GREGORY JOSEPH ALLEN: Acting on Stage & Screen in China
This week’s guest is stage and screen actor Gregory Joseph Allen. Greg brought a lifetime’s worth of acting training and experience with him when he moved here some years ago from California, and in addition to his own work he now uses his skills and background to teach young actors in Beijing.
Some guests had a very specific goal in mind when they made their first foray to the Middle Kingdom, but Greg talks about moving to China on more of an exploratory impulse and finding his new calling here. I’ve noticed that if you’re lucky, and stick with it through the rough spots, China can do that to you, or maybe I should say, allow you to change yourself in unexpected ways. Good times.
Greg took me back to an upbringing not too unlike parts of my own. We both have fond memories of the now-extinct practice of all the kids in high school (and a few older kids) ”parking” in a big supermarket lot somewhere after a football game or other big school event, and in plain site of everyone, openly drinking beers and being rowdy (but not seriously violent) as they hung out. It was a different world and time, but fun to reminisce about.
We talk about the differences between city versus country upbringings in the US, and how our mix of experiences informed who we are today and how we relate to China. Having seen enormous growth myself in my lifelong journey first across the US, then to Europe and Africa, and now finally to the Far East, I can relate to things here with a much different lens than if I had been either raised here OR never traveled as I did starting from way back home. Greg’s experience is his (of course) but there are a lot of syncs and parallels between us, which really helped me relate to his story even though it’s not exactly my own.
I really appreciated hearing about Greg’s approach to teaching, namely: how he doesn’t just give out gold ribbons for participation, but actually expects students to make the effort to EXCEL, and he rewards excellent work with appropriate recognition while still encouraging those struggling to find their footing. There is an art to doing this that I tried to find when teaching as well, and I still remember today the teachers I had who succeeded at it with me, so I know what a positive difference that makes.
We talk candidly about our thoughts regarding the norms and changing landscapes here as well as back home - economic, political, societal and cultural, etc - and we also get politically specific, in a new twist for the show. Overall I’d say that it gets pretty damn real, and I beeped a few choice words to keep our “Clean” rating, but I left it alone as much as possible in order to own what I think and to allow Greg the same courtesy. You don’t have to agree with either of us to appreciate the show, but let me know what you think regardless.
On a technical note: I used a slightly looser hand with this edit wherever I could, letting it breath a little more naturally, mostly because I thought Greg’s dramatic or thoughtful pauses added to the honesty of his story. He is a trained storyteller, after all, so I think it flows well but doesn’t feel too long (again, in my opinion). As I keep developing the show, I will keep tweaking my approach. Again - let me know, and I hope you enjoy.
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