Tag Archive: OUR SPACE

Nov 24

Rehearsal Space Woes

I’m sitting in a tatami room at the Katakuracho Kumin center, waiting for Mari and Takahiko to show up. Hiraku is on sabbatical until the two shows he’s committed to are over (my suggestion, since he was starting to look like he was operating on no sleep); Mayu is on training for work this week; and Saori has started additional classes on top of her work schedule.


Mari is later than usual because she’s just taken on an extra contract job.2011-11-24 19.06.08


When I got to the space, I thought we had the whole room. I was rather surprised to find two obaasan fussing around inside it after I came back from the toilets. They were using the sliding doors in the space to section off a square part of the room.

Then one of them started asking me if our group was going to make loud noises and could we not, please, because they were doing yoga. Huh? I informed her that we would do our best, but that this was Theatre, and that we were rehearsing, and I couldn’t make any guarantees. I’d told her we’d try, but we would have to at least speak at normal conversational tones.


This once again serves to illustrate the problem with not having a proper venue. It’s not simply the cost of renting spaces that is the problem: it’s the inflexibility of said spaces, and their unsuitability for Theatre rehearsals.


I contacted the real estate agent managing the building at Kanagawa-Shinmachi that we’ve occasionally worked in, courtesy another Theatre group. I once asked one of the guys in that Theatre group how much it cost to rent per month, and he told me 180,000. I thought about it later and realized I must have misheard him. He must have said 80,000. The building is so decrepit, and it’s totally unoccupied except for that group, that the number couldn’t be right.


It was. The next smallest room, at 43 square meters, would have cost us 230,000. The agent, very kindly, offered to bring it down to 200,000. I told him that he could call me when the owner was serious about actually having tenants. The agent told me that we were unlikely to do better. He may be right, but we simply couldn’t afford that. Even with the Theatre school running at full tilt, 230,000 yen would be pushing it. It might be doable if we were in downtown Tokyo and could rent the space out to other groups the way my friends at the Our Space rehearsal lounge do. But not at some po-dunk station halfway between Kawasaki and Yokohama, and not in a building in that condition. This is evidenced by the fact that we appear to be the only Theatre company that sublets from the group already renting the space there and the fact that the small amount they charge us in no way covers their costs.


If anyone has any suggestions about where to look next, I’m all ears. Next week, I will be visiting the Yokohama Arts Council to see if they have space tucked away somewhere, but I’m not terribly hopeful. What I really need is a private landlord whose sense of pride isn’t so bloated that he’d rather make 0 Yen rather than 30,000 Yen while he holds out for bubble-era prices.


As for today… I expect either Takahiko or Mari to show up any minute. Maybe we’ll do some quiet voice exercises or something. I might take some time and force them to write their biographies for the web site. Hmm….

May 16

A Class Act, Er, Acting Class

In real life, I run a 111 year-old Theatre company called YTG, which I am in the process of registering as an NPO here in Japan.The Beggar's Opera as performed by The Yokohama Theatre Group


The first half of the mandate of the company is to bring contemporary Theatre to people in Yokohama and Japan. To fulfill this mandate, we obviously mount shows, but we’re also trying to get a Theatre school off the ground. There are several reasons why the school is an important part of what we do.


Firstly, with our limited resources, shows can only happen a couple of times per year for the time being. This gap between productions causes YTG to drop out of public awareness for months at a time. Running workshops gives us something to publicize all year long.


Secondly, good training will empower and inspire students to go off and do their own projects, which will mean more Theatre buzz. I strongly believe that art begets art in a positive feedback loop. A city that has lots of active artists has lots of demand for art because everyone is aware of it. That is true for all the arts, but especially performance-oriented arts like dance and Theatre.


Thirdly, there is a dearth right now of Theatre artists who have both the need to create contemporary work and the technical skills to do so. The YTG classes are being designed to develop both of these requirements in the hopes generating future YTG company members.


We’ve had some problems finding suitable rehearsal spaces for these classes, so we’ve just got one coming up: Voice for the Actor. Voice_For_The_Actor_Spring_2011_Graphic_and_TitleBut what a class to start with. My friend and Theatre colleague Graig Russell has been working his butt off to write the curriculum for the class, and it’s going to be eight weeks of intense voice work. It’s not all the time I get to work with someone like Graig whose philosophy toward Theatre is so much like mine that it’s uncanny. Although voice work will always involve technical elements, what’s great about this course is that it doesn’t concentrate on technique to the exclusion of all else. Graig has really built a workshop that emphasizes the idea of the individual voice, so that each student will learn not something that’s standardized, but something that’s unique to his or her own body.


(And I’m not talking sight unseen here; Graig was my vocal coach on William Shakespeare’s R3 two years ago, and did some wonderful work with a number of my actors.)


Because we’ve had trouble booking space at YTG’s usual Yokohama haunts, this workshop will take place in Tokyo at the OUR SPACE rehearsal lounge. I’m so lucky that the management at that space are also good friends


So my job now is to sign up seven students to take this course. I’ve printed flyers and we’re sending them out to Universities; I’ve sent out the YTG newsletter announcing the class; I’ve notified a Yokohama English-through-Theatre school; I’ve sent email to my international school contacts; I’ve updated the YTG facebook page; I’ve tweeted it; etc., ad nauseum… Publicity is definitely the part of the job that I’m worst at.  I know that there are people out there interested in this course… the question is simply: how do I reach them?


Oh well, I’ll find the magic formula one day. In the meantime, I just need to keep plugging away. I really do believe that if I build something based on good, solid, ideas and ideals, that it will eventually generate interest. Art begets art and all that.