Tag Archive: Twitter

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.

Apr 02

A Response

I’ve got a little bit of flak for starting the Journalism Wall of Shame, not surprisingly, though not as much as I actually expected.


One person tweeted that he hated “fucking crusader bloggers” who had “never set foot in a newsroom in their lives”. Given that this was tweeted immediately after he’d tweeted about finding  the Wall of Shame, I can only assume that he was talking about me. (Note: although I use quotation marks, I might have got some of the words not exactly right; this was tweeted a few days ago and is apparently lost in the ether.)


I don’t expect everyone to like what I’m doing, and as we’ve seen with that Japan Times article, press people begin circling their wagons when they hear about us. However, I would like to address the point that not having ever been in a newsroom disqualifies me from criticising bad journalism.


To wit: do sports writers have to be or have been professional athletes? Do music reviewers need to be professional musicians? Do Theatre reviewers need to be professional actors, directors, etc.? Do they have to have ever been backstage during a show? Does a journalist who criticises a speech given or an action taken by, say, Barak Obama, need to have been president?


No, of course they don’t.


I could go on, but I think that sums up my point very nicely.


I leave you with this photo of the TERRIBLE COKE ZERO SHORTAGE that is hitting many convenience stores, drugstores, and supermarkets in Yokohama.  Noooooooooooo!




Yes, with all the blackouts this week having been cancelled, this is the extent of my discomfort.  Why not DONATE and help those suffering actual hardship?

Mar 14

Quake News – Bits and Bobs

Just some miscellanea regarding my quake experience before I continue with my interview thingy.


  • My mechanical clock is running 20 minutes slow as of this afternoon; must be the continual bumping. I’m planning to leave it for a few more days to see how slow it will get.  It’s losing about 5 minutes per day.
  • During the 8-hour blackout on day of the quake, I spent 5 hours not flushing the toilet until I realized that the water was, in fact, running.
  • The upstairs toilet flooded. Salient points below:
    • This toilet has a small, random leak on the left side, under which I’ve placed a bucket
    • Japanese toilets frequently have a water-fountainy thing at the top (see picture)
    • We have incense cones sitting on the window sill in case of a particularly monstrous odour
    • I used this toilet only twice during the blackout, at which point it was already dark outside
    • I went back in yesterday morning while vacuuming, and discovered water on the floor
    • Inspection revealed that there was now way the normal leak could have missed the bucket
    • Further inspection revealed that an incense cone had fallen (presumably during the quake) near the hole on the top of the toilet where the water ‘fountain’ drains into the tank
    • The cone is smaller than the hole, so it must have originally fallen sideways
    • The water from my first flush must have pushed the cone towards the hole while simultaneously engorging it
    • Thus, said engorged cone blocked the hole
    • Second flush must have flooded the tank top
    • Interesting?  Probably not.
  • Around 12:30 today, two obaasan (Japanese old ladies) rang the doorbell.  They wanted to present me with an impeccably-written note in English informing me about the power outage from 15:20 – 19:00ish.  Of course, my wife is home from work today (trains too unreliable and crowded from here to Tokyo), so it was completely unnecessary, but they were worried that I was home by myself.  The hilarious part to think about is that, knowing how little old ladies do things here, it probably took them 3 – 4 hours from coming up with the idea to executing it, working solidly the whole time, with many discussions.  It gave me a bit of a smile to think about that and about how much my neighbours care about me.

Mar 13

Quake News – Interview PT I

As you may have heard, the largest earthquake in its 140 years of recorded earthquakes has struck the north eastern part of the main island of Honshu.


Since the quake struck at 14:46 yesterday afternoon, I’ve been posting my reactions and any updates I can think of on Twitter and Facebook, which for many hours after the quake, were the only reliable means of communication.


You can follow my trains of thought there: http://twitter.com/#!/StageRabbit and http://www.facebook.com/Woolner


japan-earthquakeOne of the more dramatic photos from the tsunami that followed the quake. [Not my house]












There was a false alarm that I might be interviewed by the cbc, but once I informed them that the most trying part of the experience was going eight hours without a heated toilet seat, they smiled politely and backed away.  So I thought I’d do the interview myself:




Q. Where were you and what were you doing when the quake occurred?

A. I was at the kitchen table, eating half of my lunch.  The other half was in the toaster oven.  The house started rocking, and I froze.  Imagine a rabbit raising his head and cocking his ears.  That was me gauging the seriousness of the tremor, as I think all of us here have learned to do.  After about 10 seconds of rocking (the house felt like it was rocking back and forth, south to north), it seemed to be intensifying, so I pushed out my chair and ducked under the table.  My back was to the south wall of the house, which, as the quake went on, I could feel thumping into my back.

I felt like I was on a boat, not in a house, and the shaking seemed to go on forever.  I’d left my laptop sitting on the table, and I tried to make a grab for it, but couldn’t get a good angle.

I heard something fall and smash in the living room.

The shaking subsided, and I grabbed my laptop and went to check the living room.  While doing so, a light shaking started, so I moved on to the genkan, put on my shoes and got out of the house, where I met up with my neighbours.

I had only been wearing a T-shirt when the quake hit, so it was a little cold, but I didn’t take the time to grab my jacket.

Q. Is that what you should do?  Run out into the street?

A. No, probably not.  But after riding the rough seas in my house, my instincts were screaming at me to get out.  However, I was probably more likely to get hurt by falling debris (ceramic roof tiles, etc.) out there than I was to be hurt under my kitchen table.  However, at this time, no one had any idea what was happening, and I didn’t trust my house not to come down around my ears.

Q. What did your neighbours think of the situation?

A. They’re all old Japanese men, so very hard to fluster.  We discovered quickly that power in the whole area was out.  I was actually the news source for the first 15 minutes or so.  I’d tethered my laptop to my phone and was able to check the news while everyone else was still looking for his battery-powered radio.  I felt inordinately proud to be the one to break the news that the quake was in the northeast and measured 8.9 [note: since upgraded to 9.0].

Q. Did you eventually go back into the house?

A. Eventually.  I had to: it was getting insanely windy.  But I rode out the second aftershock (biiiig one) on the steps outside my house, crouched down and chatting with a neighbour.  The aftershocks were reasonably strong and coming so frequently, that every time I went back into the house, I got scared out of it again.

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