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My Weekender is a weekly column written by changing authors selected from the Shanghai community. According to the various tastes, interests and backgrounds of its authors, My Weekender serves as a window into what residents in the city are doing with their time off.

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[My Weekender]: Ann James

Mar 15, 2013

Ann James hails from Houston Texas. She currently heads Urban Aphrodite International, a company dedicated to bringing theatrical events and productions to Shanghai. Ann and the company are working on a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. It opens next Friday night.

Weekends are usually reserved for rest, relaxation and enjoying the company of friends. For normal people. For theater folk, especially producers, the weekend is reserved for meetings, shopping for unusual things that are generally impossible to find, and for drinking to forget that you can’t find the things you need.

This weekend I am in final rehearsals for our production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and thankfully it is situated in a space that is known for healthy pours. Sasha’s is a gorgeous mansion in the heart of Xuhui. One of the legends of the place is that the Communist Party was basically born on the mattress springs of this three-floor villa back at the beginning of all things “new” in China. I wonder where the bedrooms were originally. Sometimes on the third floor, the staff swears ghosts haunt the walls and they dash back down to the much more lively Prime 21 and ground floor after taking care of business up there. So far, I have had no hair-raising occurrences myself, but we are doing our whole season there, so I am anticipating the chills — should they come.

On Saturday mornings, I teach for an English language prep school, for academically superior Chinese teens who want to throw their hats in the ring for hard-to-get-into American and European universities. The campus is on one of my favorite streets in the city — Anfu Lu. There is always so much going on along that beautiful little street. I have scrumptious pizzas at the new Italian pizzeria. I buy flowers from a man who always has the best blooms right on the street. And, this week, I might actually buy a loofah from this guy who carries about 100 of them, all different shapes and sizes, on his back.

In the afternoon after classes I plan to meet up with a new actor who is proposing a show for our company. I will come home for a “disco snooze” (ha!), then get gussied up for a night on the town. This never ends in sobriety, so I stay close, heading to The Chalet on Yongjia Lu or this new hot spot Senator Saloon. I’ve only been there once, but when I was there they had this crazy libation called the Stinky Pig. I am not even going to tell you what’s in it... but it tastes like a pig roasted in maple syrup-ed liquor. As a native Texan, it makes me wanna holler “Yee haw!”

In general, Sundays hurt. I mean, I am no wallflower by any stretch, and I am constantly trying to negotiate between teaching my bright-eyed little ones for the Shanghai Theatre Academy and staving off the demons of the Saturday evening before. In the end, the kiddos win and I am invigorated for the rest of the day. This Sunday we will meet at the Wanhangdu Lu space and wax whimsical over their hard-crafted declamations on pollution and Disneyland coming to Shanghai.

If I have a moment to spare, I will grab a coffee at this chic little hipster dive (a la hipster, “you probably haven’t heard about it”) on the corner of Yongjia Lu and Shanxi Nan Lu. They have super expensive cups of coffee which are individually brewed almost too carefully by the slim and stylish brew master, but when you get your cup it's ahhh! Eureka! This is what coffee is supposed to be.

Fresh from my caffeine infusion, I will probably take a walk down Fuxing Lu back over towards Xinle Lu. I love window shopping on this stretch because I want to buy everything I see. It also gives my brain a rest from the hectic production schedule that runs my life most days. It is a treat, and I highly recommend it for gift shopping. Hint hint. Hey, opening night is next Friday, so I had to throw that in there for those who are so inclined...

Sunday night this week will be the last night before heading into our final rehearsals. Maybe I’ll get the nails done at Frangipani on Xinle Lu or a great foot massage at Oasis Massage on Donghu Lu. Then most definitely a brew or whisky at Jenny’s right across the street.

I love my neighborhood. And I love my weekends, which usually begin on Tuesday morning. So much for being normal.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf will star Mark Edwards, Kate Robards, John Prakapas and Natasha Portwood. Performance in English. Shows run March 22-24, and March 28-30. Tickets 200rmb in advance or 220rmb on the door. Advance tickets from