Tag Archive: Showcase

Feb 08

Post Showcase Discussion

Last night’s rehearsal, our first since the showcase, was disappointing in some ways, and great in others. Disappointing because most of us weren’t there. Great, because Takahiko, Mayu, and I had a really great follow-up conversation about what we discussed with the audience on Saturday after the show.

 

I learned more about Takahiko in that 90 minutes than I had in the last six months of working together. I found out that he’d seen Seven Streams of the River Ota (my favourite show ever) when it was in Japan, and that he also like the same Kurosawa films that I’m in love with (Ikiru and Jigoku to Tengoku in particular).

 

The YT Ensemble performs a musical number being tested for the "Wall of Shame" show.

Mostly, though, as I said, we reviewed the 30-minute discussion we had with the audience after our showcase this past Saturday. During that discussion, I asked  the audience what they thought about two scenes in particular.

 

Both scenes were based on Rosie DiManno’s Toronto Star article entitled No Escape Valve for So Much Grief.

 

The first scene, which we called No Escape Valve, consisted of an underplayed scene playing out the events of the scene described by DiManno prior to her self-insertion into the narrative. A cub reporter for a Japanese radio station, assigned to her first story, speaks self-consciously into her IC recorder, setting up the time and place of the scene: March 19th, 2011, outside a sports stadium in Miyagi-ken. The stadium is serving as a holding facility for recovered bodies. The other characters in the scene include a woman who is looking for a relative, a stadium employee working as a guide to those coming for the first time, and the family described by DiManno’s article.

 

The rest of the scene is played out almost sub-vocally, with overlapping dialogue. We’re very conscious of not wanting to put big speeches in the mouths of victims, so the speech is improvised and not at normal performance level. As the scene begins, a man (that was me) sits at a desk, reading to himself.

 

About halfway through, as the scene in Miyagi continues to play out, the man at the desk tells the audience that he’s reading the article by DiManno and starts to read excerpts aloud to them. Initially, he distances himself from the article, but in the last few lines, he throws on a scarf and becomes the writer herself, gradually moving to a histrionic falsetto that matches the tone and character of the article. His loud voice easily overpowers the scene, and as he reads the last few lines, the other actors become aware of him and turn to look at him, puzzlement playing over their features.

 

The second scene consisted of me dressed in a headscarf and african-style wrap skirt to complete the out-of-touch hippie look, playing guitar and singing a song entitled I Will Make the Japanese Cry while various Japanese stereotypes unenthusiastically performed a broadway-style dance number behind me.

 

What I wanted to know from the audience was what their feelings were about us covering this topic. Not so much the bad journalism aspect (I think we’re all agreed on that), but about actually representing tsunami victims in the scene itself, as we did in the No Escape Valve scene.

 

Interestingly, the opinion was divided, with Japanese members of the audience feeling uncomfortable with the scene, and expats not being put off by it. There was a little more nuance to the conversation than that, but that was the general gist. On the other hand, no one was offended by the musical number (unless they were simply offended by my terrible singing and simply refrained from telling me so).

 

Since we didn’t have anyone in the audience who was actually from the affected areas in Tohoku, we were getting feedback by people who had friends or relatives there. The way people worded their concerns about the scene was interesting and mirrored what I’ve heard from others when I’ve asked them about it and what Mayu said when we first started rehearsing No Escape Valve. To wit: “we’re worried that people from the Tohoku region will be offended by this.”

 

While I sympathize with the feeling, I wonder if it’s worth worrying about. We plan to approach the scenes like this carefully, as we did with this one. The applicable section of No Escape Valve was done in what one audience member called a “documentary” style. If it’s okay to go up to Tohoku and point cameras at things and people, then my feeling is that we’re okay recreating a similar effect on stage. As I wrote earlier, we don’t plan to put any big long speeches into the mouths of tsunami victim characters or try make their lives into entertainment. (That’s not what the Wall of Shame show is about, anyway.) However, to explore the topic seriously and honestly, we certainly can’t shy away from scenes like this.

 

We still have more discussion to do within the whole group itself before we resolve this, but I wanted to post my feelings on this while they’re still fresh.

Feb 06

Showcase #1 and a Non-Working Gun

Well, here I am in the rehearsal room again. I’ve mopped the floor, put on some Leonard Cohen, and am typing this while I wait for the floor to dry and the others to arrive.

