Thai Dinner With the Producers

I have been working like mad on the trailer video for the new creation, but keep running into problems getting the videos ripped onto the computer.  I have also prepared proposals for the artists we want to work with already (saying that nothing is certain, of course) so as soon as The Rocker give the word, I can send them off.

On the networking front, I met with a French circus artist, Christian, and his friend who produces 20+ festivals a year in Japan and who is very interested in seeing the Taiwan festival.  The Author also introduced me to two producer friends that helped him get the job at the Toyota Pavilion.  They invited me to come to the office of their company, Tokyo Productions, when I get back from Korea to talk about possible projects we can do together.


Turns out that the daughter of my German teacher (who I always has a little crush on back when I was in high school) will be in Korea visiting friends at the same time as me.  Her mother told her I visited in Minnesota and she’s interested in finding out more about what I’m up to.  Evidently, she’s interested in seeing some breakdancing in Korea.

It’s been almost 12 years so I’m not sure I’ll even recognize her.

I’ll be arriving late, so if I can just find a place to leave my bag and a place to sleep on the 30th we’ll have one night to hang out, drink, and then I’ll head to the festival after.

Hibiya Photo Shoot

About a month ago The Activist set up a meeting with me and a Tokyo newspaper to take photos of handbalancing (maybe photos in Ueno station with me doing the handstands in training clothes or my suit!) and an interview as well.

She really made this whole idea work all by yourself by using her contacts at the newspaper.  They covered her work when she was in her early 20’s, meeting the pope, receiving writing awards, etc.  Later, she wrote a weekly column for them.  To this day they still cover her work.  She said it was hard to promote my story since there is a business aspect to it unlike the grassroots, NGO, social projects she normally promotes.

Her first request was refused, but she re-pitched the idea to focus on my Japanese background and roots and my desire to bring a show to Japan – the timing is right because we are approaching the anniversary of the Expo and she has been pushing for the idea of profiling people related to the Expo.

She’s hoping that I will tell them about how the Expo helped me to embrace my Japanese background and roots and inspired me to stay longer in Japan – and only then mention my future plans about making a show happen in Japan.

Her advice to me is to change how we approach people and the media to focus on a good story more than the business angle.

On the day of the actual interview I made a little mistake when I mentioned that I met my Lithuanian roommates at Expo.  When I told my roommates about it they asked that Lithuania not be mentioned in the article because the Lithuanian embassy does not want to give the image that they used Expo as a way to get longer-term visas for Lithuanians.  The embassy is trying to make it easier for Lithuanians to come to Japan to work and are worried that it might look like they used the Expo to abuse the system!

Last week I finally received a copy of the article and sent thank-you notes to the reporter and photographer; and I, once again, thanked her very much for the effort she put into making that a reality!


The article looks great, but I have to admit that in a weird way it made me feel a bit down.  After seeing how excited people in Canada, the USA, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are about this project; I can’t help but wonder what I have been doing wrong here in Tokyo.  I blame myself; I think that I must be talking to the wrong people or saying the wrong things.  I also feel bad that The Activist has put so much effort into this project but that there has been no real payoff for her efforts.  It’s almost too much for me to let her keep helping out.  She has given 500% so far, and I am greatly in her debt, but she reassures me that she is still feeling positive about the project and is more than willing to keep helping out.  She has been an inspiration to me the whole way, and is a friend whose support I will treasure forever.

Inflate the Reality

So at the end of March The Rocker has included me in a pitch he made to a festival in Korea and three weeks ago I got last-minute confirmation that I would be going with him.  Like he says, forget about things and sometimes you get some nice surprises!  It will be a great networking opportunity, and also the chance to meet face-to-face to discuss a lot of the Taiwan festival details.

I’m supposed to write an article on “The Creation Process of Canadian Contemporary Circus” and to present “Three years training process in the National Circus School of Canada and how Canadian circus became a more theatrical, unique style.”  The Rocker will be presenting on “why Canadian circus and physical theatre grew to be such important and successful part of Canadian culture.” He will be introducing his past work in music fusion in China, the visual movement, and physical theatre in New Circus in Quebec using a lot of DVDs.  He says that when working in a different language with an interpreter, he prefers to let the images speak for themselves.
Following this advice, I’ll show how I developed my number, showing many versions of my number as it evolved through the school from its first version to the one we see in the DVD, why I went to circus school, and what exactly is the process of training, the new groups coming out of the school that are moving away from Cirque du Soleil style and creating a even newer form.
We’ll also talk together about how I ended up in Japan, the Rocker ended up in Taiwan, and where we are going with all this.  So far, the video I’m preparing is looking really great!

