Carpetbag Brigade Wednesday, Jun 22 2011 

San Francisco based Carpetbag Brigade, featuring choreographed acrobatic stiltwalking, performed twice in Prescott this past weekend.  On Friday evening they were one of the free Neptune’s Tea Party performances at the Elks Theatre.  Their performance entailed stilt inversions and lifts in “Callings,” a choreographed interpretation of the natural world revealing a higher order of existence, articulating an intelligence that calls out to us from within.  It was our first time in the newly remodeled Elks Opera House.  Food and beverages are allowed in the theatre and with small children testing the chair seats with constant motion it is hard to imagine the facility maintaining its fresh, clean appearance.  During an intermission we moved to open seats closer to the stage where we then enjoyed a few sets by Dutch Holly, an indie/alternative band.  Although we missed most of Saturday’s 13th Annual Tsunami on the Square Performing Arts & Culture Festival, we did catch glimpses of the Carpetbag Brigade’s “The Vanishing Point,” a meditation on extinction and evolution.

Sweeney Todd Thursday, Jun 16 2011 

Last Saturday we attended our first Prescott Fine Arts Association theatre performance, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of acting for this difficult musical.  The leads, Dino Palazzi as Sweeney Todd and Linda Miller as Mrs. Lovett, were well cast.  We especially enjoyed the performances of the Beggar Woman, Laura Prosseda, and Tobias, Willa Cowan.  The staging difficulties involved using this former Catholic Church for any play are staggering.  A series of two sets of pillars obstruct views of the stage for many of the almost 200 seats.  The lack of space for changing sets requires extreme ingenuity which was satisfactorily addressed in this production.  There are still two weekends to see this play.

Shanghai, a Modern City Wednesday, Jun 1 2011 

Shanghai is an important financial, trading, and industrial center in China which has used its location to create a vibrant cultural life bolstered by bold architecture.  The Bund, which traces its meaning to “embankment,” refers to the buildings on the western bank of the Huangpu River.  Historic buildings such as Customs House and the HSBC Bank Building are central to this area, also known as the International Settlement, which extends about a mile.  The Riverview Hotel, located a short distance from the southern beginning point of the Bund, gave us a magnificent view of the Bund from our 10th floor room.

Shanghai's Pudong

Shanghai's Pudong

A wide walkway near the Huangpu River provides delightful views of this energetic city, especially with the lighting at night.  Across the river is the Lujiozui skyline of the Pudong featuring 30 buildings over 25 stories high, all built since 1994.  The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the first skyscraper built in the Pudong, was the highest structure in China until 2007 when it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center, whose top looks like a bottle opener.  My ears popped a couple of times as the elevator took us to the Oriental Pearl Tower’s observation deck.  We had a clear day to enjoy the view of Shanghai, some 1,148 feet below us.

The Shanghai History Museum, located at the base of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, displays more than 1,000 cultural relics and uses about 100 waxwork figures to portray Shanghai’s political, economic, and cultural development.

The Shanghai Museum is an imposing building shaped with a square base and a round top which is consistent with the Chinese philosophy of the universe — the earth is square while the sky is round.  The extensive collection has more than 120,000 pieces.  We enjoyed exploring the costumes and masks of Chinese ethnic minorities, the jade, furniture, ceramics, and bronze collections.  Several galleries were not open during our visit.

The White Jade Buddhist Temple venerates two Buddhas, Sitting Buddha covered with emeralds and agates and Recumbent Buddha, brought from Burma (now Myanmar) by a monk named Huigen.  We enjoyed two fine medicinal teas at a concession related to the Temple.

Yuyuan Garden

Yuyuan Garden

The Yuyuan Garden, established as a private garden, was an excellent respite from the fast-pace of Shanghai city life.  Of special note was the separation of garden areas by a dragon wall, undulating tiled ridges with a dragon’s head.

Shanghai Acrobatic Show

Shanghai Acrobatic Show

The Shanghai Acrobatic Show featured awe-inspiring acts such as tumbling through complex arrays of hoops, multipart juggling of bowler hats, intricate plate spinning, magic, gymnastic configurations atop bicycles, and a show stopping finale with four motorcycles in a stunt cage.

At the Tian Hou Chou Zhuang Silk Factory we learned about the life cycle of the silk worm and four women stretching the silk for a comforter.  We bought a complete set of bedding which was tightly packed as an airline carry-on package.  While in Shanghai we also did some shopping in Hancity, four floors of indoor vendors, and in the Shanghai Yuyuan Tourist Mart.

One of our lunches was Mongolian barbecue.  One of our dinners introduced us to hot pot cooking using individual ceramic containers in a yin-yang pattern with one part spicy water, the other not.  Once the liquids came to a boil, we added morsels of lamb, beef, pork, meatballs, bite-sized sausages, noodles, lettuce, mushrooms, and other vegetables.  The food in China is varied and tasty.  Unfortunately, potable water is only available when purchased in bottled containers.  Even though we stayed in five star hotels, we were told not to use tap water to brush our teeth.

The Bund

Shanghai's Bund

Our last day in China ended with a Huangpu River cruise.  The half hour trip took us from the beginning of the Bund near our hotel, the Riverview, past the old buildings from the concession era on the one side and the modern buildings of the Padong on the other.  The 7 p.m. departure allowed us o enjoy the lights with a slight breeze and warm temperature.  Our early return to the hotel gave us plenty of time to pack for our long trip home.

We left Shanghai on the Maglev, a seven minute train ride to the airport that reached a maximum speed of 301 km per hour.  It is capable to going even faster.  Airport security found and confiscated from one of our checked bags an interesting magnetic toy that we had purchased as a gift.  Our Air China flight from Beijing to San Francisco was delayed two hours which caused us to miss our connecting flight.  We were successful in rescheduling a direct flight to Phoenix with a six hour wait and $15 meal vouchers which we used at Yankee Pier.  Our Middle Kingdom adventure provided us with grand memories.