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by Song Yingwen, Friday, January 25, 2013

BRITISH actor and teacher William Mann spent the last 10 years before he came to Shenzhen performing in Europe, leading a Shakespearean theater company to stages in Britain, France, Italy and Norway. When asked by his family when he was going to settle down, the 30-something Mann always said: “I keep moving until something stops me. It could be a girl, a job … There has to be something.”

That “something” recently came into his life.

“I realized I was never going to leave China and Shenzhen,” the teacher, actor, film director and playwright said in an interview, blinking his blue eyes while enjoying the warm sunshine of a January morning in Shenzhen. “Yes, Shenzhen has stopped me,” he said, then paused, smiled a little and reassured himself of that idea.

Mann describes his first encounter with Shenzhen, in July 2010, as an “accident.” When he was planning to expand his performance tour to the United States three years ago, his career was struck by the global financial crisis and came to a sudden halt. The funding for his theater company died and Mann was thrust to a life crossroads.

He had to make a life-changing choice: continue a familiar lifestyle in his home country by teaching Shakespeare to children, or explore an uncertain path.

Mann followed his desire to tour the world and decided that he again needed to explore a new place. He packed up his teaching skills, applied for jobs in Asia and Africa and accepted the first job offer he got, from a language training institute in China.

To make his exotic life more adventurous, he overlooked big names like Beijing and Shanghai and landed in Shenzhen, a city he knew nothing about.

“Everything in life happens for reasons, and I believe I am in Shenzhen for a reason,” Mann said.

Six months after arriving in Shenzhen, and after overcoming the normal adjustments, the thirst for acting revived in Mann. He rehearsed for a one-man “Hamlet” but soon got bored, because the show lacked the joy of interacting with other actors.

He then realized that he could find all the things he wanted by making films, which included acting, getting local people involved and learning new things.

Mann currently has five projects under way: a film production of “Hamlet” and four plays that he wrote. Film settings will be in places where he works and lives. Actors are friends who joined him because of similar interests.

“I can only promise them two things: quality images and a record that will last forever on the Internet,” said Mann, who plans to release his films online.

Mann said he is his films’ investor, writer, actor, director, cameraman, sound technician and lighting engineer.

“I have to learn to do things myself, which is challenging but enjoyable,” Mann said.

Mann isn’t expecting immediate fame or fortune from his new undertakings, which he prefers to describe as life interests.

“It’s not the time to think about money now. Expectation changes the way you think and the way you do things,” Mann explained.

For a man who has realized his dreams — growing from an amateur theater actor to a professional who has performed in several countries — the excitement in Mann’s current stage of life, he said, is trying “to make one small, beautiful, perfect thing.”

And most of all, he’s found somewhere to settle down.

“I feel the energy of Shenzhen, and I feel more like me here in the city,” he said.





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