures for this post!

Opening Night Approaches

The Beijing Playhouse production of Romeo & Juliet is now in full dress rehearsals 5 nights a week. The preview for family, friends and media is Wed. May 6th, and opening night is May 8th. Several assistant directors work with each actor -- singing, dancing, sword fights, facial expressions, Elizabethan English, character development. Lord Capulet is now sprouting a handsome beard and carries himself with a more stately air, even at home. We can’t wait for opening night!

Vietnam: Girls Trip to Hanoi and First Impressions

On March 29th, the “girls” took a trip down to northern Vietnam for Elizabeth and Anna’s school break. (Lord Capulet had play practice.) We began our adventure with a 3+ hour flight from Beijing to Hanoi. We stayed at The Galaxy Hotel on the edge of the Old Quarter. What a vibrant, dynamic place! It was a bit overcast, so the pictures do not do justice to the life and activity around us. Motorcycles zoomed in an out, carrying young and old, tall and small. We saw grandmothers in suits and toddlers tucked between parents, almost all with helmets. Crossing the street was unnerving at first. The secret is to walk slowly and steadily, trying to make contact with the cycles zooming toward you. There was indeed a rhythm to the madness. Along the sidewalks folks would sit on small tables outside shops, conducting the activities of daily life – cooking, playing cards, talking. Straw cone hats were not just tourist items, but were actually worn by some to shade the sun and stop the rain.

The homes were tall and narrow. Apparently taxes are determined by the width of the buildings. Hmm - what other architectural influences result from tax policies? The architectural style also showed a French influence. At spots it look a bit like New Orleans. Our food choices included “pho” – Vietnamese noodles. After becoming quite comfortable with the Chinese Yuan, we needed to adapt to the Vietnamese dong, which is 17,000 dong to $1.

Among our stops in Vietnam was a trip to the water puppets, which is an art form that arose from the countryside. The puppet show was literally in water, with a story told in Vietnamese, accompanied by music. At the end the curtain came up to reveal the puppeteers standing in thigh-high water.

Vietnam: War Reminders

The Ho Chi Minh complex was closed during the days we visited Hanoi, so we spent more time exploring memorials of the US-Vietnam war. We also saw reminders of war with Japan and China and France, a clue to the strategic role of Vietnam. We passed an area with a crashed airplane strewn across the front of a large building and asked if we could stop. It was a B52 memorial where the Vietnamese had shot down a US plane. The girls found it interesting to walk around and touch airplane parts and bomb shells. I found it poignant and disturbing. So many, many lives on both sides were changed by this war.

We also went to the Hoa Lo prison, which is colloquially known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where US POWs were held during the Vietnam War. Most of the display showed the poor treatment of Vietnamese prisoners by Japanese in earlier times. A few rooms were devoted to showing the relatively “good” treatment of US prisoners by the Vietnamese. We did not engage in any political discussion about the accuracy of the portrayal. We asked our guide, Twen, what the Vietnamese people think of Americans. We were surprised that he was surprised at that question. For young people, the Vietnam War is a historical event. The next day he reported that he had asked his father that question. The father’s response: “If a neighbor comes and kills one of your family, then returns 10 years later and apologizes, how would you react? Everyone reacts differently.” We also saw an older man begging in the train station. Twen said that there are many such older men who suffered mental impairments from what people believe was Agent Orange. We know that if we went to areas of the US near military hospitals we might see similar sights. The tools of war do not take sides.

Vietnam: Food Creations

Once again we found some creative food items in Vietnam. We were not sure about the appeal of the coke cans with chicken parts. (See photo.) Up in Sapa Valley there were sugar canes for sale. Folks would purchase the sugar cane, peal down strips and eat the interior while walking, like a banana. It looked quite appealing. The chickens, however, did not….

Vietnam: Sapa Valley and our “Soft Trek”

We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa Valley in the far north of Vietnam. We arrived at 5:30 am to pouring rain, and experienced a couple downpours during our 3 days there even though it is not rainy season. Our base was in Sapa, a town tucked in the mountains. Women in colorful dresses from the Black Hmong people would walk through town selling handicrafts.

During our 3 days we went to several different villages of the Black and Red Hmong people and of the Dzao. Because this was a “soft” trek, a van took us to the edge of the village and we would then walk for a couple hours. It is always a question whether tourists are worth the disruption. How would we feel if strangers walked through our town taking pictures? The quid-pro-quo was their desire to sell us souvenirs. At one village about 15 women were following us with their baskets on their back.

