“Eye” was a success, so successful in fact that people (with tickets) were turned away at the door. How could this happen?
The New Black Box Theater at Shenzhen University seats roughly 150 people, with space for folks to sit on the floor and aisles, and to stand in the back. So maybe 200 people can see a show. Most Fat Bird productions don’t fill the house, even when (as with “Eye”) it is a joint production with Shenzhen University and therefore the show is free and open to the public. Thus, in order to encourage people to come, we call our families, friends, and acquaintances and encourage them to come. We ask, “How many will come?” And then to encourage us, our families, friends, and acquaintances say, “five” or “six” or “fourteen”. On the day of the show, maybe two or three or nine actually come. Sometimes a few unexpected guests drift in, but because Fat Bird / SZU productions are advertised by word of mouth, generally everyone expects 1/3 of of the promised audience not to come.
So, for “Eye” folks gave tickets in the spirit of “1/3 of the promised audience won’t come”. Opening night, this strategy worked and all who came got in. However, by day three of the performance, people were being turned away at the door; on day four, SZU students were not allowed in so that guests could see the show and still about 100 people (including students) were turned away; and on day five, new special tickets that operated as tickets (and not as airline overbookings) were issued. On day five, I actually had to call several friends and uninvite them to the show. It seems that the audience began to spread the word that “Eye” is a great show and consequently, those with tickets not only came (expecting to get in), but also brought additional guests (who didn’t have tickets).
“Eye” exceeded all expectations. Of those who got into the house, most had seen Chinese opera and some had seen translations (or not) of American musicals, but for many in the audience it was the first Chinese musical they had seen. And they loved it. Yes, musical theater may be one of the great popular art forms because it’s hard not to enjoy singing and dancing even when we don’t understand the lyrics, but when we do, and the story connects with our lives – fun, fun, fun.
The concept is seriously absurd – human beings are killing all the pigs to prevent the spread of “swine flu”. The dog in charge of insuring animal cooperation with human demands, has to track down the last pig couple on earth in order to exterminate them. A space experiment gone wrong, Fat Bird has been placed under house arrest by the dog, but is recruited to help in find the missing pigs because he speaks human and animal languages. Indeed, the animals mistake Fat Bird – a cross between a human, pig, and bird embryo – as the angel who will save them from humanity because he is the new human. And as the pigs and dogs and bats and rats and frogs and cockroaches sing about life under human domination, the point is clear: we will only save ourselves when we understand that to be fully human is not to dominate other life forms, but to learn to live (and dance and sing) in harmony.
Thanks to all who helped produce the show and thanks to all who came and made it at hit.