Working together in Costa Rica this past summer, executive director Lisa Burns sat down with volunteer Michelle Boesch to discuss laying the groundwork for a Musical Theatre Connections program in China, possibly in the summer of 2012.
L: Briefly, what your background with respect to China?
M: I've been studying Chinese since the 7th grade. I attended Fudan University on exchange in 2004. I taught English in China in 2009 in a small city in Hubei province.
L: Do you think FCCMT should go back to China?
M: Definitely. Students have a great interest in [theatre] - they love doing skits in classes and take advantage of any opportunity they can to sing.
L: Is it true that Chinese students don't have many - or any - opportunities in music and theatre in school?
M: Yes, especially high school students. They love having any opportunity they can to do extra-curricular activities, because they don't get that chance very often.
Even at Fudan university, there was absolutely no concentration in the arts when I was there in 2004. And that's a world-class, globally known university. It's because it's so specialized.
L: Where do you think we should target our program?
M: I think that the best way to target a program in China is to find people you know and use the connections you have to find people we know who work in China. The other option would be to try to find a university or school independently. One of the options would be the summer schools there that do English language programs over the summer at a university campus. If we were able to join with one of them it would give the students not only practice in English but a whole different experience creating a production.
L: Do you think that the subject matter of American musicals can be relevant to Chinese youth and adults?
M: At first when I saw that FCCMT had put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof in China, I was very confused. Then I watched the play,
and I realized there are a lot of issues - family issues and choices that come up for young people, and those definitely occur for young people in China. I can imagine that there would be a lot of plays that are very relevant.
L: Do you see a great potential for a musical theatre exchange program for U.S. high school or college students travelling to China?
M: Yes. I think that the most appealing concept in starting a FCCMT program in China to me is being able to send American students over to China to help with the production and to learn the language and the culture. To me that's something that American students need much more exposure to at a young age. It's the other half of the world where we do a lot of business and have a huge connection with and is often misunderstood.