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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Aug. 19: Scrambled 'Egg'

From ESPN bureau producer Justine Gubar:

I experienced Olympic culture a few nights ago -- a far cry from the Barenaked Ladies concert I went to during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. My friend Ruichun, who is a journalist here, got tickets to the opening night of "Marco Polo" at the National Center of Performing Arts. It is a building they call the "egg." Well, it does look like an egg; it lights up at night and is surrounded by a giant moat.

It's stunning, but I was a bit confused trying to navigate to the entrance. I kept walking around the moat until finally I realized there was no door, you had to go back out to the street for the entrance, which is under the water! Once I got in, I learned it's like Lincoln Center rolled into one building. The opera house, dance hall and theater are all under one roof. It felt like just another Olympic venue, actually -- vast, tiring to navigate, lots of security and lots of picture takers. Although they made you check in your camera once you were inside.

The performance had everything -- opera, modern dance, classical ballet, hip-hop, smoke machines, rear-projected animation straight out of a graphic novel and, sometimes, straight out of a Grateful Dead drum solo. There were midair suspensions that reminded me of the Opening Ceremony; there were haute couture costumes and even a pointy Madonna-like bra. Here's a review.

I thought the audience was somewhat rude. People got up and left, talked a lot and text-messaged throughout the performance. I really wanted to tell the serial text messager next to me to cut it out. I was tired of being distracted by the light of his phone, but my Chinese doesn't extend beyond "Hello," "Thanks," "Goodbye," "How are you?" and "What is your name?"

Now that swimming is done, maybe I'll have more free time to work on my Chinese -- or my Spanish, with all my friends from Mexico and Argentina who work for ESPN International.