He told me that we need to present the school and Cirque du Soleil in a positive way, offering only constructive criticism as we are in no position to make enemies (he also told me remind him of what he just said, because sometimes he has a big mouth).  The Rocker quote: “Keep the lies, that’s the way we do things…not even white lies…just inflate the reality.”

Looks like it’s going to be fun! Too bad the focus has changed away from “the picking up of girls; theory and practice.”  I had already finished my first draft.

Since The Rocker is able to stop over in Japan on the way to the Korea festival I have set up a meeting with the Canadian embassy in Tokyo to formally introduce The Rocker, his work, and our plans are in Taiwan.  I will explain that I have been in contact with the National Theater of Tokyo and that they expressed interest in receiving a proposal regarding a potential residency and that we would like to have the embassy’s backing, and also to find out what resources we would have available to us as he represents a Canadian organization that is dedicated to bringing Canadian art abroad.

If everything goes well, I’ll be asking her for her support as we contact my people at the National Theater to set up a meeting for us on our free days. I’m also trying to find some local production companies to meet with but so far no luck.  He knows a small circus company that seems very sincere who are trying to set up a circus school in Tokyo and The Tokyo International Festival is also reviewing our materials to see if they can make time for us to meet with them.

He’ll be staying at a ryokan in Ikebukuro that he found online.  I just want to make sure that he knows that he’ll only have communal restrooms and a communal bath.  At least it will be a new experience (assuming they don’t have ryokans in Taiwan…  they very well might!)  Just to be safe, I’ll send him a primer on ‘ryokan etiquette’ so that he’s aware of the differences between hotels and rokans (there is no bed; the maid will come in to set up a futon during dinner time; which slippers to use where, etc.)

Oh his side, he’s been busy connecting with his contact from the Singapore Arts Festival this week and getting info on a Shanghai project run by one of his Macau friends.  Evidently some things he pulls together are very good, and some just drop out of existence.  He even met with some Japanese buyers – evidently there is a lot of support for Canadian/Japanese collaborations right now – and he’s thinking of travelling to Kyoto to meet one of them when he is in Japan later this month.  Japan is a very small country, really.  Nothing more than a half day away by train.  Kyoto is about two hours or so away by bullet train and costs about 200 dollars one way, so if the guy is interested in what we are going to be working on in Taiwan, then it would definitely be in our interests.

Anatomy of an Asian Circus Proposal

A couple of weeks ago I was out of town with The Political Scientist, enjoying the first day of vacation, so I was out of email contact when The Rocker informed me of a possible event in May for a Taiwanese film festival somewhere in Taiwan.  Last week I whipped up a nice proposal for a one-hour show with 7-9 numbers that can be divided up into two halves with a minimal amount of preparation time.  If there can be video or musical interludes, that number can go down.

I sent out emails to 5 acrobats including The Contortionist.  She told me that she would be able to come, so between my handstands, her contortion and her hoop that would be 15 minutes.  The next day, however, the film festival came back with the information that they want no more than 5 performers and that they all need to be Canadian.  This might be a big problem because it coincides with a lot of Canadian summer projects that are hiring up all the local artists.  The Rocker is arguing with them right now with the logic that we should be able to hire non-Canadians as long as we can call them “graduates from the National Circus School of Canada…”

But actually, I’m starting to suspect that the budget will matter more than passports.  If we do aerial stuff, we will need a Montreal rigger to install a single point for The Contortionist.  That would allow us to invite other single-point artists who do tissus, or rope and a floor act as well which doubles their productivity.  We’ll also probably need 4 days of rehearsal with everyone available a maximum of 10:00 to 22:00; music will be live, simple lighting, huge projection screen in the background.