The scenery for these 3 days was like walking through a calendar – stunning beyond description. Mountains, karsts, rice paddies, water buffalo grazing along the road. At the edge of one village was a small cave with stalactites. Another village ended at a waterfall. On the second day we took a 3 hour van ride to a more remote town for the weekly Hmong market. There were very few tourists compared to the Hmong, so we received a few stares. In addition to clothing, chicks, and household items, we also discovered we could buy hashish (“no thank you”).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies - Expatriate Riot


Beijing Police report a small riot broke out among area expatriates in the Haidian District of Beijing last Saturday. Apparently, an American family received a box of what are called “Girl Scout cookies.” These highly addictive substances sent an odor out that quickly spread over a 2 mile area. Crazed Americans began following the scent and quickly descended upon the unprepared campus.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” reported Wen Ximing, a law student at Renmin. “Americans started running across the square in front of Mingde hall.” Wen followed the group as they quickly converged on the park in front of Building Yiyuan 3, where the Reilly family was holding a picnic that included the addictive substances. “Adults were pushing aside children, trying to grab these small chocolate covered cookies.”

Rick Reilly, a statuesque man with a white beard, shook his head in amazement. Apparently Mr. Reilly has avoided addiction to the cookies. “But my two daughters wept when they received the package. My wife was out of town when it arrived. By the time she returned two days later the cookies were almost depleted.” Reilly accepts that the family made a mistake by allowing the remaining cookies into public view. He apologized deeply and sincerely “for allowing these addictive substances to be out in public.”

Reilly’s wife, Judy, and their daughters Elizabeth (almost 12) and Anna (10) were unavailable for comment. Witnesses report the three Reilly women curled up in fetal positions once the cookies were gone.

The cookies were a gift of the Chivian family of Newton, Massachusetts. Efforts to contact the Chivian family for comment were unsuccessful. The Public Security Bureau is investigating whether Chivians broke any international or domestic laws by sending addictive substances into China. The Chinese government reports that they are also preparing an official complaint to the US Embassy. “We are unsure at this point whether the incident will have any lasting negative effects on Sino-US relations,” stated vice-deputy Wang Jongwen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quick Trip to Manhasset, NY

One of the highlights of our month was a visit (via Skype) to Shelter Rock Elementary School in Manhasset, NY. We were special guests of our nephew Ben Reilly in his second grade class. Rick sent a box full of items from China for the children to explore, we scheduled the time (9:25 am NY, 9:25 pm Beijing) and on Fri. March 27th we connected! The kids were amazing – excited, interested and well-prepared for a discussion about China. Mrs. Weinstein, the teacher, had each child prepare a question, and after a brief introduction from us they came up to the microphone. Ben started off and the questions flowed -- pets, food, school, the Great Wall, sports. Rick had props ready, so we showed them ping pong, hacky sack, badminton, dolls, flags. They covered the watershed. The excitement and pleasured flowed through the audio and video. We were pleased to see Bob and Mary Jane (mom and dad) and Aunt Grace in the audience. Once again we are learning how close we can be through technology.

Anna’s Birthday (Anna)

I’m 10 years old! On my birthday I went to school. Right when the bell rang after morning tea everyone went in the classroom. They were screaming because they were excited to eat my cakes. We had two cakes. One of my cakes was a pink ladybug. The other cake was a normal cake with a doll on it. Everyone sang Happy Birthday three times in three languages – English, Korean and Chinese. I started cutting the cake but I stopped right away to save the ladybug’s face. Everyone said, “Oooo, you’re going to kill the ladybug,” so I quickly scooped the face up onto the plate and I saved the ladybug’s face. It was beautiful.

For my birthday party I went [on the weekend] to “The Hutong” and we made pizza and cake. My friends Disha, Su Bin, Julie, Z and Essa came, and some moms and a dad. We had a lot of fun.

