CSUN theatre students got a chance to strut their stuff in May at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China.
It was the largest expo in history as more than 200 countries participated. The expo was visited by almost 100 foreign leaders throughout the world.
“(The students) got the chance to visit 200 countries and really get a glimpse of the entire world,” Bill Taylor, CSUN’s theatre manager, said.
The expo kicked off on May 1 and culminates on Oct. 30.
Taylor said the original concept for the students’ performance “kept evolving from the moment of its conception.”
CSUN’s presentation originally included a video of the students preparing for their trip to China for a joint performance at the United States Pavillion with students from CSUN’s sister school, Shanghai Normal University. Theatre major David Perez said the concept never came to be as the video was cut, leaving only the stage performance.
“It ended up being a musical medley performed by the two schools,” said Perez. “We (CSUN students) started off the show singing typical ‘all-American’ songs and then the SNU students joined us on stage and sang songs typical to China.”
CSUN’s playlist included upbeat renditions of “California Here I Come” and the Beach Boys’ “I Wish They All Could Be California Girls.”
The performance’s grand finale included a collaboration of the two schools singing the Expo theme song, “City,” written by actor Jackie Chan.
Perez said they received the royal treatment from the SNU students from the moment they arrived to Shanghai.
“They greeted us with flowers and roses,” he added. “We were treated with such respect and hospitality. They thought we were rock stars.”
The “rock star” treatment continued throughout their entire week. The students sampled exotic cuisine, signed autographs and were chosen to perform at a prominent state dinner attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
CSUN senior Lisa Farber, who was studying abroad in Shanghai at the time, joined her classmates to assist with backstage preparation for the performance. The 22-year-old theatre major said the performance and the slightly frantic preparation taught the students a lesson in the arts that they wouldn‘t receive in the classroom.
“We got a chance to see the way they (SNU students) work,” Farber said. “The pre-show performance and ethics we learned from them and the collaboration taught us to be more dedicated to our art.”
The World Expo experience proved beneficial to many of the students when they returned home as well. Perez said one of his fellow performers received a year-long contract with the Kaiser Permanente Theatre Program shortly after he arrived back from the trip.
“That kind of ensemble performance is something to learn from,” Taylor said. “Those kids made connections they will remember forever.”
Along with a great addition to his resume, Perez credits the trip and the theatre department for “changing his life” and helping him find his calling.
“I don’t know how all this happened for me,” Perez said. “I just feel so blessed. China was amazing. It was the cherry on top of graduation.”