So I’ve contacted a lot of artists and am giving priority to people who can multitask well to fill up as much time as possible.  If they really want an hour long show with just five performers, that is asking a *hell* of a lot.  I’m assume that one performer can hold the stage for a maximum of 5-6 minutes which makes seven the bare minimum, and even that would have a lot of time with no performers on stage.  Just in case I have contacted a lot of ground performers as well in case we get screwed with the aerial point and rigger.

This week, The Rocker told me that as usual for Asia, the budget is getting to be a problem – Taipei city thought that the embassy would pay more and vice versa, so now the number of acrobats we can invite with a rigger is 3 and all of the artists will need to be Canadian but that they will be OK with a 30 minute show.  Still, this a lot of time to fill with only three artists – and even this number is not confirmed.  When the producer called to discuss technical needs and the Canadian requirement, she kept asking me to reduce the artist fees.  I explained that artists of different experience levels will demand different rates and that they need to understand that with experience comes different levels of performance quality as well.  For example, new graduates from the National Circus School of Canada will expect different rates from experiences freelance professionals who expect different rates from established circus ‘stars’ with a long history working with other companies.  That said, if the Taiwanese partners can support the fees for a couple of graduates of the National Circus School of Canada and the Canadian Trade office can come through with their commitment to support 3 professional Canadian artists, I still think we will have a top-level show limited only by our technical resources and rehearsal time.  I took the opportunity to suggest finding corporate sponsors to invite a few more artists which she said might be possibility.

Then, at the last minute, The Rocker told me that I had to include his fees in the budget as well (I thought that he was taking care of his pay separately), and I’m worried that this will kill the project, but as he told me, “do not be too slack with asking a decent price, there is no way I want people in Canada to think we are setting up shows cheap (sweat shop) circus shows in Asia.”

Finally, just as I was preparing the last budget, the city requested that 1) we reduce the budget and that 2) we only invite artists who come from famous companies like Cirque du Soleil.  Impossible.  But The Rocker says that if they really want this thing, they can scrape up the cash, so I should send the budget anyways.  Based on the email we just got back, The Rocker doesn’t think it’s going to fly, but when I look at the budget we made; I feel that everything is reasonable based on their expectations.  Just have to switch to zen mode.  In The Rocker’s words, “Best thing about these kind of things is to submit everything.  Then forget it exists, if something pops up, all the better…”

Could be a lot of work for nothing, though.

Or is it?  As a result of all this work, I am now in contact with over 25 high quality, reliable artists who are interested in working in Asia.  If I could double that number over the course of the next couple of months, it might be possible to assemble a performance group on short notice for projects here.  A lot of Western artists are dying to get to Asia but have no idea how to get here on their own.  It would be interesting to establish ourselves as a company creating modern acrobatic events in Asia.  Another project in Macau may be on the horizon – if it is the kind of thing we can put up in a week, I am sure we can find interested acrobats from within the group of people I am already communicating with.  On the other hand, if we do start bringing more and more artists over to Taiwan how easy it will be to stay the go-between for the next event?  My thinking is that if we can stay involved in setting the standards for quality and the nature of the work that goes on over here, we can ensure our livelihood for a long run.

And Three Years Later

An Italian woman named Valeria just wrote me back in response to an email I wrote three years ago when we were trying to set up our 2003 summer tour.  She wanted more information.  Evidently, three years after the fact, her director found our email and was interested in the possibility of collaborating.

Without telling her explicitly that the company had completely exploded, decimated by Cirque du Soleil productions, I told her that thanks in part to our successful collaborations, we had evolved a lot over the last few years – three of us working for Soleil and me working as an artistic director in Asia, specifically in Taiwan.  Since we didn’t want to lose what we had created, I’m working to keep some continuity until the four of us might be able to work together again.  In a sense, the company is currently an engine of creation, able to work with many different artist types for short- or long-term productions, especially smaller productions with 4-7 artists mixing dance, circus, and theatre.  I also highlighted the network of partners and promoters that we are building in Canada, China, Japan, and Taiwan and the show that we’re creating for the festival.  Of course, I can always send her the materials about our original show, but that it might make more sense to wait until I can send her the materials for the new one.

