SMC's China Excursion Gets Off to a Rocky Start

Only two days into their arrival in China, the cast of "American Reflections: Broadway in Concert" have already taken their show from the Great Wall to Beijing.

Although originally scheduled to only perform at Shandong University of the Arts in Jinan as part of the school's 50th anniversary celebration on Thursday, the cast embarked on an impromptu tour of these Chinese landmarks showcasing some of the production's highlights.

However, their stage this time wasn't the expected norm. It was rather a more intimate setting which accommodated their guest of honor.

On the two hour drive back from the Great Wall to Beijing, Lucy Yu requested that the cast perform for her while on the tour bus.

Yu, the cordial guide for the 29 students and faculty of Santa Monica College while in Beijing, eagerly waited for the cast to muster the energy to perform after their intense trek through the Great Wall.

For the cast, this served as an unexpected run-through of the numbers they would later present in a more formal venue at Shandong.

With hand-claps and the occasional knee-slap serving as their musical instruments, Yu sat in delight while the bus maneuvered through heavy afternoon traffic c and the cast performed the revue almost to its entirety just short of three numbers before arriving at the Forbidden City.

"It deeply touched me," said Yu. "They are so young and they love art. They perform so well," she said lamenting that she wouldn't be able to see them perform in Jinan.

Prior to Tuesday though, the trip to China hadn't been as pleasant with near disastrous moments threatening to cast a permanent damper on the entire experience.

First, despite the almost 24-hour journey from Los Angeles to Beijing and 58 swollen feet later, Professor Joe X. Wu missed the final flight from Seoul by less than five minutes. Eventually, Wu caught a later flight and caught up with the group.

Additionally, customs at the Beijing airport refused to release equipment pertinent to the show which included a keyboard, drum set and microphones due to a concern that those objects would be used for a profit of sorts.

The aforementioned pales in comparison though, as the trip literally came to a screeching halt when cast member Alex Edlefsen was struck by a bicyclist shortly after leaving the group's first lunch in Beijing a few short hours upon arrival.
The SMC crew quickly went to Edlefsen's aid as blood began to run profusely off the side of his face. Others hurried to the bicyclist's side as he struggled to catch his breath and sit up.

In the end, the bicyclist voluntarily rode off, and after a two-hour stint at a local hospital and several stitches later, Edlefsen was released with no major injuries.

And so the resilient group made their way through Beijing and Tiananmen Square as several cast mates joked that Edlefsen could now play Frankenstein in the "Young Frankenstein" number from their revue.

Most in the group noticed that in their short stay in Beijing, there seemed to be few differences between American and Chinese cultures.

However, after two jam-packed days of touring Beijing, the group finally arrived in Jinan for the final stretch of the trip.

While in Jinan, the students suddenly felt the pressures of culture shock. "You are now in the troughs of it," said Nancy Grass Hemmert, professor of Communications at SMC who also served as leader for the trip.

The students confessed to feeling emotions as diverse as burdened, scared, oppressed, and judged upon their arrival at Jinan where suddenly there was protocol in meeting with their hosts at Shandong which greatly differed from the surprisingly relaxed environment of Beijing.

"We will do the best we can," said Grass Hemmert of their stay at Jinan. To encourage the students she shared how officials of Shandong University were actually impressed with SMC's comportment.

The burden was lessened though after the first dinner with members of the Shandong administration which concluded with a toast commemorating SMC's and Shandong's partnership.

Aside from the previously mentioned emotions discussed by the students during Grass Hemmert's lecture, one feeling which everyone seemed in agreement with was gratefulness.