Rehearsals – The Agony & The Ecstasy (Rick)

Acting is much more difficult than it looks. First, we have to deal with Shakespearean Old English. Second, we have to remember that our audience will be in a semi-circle around us, so we have to speak to the audience, not to the person we’re actually talking with. Most of the time you are at a 90 degree angle to the person you are having the conversation. Third, it is easy to get nervous and freeze and forget your lines. You have to walk and talk at the same time…. Four, we dance: the waltz, minuet, some hip-hop, disco and the electric slide. This is not my strong point. It’s like doing the Macarena and Chicken Dance with a bunch of 8th graders who have been doing it all their life and you are working off the numbers and “X” marks on the floor. Sometimes the choreographer will say, “instead of a stomp, slap, hit we’ll do a slide double-hit on both heels.” I’m going “duhhh.” Everyone else is a pro! Finally, we’re singing. I am one of 5 male voices, with a limited range. Again, difficult for me. I’m a “Base 2” singer. Does anyone know what that is? All I know is it’s not second base in baseball. We practice four nights a week. I need every one. By the way, I’m growing a beard to look like Lord Capulet. My looks are my strong point! I’m glad to show the girls that it is an adventure to be outside your comfort zone.

Theatre Runs in the Family (re Elizabeth)

Elizabeth had two entertainment events in the last month. The upper school (6th-12th grades) held their annual BISS Idol and Elizabeth and several other 6th graders developed a skit and routine. Their routine was creative and fun and a big hit. Look at the names of the sixth graders in the act: Alzira Fernandes, Elizabeth Reilly, Chrystal Leung, Sana Samad, Fatima Obaid al Salami, Megumi Tanaka, Punyarak Nimchuar. Can you match the name with the nationality?

On March 24th-26th Elizabeth was in the cast of “Once Upon a Time,” a musical farce with a lively score and fun plot about Captain Boredom and her zombie army trying to take over Fairytale land. The costumes were colorful and the humor had an adult edge. It was fun and joyful and exhausting. Over 50 students participated, from grades 3-12, including several of Anna's 4th grade friends.

Mother of the Year (Elizabeth)

Three weeks ago I started reading the Twilight series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn). I became totally and completely obsessed. I could not put it down. The school library had the first three, but not the fourth and last. So I asked my friend Alzira to bring it in because she owns it. I asked her to bring it in on a Friday. She forgot. I went paranoid over the weekend. I asked her to bring it Monday. She forgot. Tuesday. Sick. That day, Tuesday March 11, 2009, after school my mom officially won the ‘Mother of the Year’ award because that day she went to the Bookworm, an English language bookstore and bought me all fourth Twilight books. When I saw them I screamed. So now you know that my mom has taken the place of ‘Mother of the Year’
(The Twilight series was written by Stephenie Meyer. Twilight has recently been made into a movie which came out in November ’08. To learn more go to . You can also look into her other book The Host)

Datong Trip

Soon after we came to China our friend Matt Chivian sent us pictures of a hanging monastery in northern China. A little research and a trip to Datong quickly went to the top of our list. The weekend of March 13-15, we joined the China Culture Center on a trip. A night train on a “hard sleeper” (6 bunks per cabin) brought us to Datong -- near Inner Mongolia -- at 6:20 am on Saturday morning. Breakfast and a chance to freshen up blew out the cobwebs and our group headed out to see the 1500 year old monastery perched on a cliff. En route we stopped to see a cave home of an elderly man. Apparently his home was wired for electricity, so along with the dirt floor and traditional bed, there was a satellite TV. A classic image of modern China.

The hanging monastery was impressive, particularly when you were not looking at the parking lot that adjoined the scene. It was quite amazing to walk in a spot that looked so delicate, but had withstood time, weather, politics, and all the other forces that wash away history. Buddhism, Daoism and Hinduism are all reflected in the imagery there. After lunch we saw the 9 dragon wall, and for dinner took a bus ride through a construction site to a good meal and chance to cut noodles.

After a good night’s sleep we went on Sunday to see the Yungang Grottoes – an amazing site of Buddahs carved several stories high into the side of a mountain. There were dozens and dozens of smaller caves with intricate carvings. There was also a section with 3 missing carvings taken by foreign “looters.” We were told they now sit in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. We’ll definitely check out the Met when we return!

The train ride back was a 6 hour interesting ride through the arid countryside. This is coal country and the coal dust settled everywhere. The land had a barren field and you could see the small villages struggling to sustain a living for their residents. The train car was heated by a coal burning furnace at the end of the car, with a water spigot for hot water. The train personnel would occasionally walk by and shovel in some coal. The ride gave us more opportunity to talk with the wide range of expatriates who were on trip.

Conferences and Talks (Judy)

On Saturday, March 7th Prof Ding Xiangshun from Renmin University organized a conference on comparative legal education. It was a fascinating day, with participants from Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and US law schools (i.e. me). The proceedings will be published in a Renmin Law School journal in both English and Chinese. It was fascinating to learn how Japan, South Korea and (to a lesser extent) China are moving closer to a US model of legal education.