I made me think of The Clown.  His Cirque du Soleil show is opening soon; I am excited to read about how well he does in it; I know he’s going to be a hit.  Not the show, necessarily, but at least him.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever had as much fun as the two of us had in 2003 with The Artist and The Tumbler in Barcelona and all the other crazy times.  He’s not going to stay with Cirque forever and I guess I’ll be finishing up this Asia thing in the next couple of years, too…


We really need to hit the road old-school style again.  Just him and me and a guitar, three hats, some good fun, and the goddamn public.  That is what this shit is all about, no?  That and the cocktails after that!!!!

Whirlwind Tour Business Debrief

In Japan, I have progressed a great deal on the corporate and government angles, but there is little more I can do there until we have a final video and product to show to them.  However, there are other places to look for support for out project and I have just wrapped up a week-long trip in North America.  It was an expensive trip, but to be honest, I feel that the information that was gained and the support that we have garnered was well worth the cost.  In summary, I am ready to continue to the next step of tour pre-production in Tokyo starting next week.  Basically, mission accomplished.


Three organizations have stated their support and intent to help us bring our project to the Midwest by applying for grants, providing venues, promoting us as part of their season, and providing us with local audiences.  They also have extensive contacts with local corporations such as 3M, the Target chain of retail stores, and others who have teamed up as corporate sponsors for these arts organizations in the past.

They are very excited with how this project sounds on paper, and after my 20-minute presentation was completed, they had a lot of questions about our reasons for doing this project, and vocally expressed their excitement that such projects were taking shape in Asia.  I think that in the US, there is a real interest in being the first organization to present contemporary, cool work from the Asian sphere.  They were particularly sold on the idea of integrating multi-media into a traditional art form, as well as adding acrobatics to physical theater, and creating a visual, image-based production that is not script-based.

Of course, all of this interest is pending a viewing and approval of the final product and production budget.  One organization has already offered to come to Taipei to see our production’s premiere.  The organizations have requested that we not use their names publicly until they have been able to officially state their interest and support of the project upon seeing our premiere, and I have also told them that until that time, I will contact them only on a need-to-know basis as they are very busy developing their own work at this time.  Given that the Americans are very interested in seeing video of the creation process, primarily to see if the show is shaping up to be something they want to push as a flagship show for national touring.  I proposed that we include in the budget either rental or purchase of a GOOD video camera and editing system, or else to budget for the services of a videographer who could do it all for us in order to send really good quality footage to these theaters.

Personally, I think that if we might be able to secure Taiwanese corporate sponsors based on this unofficial support from the Minneapolis side, it would fuel our Minneapolis sponsor’s interest, and vice-versa.

To further sweeten the deal, one theater is part of a nation-wide collection of theaters that are particularly interested in promoting international performances in the United States, and they have suggested the possibility of plugging us into that network for a nationwide tour.  I do not want to be overly optimistic, but in my opinion, a stop in Minnesota is practically guaranteed if we make half as good a show as we are expecting.

I should tell you that Minneapolis is the closest city to a USA Montreal in terms of support for the arts, so I am very, very optimistic that with the theater (that recently won a Tony award and is considered the best contemporary theater in the nation) and this circus school (annual budget in the millions, connections with Cirque du Soleil in the works) cowriting a grant with us, we WILL be performing in Minneapolis on the 2007-2008 season.

And, I have a very good feeling that with this news, Boston will be even more interested in bringing us to their market.  The great thing is that if Minneapolis works, we will be able to treat it as a showcase for the fat cat agents who never leave the USA but have pockets overflowing with money.

The next step is to strategize with The Rocker’s Taiwanese producers to start a US grant-writing research binge together if this is a direction they are interested in going.  My plan of action for the next three months is to research grant opportunities at the municipal, state, and federal level in the USA for bringing in foreign performing arts, and to determine an official touring budget to present to our partners in the USA.


After talking with the SAT in Montreal, I have decided to begin speaking with the Canadian Embassy and other NGO’s in Canada and Japan to see what interest they might have in using our show as a flagship of modern Canadian technological and theater arts.  The problem I have run into on the Japanese side is that Taiwan is not recognized by the Japanese government, and thus, promoting the show as Taiwanese is very sensitive.  Now that we are able to promote it as the result of a Canadian creative collaboration that employs Taiwanese artists, many more channels are open to us.  On the Japan side, I will start by contacting the Canadian Embassy and Canadian/Japanese Arts organizations, and then begin speaking with Japanese Theaters the way that other Canadian arts organizations do.