 

The showcase on Saturday was a great success, not in any sense of having put on a polished show (although it did come out much cleaner than I expected), but in the sense that had an audience, and we seemed to engage most of them.

 

The show itself clocked in at 60 minutes, which is astounding, because when we rehearsed, it felt much more like 20 minutes, AND we cut the Satsuki-tan’s Brain  scene. The most successful part for me, however, was the 30-minutes discussion with the audience. It was exactly what I hoped for in the sense of feedback.

 

Even better yet, Emmy Nagaoka was there with a video camera and later sent me a rough transcript so we’ll actually be able remember what was said. I had meant to tape the whole thing myself, but someone who I will not mention, but whose name begins with GRAIG RUSSELL, forgot to bring my video camera. We managed to capture bits and pieces of video with my still camera, but a few key moments (including the end) are missing, since Canon cameras are limited by the SD card’s limit of 4GB per file.

 

The missing video might be for the best, since this gave me the idea of actually make a project of shooting some of the segments as they exist now so that we have more video content on the YTG website.

 

I was really impressed by how the whole group stepped up to the challenge. What we need to start reinforcing amongst ourselves, however, is that we need this kind of commitment all the time, not just when we have a public showing. That’s kind of the whole point of the ensemble. I want us to keep a sustained level of energy going into our rehearsals so that we don’t need to go into crunch mode when a show comes up.

 

That “crunch time” is the main reason I wanted to stop doing Theatre the old way. Sure, there will always be a little extra pressure on the week of the show, some of it imposed by the fact that, in Japan, you’re lucky to afford to get into the Theatre more than 24 hours before the day of the performance, but if the performance itself is ready due to sustained efforts beforehand, then a lot of the usual stresses are removed.

 

The Yokohama Theatre Ensemble, minus Mayu, who was stood in for by the weird guy behind us.Speaking of “crunch”, we also had an evening performance at the Yokohama Honda Gekijou as part of a group show. We took a subset of our material and modified it. It didn’t feel as good as the afternoon performance (a prop gun failed to discharge four times in a row, which kind of took the ‘oomph’ out of it, although Saori handled it like a pro and shouted “パン!” each time the gun didn’t fire), but it was still a great way to end a crazy day.

 

I’d woken up with a migraine, and had been unable to even eat breakfast. The headache had subsided enough by our 14:00 showtime to allow me to do the strenuous bits required for the showcase without absolutely killing myself, and by the time we were talking to the audience at 15:00 it was pretty much gone. By the time the photo you see above was taken (at around 20:30, after our evening performance), I was not only headache free, but RAVENOUS. So our day ended with a “cast party”, if you can call it that, around a table at the local First Kitchen, with us all eating something disgusting and fatty.

 

All in all, a very satisfying day that gave us a lot of information on how to move forward from this point.

Jan 31

Fever Dreams

We’re four days from the Yokohama Theatre Ensemble’s first showcase. Yikes. I’ve got a million things to do: memorize lines, find the flashes for my socks, buy a few props, memorize a song, create content for the show’s programme, buy the snacks for post-show party, email people directly to remind them about the showcase, send out a reminder newsletter about it, and, hell, probably five or six other things I’ve temporarily forgotten about.

 

I think I’ve also picked up that flu that’s going around. I’ve been headachy and nauseous since noon. I think I may be running a slight fever, and my stomach and  joints ache.

 

One of the things that’s been on my list for weeks, however, is a new blog entry, so I’m going to get that done right now, since there’s so much to cover. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief: I want to hit the hay.)

 

We’ve had two incredible rehearsals with Tania Coke, who will be teaching the Ytheatre Physical Theatre workshop in March (this may be a one-time only thing—sign up now!). She’s helped us develop that moving screens piece that Mari and I first experimented with in December into something that involves five members of the ensemble (and in it’s final version will involve all six). It’s amazing how much easier the rehearsal is when she’s there to be our outside eye, particularly on a piece like, where my expertise is rather limited.

 

I’ve arranged for more outside eyes this week to help rush us into being ready for the showcase (and another show that same evening at the Yokohama Honda Gekijou! Graig Russell will be joining us tomorrow, and Nerida Rand on Thursday.

 

Friday is going to be a frightening night of pulling everything together, starting the set up of the space, and trying to finish early enough that we’re able to crawl back in on Saturday morning at 9:00 in order to prep tech for 14:00.

 

More when I have the energy again—maybe next week.