When Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting was a little boy, his beloved grandmother would bite him on the arm each and every time they saw each other. “She used to leave full blown teeth marks, an imprint on my arm,” Ting laughed as he told his story to the assembled staff and company of 4000 Miles, which goes into rehearsals today.
As he got older, his grandmother stopped, but the impression remained with him. He spent a summer with his grandmother right after he graduated from high school, helping her with her memoir. Ting asked about why she bit him all those times. His grandmother grew up in a small village in southern China, and the elders in her village would walk around and bite each of the children on the arm.
If their teeth left an impression, it meant that the child had some fat on their bodies. “They used to bite them to see if they were well fed,” Ting said. “It was literally a way of checking to see that a child was being taken care of.”
Fond reminiscences like Ting’s will be pretty common around the theatre for the next several weeks. 4000 Miles, a Pulitzer Prize-finalist by Amy Herzog, deals with the relationship between a grandmother and her twenty-something grandson.
“Grandparents are, in many ways, mysterious to us,” Ting said. “If we have the time and the gift to unfold these mysteries, it’s impactful on our lives. The path of life is filled with so many little details.”
Theatre, and particularly this play, can allow for a discussion of this important relationship with sensitivity and complexity. “We create the space where mysteries unfold a little bit,” Ting said. “Audiences seeing (4000 Miles) will unfold their mysteries a little bit too.”
— Steve Scarpa