Artist: Shen Yun Has ‘Just Revolutionized Theater’

MEMPHIS, Tennessee—Michael Gaines, an artist who was influenced by the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a child, saw Shen Yun for the first time at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 4.

“You guys have just revolutionized theater. I want you to know that,” he said after the performance.

Mr. Gaines as a boy was always drawing and painting. Later, observing his mother using technology, he graduated to drawing on computer tablets. He is now learning both graphic arts and special effects. He said that once he got to college, he realized what he had always done “falls under fine arts and graphic arts.”

Mr. Gaines knew the story of Ne Zha, the history of the Han Dynasty, and much more about Chinese culture. He played the game Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a child, then moved on to the book, and it led to a lifelong affinity for Chinese stories and culture, he said.

Naturally, the visual aspects and the projected backdrop of Shen Yun Performing Arts spoke to him. “Very, very nice. A very good blend,” he said.

The ferocious dragon in Ne Zha Churns the Sea intrigued him. “Especially when they had it fly and everything—that was all effects.”

Mr. Gaines said it was easy to say, but the result was remarkably engaging. “It’s a great way to immerse the audience into the play.”

“I love how they integrated it. It came down, and it would go to the bottom of the screen, and they [the actors] would come out.” He marveled at the effects of the actors and animation going back and forth, “especially for a live performance,” he said.

Shen Yun’s innovation in tying the music, the dancers, and the animated backdrop together is unique.

According to the Shen Yun website, “These digital backdrop designs complement and synchronize all aspects of the performance: the characters, color of the costumes, specific dance movements, props, lighting, the story being told, particular notes played by the orchestra, and special audio effects.”

“It’s the first time I’ve actually seen a play do something like that. Going from backdrop to reality, like so,” he said.

Mr. Gaines came to the show with Tiffany Butler, whom he has drawn as a character in one of his comic books. Miss Butler is studying the Korean language and planning to live and work in Korea.

She said she was seeing Shen Yun for the second time. “They kind of switched it up on me … I like that!” she said. “Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.

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