By Simon Shaw
I was thrilled to be included in the WAA delegation traveling to the Shanghai Performing Arts Fair. My visit gave me insight into, and some understanding of, the rapidly expanding Chinese marketplace. I was able to network extensively with Chinese producers and presenters, as well as international colleagues from Europe and Australia along with numerous American presenters and leaders of service organizations.
With my focus on Theatre for Young Audiences I found the sessions, case studies and showcases enthralling. The biggest take away for me was regarding the size of the market as there are 250 million people in China aged 0-10. This is a staggering figure, quite mind boggling really, and goes to show what an important marketplace China is and will continue to be.
The pitch session dealing with going to Mainland China was very interesting and informative. There were a number of major international companies who had been chosen to present their work for potential touring in China. Some of the questions and “suggestions” for adapting the work for the Chinese market were quite shocking. Also very apparent was the desire on behalf of the Chinese buyers to get a deal. This session in particular was instructive with regard to presenting the case for the work and also the need to structure the deal so that the Chinese presenters feel they are receiving good value and the artist achieves their required fee level.
I was able to visit a number of venues in Shanghai and deepen my relationship with colleagues from the Art Space for Kids (A.S.K.) who are presenting international work for young audiences and also developing Chinese work. The speed of growth of this particular organization is impressive. It was formed just over three years ago and is already serving over 150,000 children annually.
The knowledge I gained during my visit will enable me to guide the artists I work with here in the US as they develop work for China and other international markets. It seems to me that understanding the need to focus on simple use of language and nonverbal communication are key to a genuinely successful engagement in China. A number of the artists on my roster are exploring the possibility of developing Mandarin language versions of their current English language offerings. One company is also looking at developing a completely non-verbal production as their next project with an eye to the Chinese market.
Attending SPAF was an eye opening experience on many levels and is one that will stay with me for many years to come. The size of the country and the population along with the speed of growth/change were major takeaways for me. Whilst this trip was only a brief taste I believe it will enable me to advise my clients and potentially help them develop a new marketplace. I would not have been able to have this experience without the support of WAA so I want to say a big thank you.