GARY MOORE'S Burning in China - A Personal Story
…amazing… a riveting tale... hilarious at times and at times so moving our eyes filled with tears
University of Western Ontario
In 1988, circumstances caused me to take a job I didn’t want as an exchange professor teaching Chinese English teachers in Shanghai.
Outside the classroom my life was filled with those language problems, cultural mishaps, and longings for home that expatriates everywhere know so well. Most expatriates take these in stride, but I took them personally. I felt like a desperate victim whose stupid decision to come to China was destroying his happiness. Was there a way out?
As audiences of Burning In China learn, I didn’t get to run away, but I did find a way out through art. And so did my students, who had problems of their own. What a team we made: the disoriented playwright/English professor struggling to speak enough Chinese to buy peanut butter at the market, and my students who had come back to the University to train for a job they didn’t want.
But together we did it. We wrote and performed The Great Emancipator Meets The Monkey King, a bi-lingual rap opera about self-repression and liberation -- the first performance of rap music in the People’s Republic of China.
I’ll leave to the second act of Burning in China the story of how my students moved from our stage drama into the political drama of their nation and overcame their silence and started marching downtown to Communist Party headquarters shouting, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people!” Those in the West who were spellbound at television coverage of the massive demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 – or who have seen the iconic photograph of the unarmed man confronting a line of tanks -- can imagine the magnetic force that such a movement exerted on all who lived in China in those days.
I remember thinking when those days of revolt were most painfully tense: “I’m having a profound experience, but it would be better if I didn’t have to have it.” That said, I hope that Burning in China goes beyond the tragedy of Tiananmen to express the democracy movement’s power, hope, and joy. I went to China as a teacher, and I learned. To have been a witness to the courage of my students was – and still is -- humbling and inspiring. Burning in China tells the true story of being a “small potato” – as my Chinese students liked to describe themselves – swept into one of the epic stories of our times.
See Burning in China at the New York International Fringe Festival 2010!
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