Tag Archive: Tokyo International Players

Nov 03

Tartuffe–4th Rehearsal

I’m constantly amazed by what a good group we’ve assembled for this show.  I’ve got a huge mix of people with lots of experience, and people with almost none, and they’re working very well together.


I’ve heard from several people now that they’re still panicked about not having a script yet, so I gave another talk tonight, emphasizing that I’m not fiddling while Rome burns, but that even if we were working from a finished script, I’d rather not have given it to them at this point anyway.  I don’t want people memorizing lines yet.  This is a play, and we need to learn how to play together.


I would rather have a show with a few line flubs, where the actors know who they are, and what they’re doing, and what’s happening next, and in which they totally have bought in the world of the play, than a show in which people have memorized lines and are just marking things through.  I think, if compared side-by-side, this is what an audience would prefer as well.


After having said that, we continued the tactics/objectives work we started yesterday, and then moved into a Meisner exercise, courtesy of Jon Reimer (who teaches this stuff: http://tokyoplayers.org/?lang=1&page=58&mode=detail&event=38 If you’re in Tokyo, take his classes!), which deals with truth in acting.


I think his exercises clearly showed the idea that in truthful acting, emotion is a by-product of action.  (And yes!  This even applies to “stylized” acting, which is the same as “normal” acting, except that the rules of the world are different!)  This is really important to the framing section of our play (called the “1941 section”), because we’re striving for naturalism (although, of course, the stakes are high enough that people can be reasonably big without blowing the audience’s acceptance of the situation), and really don’t want to end up with anything that looks like self-conscious acting… or what my first acting teacher called “shmackting”.


Actually, that whole attitude is summed up by a story told to me by the great and intense Canadian director Paul Lambert.  I may get details of this wrong, but the point is the same:


One night, a relatively famous director who was guesting at the National Theatre School  was holding court in a bar.  All the young acting students were there asking him question after question.  After a long evening of this, and a perhaps particularly obtuse question from a first year, the director took a drag on his cigarette, and a sip from his full-to-the-brim pint of Carlsberg.  After he put the glass down, after seeming to consider the whole evening worth of questions, he said simply: “Just be there.  Fuck!”


Best advice for actors I’ve ever heard.  I wish this was my story.


Just be there.  Fuck


I believe that all the actors I’ve assembled for this show can be there.


Damn!  This show is going to be fantastic!



Oct 30

Tartuffe – Rehearsal #2

Well, we’re on our way.  I revealed the outline and the main ideas of the show to the actors after sending out the cast list (with final casting for both parts of the play).


I guess I should explain a little bit here what I’m doing so that this and future entries make a modicum of sense to people other than me…


The play opens in 1941.  When the audience walks into the Theatre, they will be confronted with a 1941 Japanese train station.  Through sound (mental note: need to recruit a sound designer) and dialogue, it will be revealed that this is February xth, at 23:30, and there is a blizzard raging outside.  The station is rural, but it is a major rail hub nonetheless.


A variety of people are trapped here: from foreign amateur actors, to a war widow, to a girl being sold by her family into factory work.  Between themselves, to pass the time, they decide to put on a play: Tartuffe.


Using items from their suitcases, they dress the station up to look finer and make themselves costumes.  The Station Master volunteers his gramophone for music, and they’re off!


The idea behind my production is the transformative power of Theatre, with a touch of the usual Tartuffe moral about blind faith vs reason.  Each of these individuals is changed somehow (maybe not obviously to the audience) by the performance of this play, and they all leave the station different from the way they were when they arrived.  (And, with luck, some of this will rub off on the audience.)


In any case, I gave the cast the whole breakdown of the show, including Tartuffe scene breakdowns, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that I’d unintentionally laid over the production.


I’ve also assigned research topics to each of the actors, which, in all the cases it was possible, I’ve tried to tie in with their 1941 character.  Presentations are next Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to see what they come up with.


We played some status games tonight, since status is so important in Japanese society, particularly in the era in question, and particularly across the lines of nationality and gender.


From here, we start working and developing  the 1941 characters.  Once that process bears some fruit, it will give me some options on how to attack the Tartuffe adaptation, which I’m trying to tie in as closely with what I’m seeing in rehearsal.


Getting excited!

May 09


I went to see a dress run of TIP’s spring musical tonight at the Asakusa Kumin Center Hall.




I am not the biggest fan of musicals, but after seeing the run, I can tell you with confidence that if you are, you will definitely enjoy it.  (If not, you will almost definitely enjoy it.)  I’ll be honest and say that some of the numbers are a little long for my taste, but that’s a script problem, and my problem, because I’m impatient with old-school Broadway musicals.  On the whole, though, director Jon Reimer has delivered on his promise of taking the limited resources available to a Tokyo show, in both material and manpower, and turning them into something that looks like it will be worth the price of admission.


The show is tighter than Queen Victoria. In a city where we’re used to seeing incredible sloppiness on the amateur stage, transitions that leave the audience sitting in the dark, and songs boringly delivered as if the singer daren’t sing and move at the same time, this is a breath of fresh air.


I hope that it doesn’t sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but keep in mind that this isn’t a review, and what I saw tonight was a run-through!  Most other amateur shows would be a disaster at this stage, but Pippin is clear.  I could nit-pick further about tiny things I thought were weak, minor directorial and casting decisions, for instance… but what’s important is that these would be nit-picks, and they do not take away from the fact that this is a good, solid show.


Jon (may I call him Jon?), has a clear point of view for the show and has definitely communicated to his troops on the ground, both onstage and backstage.  The dancing is SOLID.  The singing is SOLID (thanks to Akiko Otao, I imagine, who I worked with this past summer on YTG’s Beggar’s Opera)  I’m really looking forward to seeing this show and, if you’re reading this in Tokyo or Yokohama, SO SHOULD YOU!


You can get tickets at http://tokyoplayers.org (facebook may block this link, so click through to my blog at http://squeeze-box.ca if you’re reading it there).  If you can organize a group of ten people to all come on the same night, and book under one name, you can enjoy a significant discount.


If you are skint, then save your money and volunteer to work two shifts on front-of-house (that’s box office and ushering), and you can see the show for free.  But hurry on this… my thought is that those positions will fill up quickly on this production.


If you have any interest in seeing future (good) musicals in English, in Japan, produced locally, you shouldn’t see this show… no, you MUST see this show.  Vote with your yen, people!  Do it now!  Jon Reimer for President!