When Chen Chang-Na, the Chinese acrobat, first arrived in the United States in 1995, he found a welcoming and congenial environment.
He would walk into the offices of the New York-based entertainment company Broadway, and be greeted with a handshake and a friendly smile.
The American audiences, he said, were just as happy as the Chinese ones.
But Chen, who now lives in Shanghai, had never seen a live show.
When the Broadway troupe put on a Chinese-acrobat performance in the city in 2007, the audience was stunned.
When Chen walked onstage in the second act, he appeared to be about as old as the performers.
He was not only dressed as a Chinese man, he was also wearing a long, flowing coat and a long wig.
And he was wearing a mask.
The crowd booed him and yelled insults.
But the Chinese audience, which was more interested in seeing a Chinese performer than the actors, was delighted.
Chen’s performance had taken the world by storm.
It made the New Yorker’s best-selling Chinese book list, and it earned him the nickname The Chinese Acrobat.
The show was the biggest, the best-attended show in the world.
The Broadway troups in the U.S. had been able to exploit Chen’s success.
They had bought him the right to perform and sell a show in Shanghai and the best seats at the theater in New York City.
Chen could make a fortune selling his work.
But it was not always easy to make a living from his work in China.
His Chinese acrobats, who were known as the Hebei-based troupe of Shanghai, were not allowed to leave the country for work.
They would have to be paid to perform in China every night for three weeks, and the work was not seen as a commercial success until Chen and his troupe had sold out in New Orleans in 2004.
They were forced to pay for all of Chen Chang’s travel expenses, as well as food, accommodation, and rent in China and New York.
Chen and the troupe were also required to sign a confidentiality agreement, which made it harder for them to discuss the work or to sue the company.
Chen Chang would later tell his biographer, Andrew Korybko, that the secrecy agreement was not his idea.
“It was the Chinese government,” he said.
“They wanted to keep it secret.”
Chen would go on to write a number of books, including the novel China’s Dream, and has since been a regular performer in New England, New York, and Los Angeles.
But he has not performed in China since his first Broadway show, which in 2008, at the end of his tour, sold out.
“I think it’s an opportunity that will never come back,” Chen said in a telephone interview from New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
“The China experience is very, very different than the America experience.
There’s no longer a lot of money to be made.”
In 2008, Chen became the first performer from the Hebron region to perform at a Broadway show.
He and his fellow performers walked on stage in the audience and waved to the crowd.
The audience applauded and clapped.
Chen said he was not sure what the audience thought of him.
“There was an expression in the theater: ‘Oh, you’re just a good kid,’ ” he said in an interview.
“But I’m not a kid.
I’m a professional, and I’m an American.”
Chen’s Chinese acropole, which is part of the Broadway show’s title, was also the first show to feature a Chinese character on the stage.
“Chen is not a traditional Chinese actor, but he is very talented and has a very good acting ability,” said Tod Wang, a Broadway producer who produced the show.
Wang said Chen was “very happy” to be performing for his hometown, which has a rich history of performing in Chinese theatres.
But, Wang added, Chen did not feel he was “really representing China” when he performed.
“That’s something we have to live with every day, but I think that’s not his real identity,” Wang said.
Wang is also concerned about Chen’s future.
“He was born in the 1950s,” Wang added.
“What do you do now?”
When I visited Chen’s apartment in New Hampshire, the air was cool.
He sat on a couch and looked out at the Atlantic Ocean.
The apartment had a small living room and a kitchen.
Chen was a quiet, stoic man with thick eyebrows and a wavy, unkempt beard.
He spoke in a steady, deep voice.
Chen had been working as a waiter and then a delivery driver in Shanghai for the past five years.
He has had no formal training in acting,