Pittsburgh-based Squonk Opera is spending August performing its show Pneumatica at the Qingdao International Beer Festival, in China's Shandong province. Throughout the month, Squonk members will be sending City Paper updates about their experiences week-to-week. For more info, go here. __
Here’s what happened during our 4th and final week in Qingdao.
We started off the week with a Korean BBQ Squonk luncheon, where David sported his Commonwealth Press t-shirt, proudly representing our hometown of bridges.
On our day off, we took a tour of Laoshan, China’s largest coastal mountain range, overlooking the Yellow Sea, and also one of the birthplaces of Taoism. We climbed many steps to view the enormous statue of Lao-Tzu, the Chinese philosopher credited with founding Taoism, toured the beautiful Taiqing Palace, built over 2,000 years ago, dined at an oddly placed KFC, and took a harrowing drive down the mountain where the buses nearly touch while passing each other and honking their horns.
On one of our last days here, all of the international performers were treated to a delicious 10-course meal hosted by Mr. Wang of Time Space Culture Group, the organization that booked us for the festival. We received many generous gifts – Chinese tea sets and silk books and a commemorative plaque.
And then it was back to the festival for our final weekend of shows. More wacky sights and sounds were found in the park that is Qingdao World, from robots singing the hits of The Carpenters to dancing food vendors.
We were lucky enough to be a part of the closing ceremonies for the festival, which took place in the giant stadium built for the Chinese drama.
We posed for selfies with Chinese celebrities and were treated to a performance by the seminal Chinese rock band Black Panther. And then were off to our final show, waving to fans along the way.
One of our smoke machines, a crucial part of the artistry that is Squonk - or at least a show called Pneumatica - broke down right before the show. Although we had a pretty good record for 55 shows here, considering all of the technology arrayed in the middle of this festival of ten million visitors, emotions flared. Some Squonkers were accused of indolence, and a lack of character, without regard to the actual cause of failure. Steve later recanted most of these the cruel invectives, explaining that his blood sugar had been low.
We heard our Chinese show announcement for the last time and gave it our all for the crowd. We posed for our final batch of selfies and audience photos and moved on the glamorous task of packing up and loading our shipping container.
We Squonkers are so grateful to everyone at Time Space Culture Group for affording us this most incredible opportunity to share our work with the wonderful people of China. And we want to especially thank the folks we worked with every day of the festival - Wu, Jarvis, Sean, Pete, and Dong Dong, who were our show technicians, and Wei, Katherine, and Doris, who were our translators and guides. Not only did they help us make the shows happen, but they became our friends and we will miss them.