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Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
The adventurous world of Toshiki Okada, a playwright who write in
Toshiki Okada
Chelfitsch Mokutekichi (Destination)
(From the "Summer Festival 2005 of Biwako Hall")
Photo: Chiharu Nishioka
This may be an extension of that search for the rich body, but you are also involved in dance, aren’t you?
Actually it was initially the people in the dance world that took an interest in my plays. People in the theater world didn’t take an interest in my work until I won the Kishida Drama Award (laughs). Part of the reason is that the Yokohama ST Spot where I was originally active is an important center for the contemporary dance scene, and when I did a joint performance with the dancer Natsuko Tezuka, a lot of dance people came and took an interest in what I was doing. Then, as things developed, I eventually began taking part in dance festivals (laughs).

What were your dances “Cooler,” “Mansion” and “Tissue?”
Those are mindless names, aren’t they (laughs)? Although there is very little script to them, they are basically the same in nature as my plays. In my plays, the conversations themselves are really banal in their content but they connect to something else that’s larger. In the case of the dances they just remain banal. That’s the only difference (laughs). Another difference is that in the dances there is a little more stress on the movements that seem unrelated to the words. Since the dances are performed in larger halls the movement becomes more exaggerated.

Earlier you mentioned that you were influenced by Brecht. In your play Five Days in March that won the Kishida Award, the motif is the Iraq War. It seems that you have some thoughts about the deep relationship between reality and theater and the function of theater in the real world.
I think these questions that should be answered separately. First of all, let’s set the Iraq War aside and talk about theater’s role in the real world. I feel ill at ease with the idea that because theater takes place in the closed space of the hall, it can be treated as a world of fiction. Shall we say the lie of the “fourth wall.” In fact, the audience is there and the duration of the play is a time that is shared with the audience. Said in another way, I don’t think that theater comes apart if you remove that fourth wall.
As for the other question, I would like to say something about what I was thinking at the time of Five Days in March. I was thinking that I wanted to say something about war, for example I feel that committing ourselves to anti-war movements doesn’t seem to fit us. Still we do have some feelings. We have this attitude that involves concern with some degree of distance, but it is not that we are not concerned. That is the idea that I wanted to show, involving that distance. Some people see this as a work showing young people who have no concern at all about the war and are only interested in sex, but I personally think of this as a firm anti-war play.

Earlier you spoke about the richness of reality, but is there a division within you between the rich reality and the realities that you want to make a commitment to change?
There are realities that I want to change, and this may be a contradiction, but on the other hand I feel that there are people who are trying to make us feel that, “You guys are living an impoverished reality. There is a richer way of life.” I don’t want to become trapped in that kind of mentality. I am not saying the reality is happy or that life is rich, what I want to show through my plays when seen as theater is the rich potential of the individual people who are moving in the presence of complex factors and mechanisms surrounding them.

What is your new work Mokutekichi (Destination) like?
A young couple is living in a new housing block and the wife is pregnant. That is all that the story is really about (laughs). The reason I chose this as the subject is that I have a child and I want to explore the uncertainties and moral questions involved in giving birth to and raising children and whether it is even right to have children in times like these. Of course, since I know that it is impossible to answer these questions, I am not trying to give any answers. I just wanted to put the questions out there.

I hear that there is a plan to translate Five Days in March into French and publish it. If you have the opportunity for an overseas performance of your company Chelfitsch, how would you like to stage it?
The problem would be the language. Since there are no plans for such a performance, this is just a supposition, but rather than using subtitles or headset commentary, I would probably place an interpreter on stage as one of the actors. I think that kind of style would be viable with my works.
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