Many would consider the assignment daunting, if not impossible.
But to Shuxing Fan, creating a 48-foot cloth model of a wave was no big deal.
The scenic artist for Center Stage, after all, is used to working on a grand scale.
He kneels on the floor, painting swirls of blue on muslin. "I really love art," Mr. Fan, 35, says softly. "I find myself in art."
For the past two weeks, he has "found himself" in a Kabuki wave, a bannerlike display being featured in Wednesday's opening ceremonies of the National Aquarium's Marine Mammal Pavilion. Stylistically, the wave resembles a Chinese dragon and will be operated by youngsters, who will jockey poles attached to the fabric and simulate the swells and chops of the sea.
The creative life came naturally to Mr. Fan, who grew up in Beijing the son of a dancer and musician. What didn't come naturally, however, was becoming politicized during the Tiananmen Square massacre last year.
"I am not a political person," says Mr. Fan, who was then a graduate student at Boston University. "But I felt it from my heart. I couldn't keep silent."
To show support, he organized demonstrations and became president of the United Association of Chinese Students at Boston University.
Speaking out had its price though. Today, returning -- or allowing his wife and 7-year-old son to return -- to China is impossible, he says. Instead, the Baltimorean satisfies this longing by working on a painting titled "Dreaming of China." He calls himself a late bloomer -- and with good reason.
At age 60, Alvin Myerovich discovered acting. At 75, he joined the Screen Actors Guild. And at 82, he made his movie debut in "Dirty Dancing."
"See, you're never too old," he says with a laugh.
After a successful career as a violinist and orchestra director at Youngstown State University in Ohio, he segued into acting when students recruited him for a school play.
"I love to act because it gives me a chance to get out of myself," says Mr. Myerovich, 85, who lives in Pikesville.
The self-described "short, bearded, graying and very unsightly" man honed his craft in community theater, eventually earning a reputation as a character actor.
In 1980, his first big break came when he played the rabbi in "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway and went on to tour with the show. He graduated to movies, playing a pickpocket in "Dirty Dancing" and most recently portraying the much-talked-about grandfather in "Avalon."
Along the way, he's met Woody Allen, Franco Zeffirelli and Barbra Streisand, hired a Hollywood agent and considered moving to L.A.
What's kept him here has been his wife, Olga, who is a first violinist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The two met when she was a student of his ("I taught her how to play 'Twinkle, Twinkle' ") and they still relish chances to perform together.
But chief among the passions of Alvin Myerovich is one he's nurtured since boyhood: ice skating. "I'm not too fancy," he says of his weekly pleasure. "But I always find victims to do the Dutch waltz with me."