Our blog entries have focused more heavily on family life, so I neglected to describe trips to Suzhou University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics made late last fall. Both were gracious hosts and wonderful opportunities to talk in detail about the joys and challenges of legal practice in China. The universities welcome you with open arms. It is quite fun to see a large banner or wall-sized announcement of your talk. For a glimpse of one visit, check out:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bad Air, Medical Outings, Burned Buildings and Other Musings (Judy)

We had heard so much about the air pollution in Beijing that we were prepared for the worst. We arrived during the Olympics, when factories had been moved and private cars were restricted to every-other-day on the roads. (The government used that handy mathematical concept of even and odd numbered license plates!) The air was better than we expected. There are many more good days than bad. (The two pictures from our living room window, taken at the same time of day, show the range.)

Early March we had some bad days. The haze was thick. Perhaps related to the air, my cold morphed into a sinus infection. So I walked 10 minutes to the subway, took the 45 minute ride down Line 10 to the Central Business District (CBD), then a few minutes to get lost before arriving at my destination at the Kerry Center, which has a Vista Health Clinic on the lower level. This was my second trip to the Vista Clinic, the first one also for a sinus infection. Twenty minutes later I came out poorer (US prices $161), but with antibiotics and decongestants which provided relief. Well worth it.

The walk back to the subway provided a striking – albeit hazy – view of CCTV tower (called “the underpants building”) and the burned shell of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The hotel burned down on the last day of the Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival, when a fireworks display from the top of the CCTV building misfired and hit the roof of the brand new, unopened luxury hotel. The news reports showed a blazing inferno that quickly swept the building. Since the fireworks – ubiquitous during the 15 day New Year celebration – were put on through the donations of CCTV employees, this incident was a major topic of my first class in Business and Constitutional Torts. The class was initially divided on whether CCTV should be responsible for the torts of its employees. By the end of the discussion they had moved strongly to holding CCTV liable.

And conspiracy theories are a world-wide phenomenon. Our neighbors report rumors that the misfired fireworks were no accident but a planned razing. Rick is also suspicious since this massive fire caught and spread so quickly. The building was empty, apparently without sprinklers. Hmmm. BTW, in our first effort to search both Google and YouTube to link to the Mandarin Oriental Fire, all came back with “Connection Interrupted.” In our second effort a week later, Google led us to unrelated stories -- one of the occasional reminders that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Boston College Chronicle Story

The Boston College Chronicle, a biweekly publication, wrote up a story about our family life in China in its March 4, 2009 issue. For the curious you can find the story at:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Move Over Romeo, Lord Capulet has arrived!

Rick read in the English language press that Beijing Playhouse, an English language theatre, was holding tryouts for Romeo and Juliet. Rick wanted to demonstrate “responsible risk-taking” to the girls, so on Mon. Feb. 16th he went down to the British school in Chaoyang area, about an hour trip, to try out. He returned that evening with laughter, reporting what he described as a disastrous tryout. The old English did not roll easily off his tongue, particularly since he does not read phonetically. He mispronounced “Montague,” he didn’t realize that acts were divided into scenes and picked up the wrong scene to read, he mixed up the 3 note song they taught them (in a duet no less!). One kindly actor came over and whispered, in a helpful tone, “When you see a comma take one breath, when you see a period take two, a semi-colon take three.” To his surprise the next morning Rick received a callback. That day he kept would call out random phrases to practice: R: “Steeeellaaaa.” J: “Uh, Streetcar Named Desire?” R: “To be or not to be.” J: “Wrong play.” Day 3 the call came and he was cast as Lord Capulet. A new career is born as a Shakespearean actor.

For those of you who know Rick, this is absolutely and definitely outside his comfort zone. Years ago he swore off movies with English accents and people running through fields. (“Room With a View” threw him over the edge.) The first rehearsal was Sun. Feb. 22d. We all went with him to see the rehearsal area. I wanted to shake the hands of the directors and thank them for playing the role of Henry Higgins to Rick’s Eliza Doolittle. Rick has thrown himself into this project with marathon-training approach. It is heavy rehearsal schedule, with performances for most of May. But it is living our goal: Try new things and always be willing to move out of your "comfort zone." That will hopefully be the enduring lesson of our time in China.