|By Kevin Tibbles, NBC News Correspondent|
It is a centuries old, elaborate tradition simply called "the Peking Opera."
Acting, singing (although to the western ear that is debatable), tumbling and all sorts of other sundry stuff makes it an enjoyable, if not incomprehensible, evening.
So, to be allowed to "suit up" and partake in a production of traditional Chinese theater in Beijing was both a privilege and honor.
|VIDEO: A day at the Peking opera|
My role? I was to be the "Ocean King" in a production of something no one bothered to tell me.
But, as all the other guys were dressing up like little fish and crustaceans, I was being transformed by the Picasso of the Peking Opera Mr. Lee.
The make-up job took over an hour and involved several layers of grease paint that made me look like a cross between Gene Simmons and Freddy Krueger. It was an absolutely elaborate affair, and Mr. Lee is a true artisan, everything was done with painstaking detail.
(The pain being all Mr. Lee's, since he was dealing with me.)
In the end it was all topped off with a regal head-dress, lashed onto my head with a series of straps and strings that eventually started to hurt like heck. Why did it hurt? Because two guys tightened it around my ears like a tourniquet. (More to come on that later).
As the Ocean King, I was given a big sword and marched out to the stage for my singing lesson.
|Headpiece in place, Tibbles is ready to take to the boards at the Peking Opera.|
That lasted precisely one minute, as the vocal coach became so frustrated he threw up his hands and went back to the giggling group of fish and crustaceans in the corner.
Then, finally, I was given a speaking role.
One word – "Zou!" (Sounds like "Go!" and actually, it means "Go!" too).
The music started, the tumblers tumbled and the fish and crustaceans ran about the stage.
They all were dressed wonderfully and comported themselves like total theatre pro's.
Then the Ocean King kind of rolled out, lamely waved his sword about, yelled "Zou!!!" and it was over.
And it wasn't over a moment too soon either, as by that point the thing strapped to my head had cut off all circulation to my skull. I could no longer feel my head.
But, it was all a great colorful success, and the 12 people watching applauded politely, all the while sniggering under their breath.
In closing, I would like to say "Thanks".... Xiexie (pronounced "shay shay") to everyone at the Opera.
They were gracious and patient and I had a wonderful time – and I have plenty of photos to entertain my family and friends.
And, I am sure, sooner or later, the circulation will return to my scalp.