New Peter Pan show prom­ises to im­merse Bei­jing in dif­fer­ent light

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHEN­NAN chen­nan@chi­

Randy Weiner calls him­self a “con­ven­tional kid”. He grad­u­ated from Har­vard Univer­sity, mar­ried his high­school sweet­heart and is the fa­ther of two chil­dren.

At one time he dreamed of be­com­ing a doc­tor. But to­day he is a pro­ducer, play­wright and night­club owner — a com­bi­na­tion that hardly makes him con­ven­tional.

On a re­cent chilly morn­ing in a gritty space of about 5,000 square me­ters in Bei­jing, the NewYork-based play­wright is seen walk­ing, with a group of peo­ple danc­ing, jump­ing and singing near him.

Weiner’s at­ten­tion is fo­cused on Peter Pan, a new pro­duc­tion for which he is the cre­ative di­rec­tor. The play prom­ises to of­fer au­di­ences a fresh ex­pe­ri­ence of “im­mer­sive the­ater”, an idea Weiner has worked on in the past two years. Af­ter its out­door premiere on Dec 10, the play will be per­formed ev­ery week­end un­til 2018 at Bei­jing’s Xiedao Re­sort.

“What in­ter­ests me is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween au­di­ences and the per­form­ers,” Weiner, 51, says. “Tra­di­tion­ally, peo­ple sit in the dark­ness and try to be quiet while the per­form­ers play on stage in the lights. What if the au­di­ence and the per­form­ers were both in ei­ther light or dark­ness? ... I am just ner­vous and ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

This Peter Pan is a rel­a­tively new idea in terms of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an au­di­ence and a per­former. A show for fam­i­lies, the au­di­ence is en­cour­aged to ex­plore the sets and go on mis­sions with the fairies and pi­rates.

The cre­ative team also in­cludes di­rec­tor Al­le­gra Li­bon­ati, award-win­ning de­signer David Gallo, aerial chore­og­ra­pher Paul Rubin and chore­og­ra­phers the Ku­per­man Broth­ers. Rubin has been in­volved in more than 300 pro­duc­tions of Peter Pan in eight coun­tries.

Weiner be­gan to think of us­ing the newtech­nique for a pro­duc­tion of Peter Pan some­time ago. Work­shops were con­ducted for this in New York last De­cem­ber and in March be­fore they moved to Bei­jing in Septem­ber.

“It’s re­ally a chal­lenge be­cause we are mak­ing it hap­pen in this enor­mous space. It’s also be­cause we are mak­ing it hap­pen in Bei­jing like no one has ever done it be­fore,” Weiner says of the north­east­ern part of the city where the play will be first per­formed.

Along with China Broad­way En­ter­tain­ment, a Bei­jing­based com­pany, Weiner de­cided to premiere the show in Bei­jing be­cause when he vis­ited the cap­i­tal in 2014, the city’s en­ergy and the will­ing­ness to try big ideas re­minded him ofNewYork.

For Weiner, a the­atri­cal

My in­ter­est is in do­ing the op­po­site of what ev­ery­body else does.” RandyWeiner, New York-based play­wright

ex­pe­ri­ence shouldn’t be lim­ited to tra­di­tional venues. Plays can be staged at shop­ping malls, restau­rants and out­door lo­ca­tions that have some el­e­ments such as light, mu­sic and de­sign, to make pro­duc­tions look at­trac­tive.

In 2013, Weiner pro­duced Sleep No More, a hit “im­mer­sive” play that got New York talk­ing. Later he cre­ated an­other piece based on the con­cept, QueenofNight, which wasin­spired byMozart’s opera TheMagic Flute.

“My in­ter­est is in do­ing the op­po­site of what ev­ery­body else does,” saysWeiner.

He is the co-owner of The Box, a “the­ater night­club” in New York and Lon­don, and The Box’s sis­ter con­cern, The Act, which cur­rently has venues in Las Ve­gas and Dubai.

Grow­ing up, Weiner went to the­aters al­most ev­ery night thanks to his fa­ther. He also fos­tered his other in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing sci­ence.

“Peo­ple said, ‘ You can’t do that,’ and I said, ‘No, no, no, you can do that. You’ve just never done it be­fore. My job as a ‘the­atri­cal sci­en­tist’ is to have a hy­poth­e­sis, test the hy­poth­e­sis and see if it’s true,” he says.

Weiner, who has taught the­ater at Columbia Univer­sity, Barnard Col­lege, New York Univer­sity and Yale, en­cour­ages his stu­dents to think dif­fer­ently. “Art func­tions very well when it let you do things that you don’t nor­mally do,” he says.

His wife, Diane Paulus, is an award-win­ning di­rec­tor, who is also aHar­vard grad­u­ate. The cou­ple first col­lab­o­rated on The Don­key Show, a disco in­ter­pre­ta­tion of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

About 15 years ago, Paulus started do­ing tra­di­tional the­ater works while Weiner turned to ex­per­i­ments. “We talk and we in­spire each other. She re­minds me of the high-qual­ity shows be­sides my crazy ideas, and I show her some­thing dif­fer­ent in the­ater,” saysWeiner.


A work­shop on PeterPan con­ducted in New York last De­cem­ber.

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