The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Artist Interview
Giving expression to dissected texts  The new possibilities of compositional theater pioneered by Motoi Miura
Giving expression to dissected texts  The new possibilities of compositional theater pioneered by Motoi Miura
Chiten
A Summer’s Day
(Written by Jon Fosse)

(2004 at Fujimi Culture Hall “Kirari Fujimi”)
A Summer’s Day
Photo: Tsukasa Aoki

Chiten
The Name
(Written by Jon Fosse)

(2004 at Fujimi Culture Hall “Kirari Fujimi”)
The Name
Photo: Tsukasa Aoki
In the Seinendan company’s directing department did you serve as a director’s assistant for Hirata-san?
I was not a director’s assistant in the usual sense. Hirata-san is the kind of person who says, “I don’t need a director’s assistant. My computer is my director’s assistant.” (Laughs) He does everything by himself, and he doesn’t need anyone to make tea for him. What Hirata-san wants of you is that you work to become independent and self-sufficient. He says if you want to be the director, go out and convince the actors yourself. He tells you to write a proposal and then make presentations and do workshops to convince people how interesting it is. So, within that type of environment, I was just quietly watching him direct rehearsals. And watching him direct, I came to realize what his next instructions would be and how he would direct the actors. Boken oh (King of Adventure) is another Hirata work I love, and when I was watching him in rehearsals for that play I came to understand the mechanism for putting a work together. After that, I felt confident that I was ready to direct. That is how systematic his directing method took shape in my mind, and after that it became even more fascinating to watch him direct rehearsals. Of course, Hirata-san is also human, so when there is something especially important that he wants to come out in the actor’s lines, he can be very demanding, and I learned a lot from the way he got the actors to deliver their lines at times like that.
 If I were asked if Hirata-san has influenced my directing style, I would say that I don’t think he has not influenced me in specific ways. I still think often about Shinozaki-san’s talk about dramatic pause, but I believe that what I really learned from Hirata-san is how to become independent and how to put together a working group.

From 1999 you spent two years on an Agency for Cultural Affairs research grant working with directors in France at places like the Théâtre Gérard Philipe Centre Dramatique National in Paris. What led to your going to France?
In my first year of the major course at Toho Gakuen, I went along on a study trip to Russia and visited places like the Moscow Arts Theatre student training center and Chekov’s home. The next year I went to the RADA in London and the West End and got some exposure to film acting. I also went to see the Julliard School in New York. We also stopped in Paris, but for just three days. At that time I didn’t speak much English and I couldn’t get much out of that time. But I got the sense that there were a great variety of theatre arts to be found in Paris. So, I decided that if I could get a government grant to study abroad it would be in Paris.
 I was lucky that when I entered Seinendan there was a Seinendan International Exchange Program recently begun and one of the projects was producing a French translation of Tokyo Notes. In connection with that project the French director Frederic Fisbach came to Japan and did a small play at Seinendan, for which I was able to take part as director’s assistant. That play was Nous, les héros by Jean-Luc Lagarce. Those kinds of specific connections led me to feel that I had to go to Paris.

What about your French?
I took an intensive course in French at the Athenee Francais school in Tokyo.

What were your two years in France like?
First, I went to work in the theater as director’s assistant to Frederic on the French-language production of Tokyo Notes. After that I went to the theater of a progressive director Stanislas Nordey that Frederic introduced me to. It was highly experimental, cutting-edge theater they were doing, but due to financial difficulties it had to shut down. So, unfortunately, I was only able to experience one production there with Stanislas. Also, I was able to be involved in almost all of the new works done at the Brest (Le Quartz) in Brittany where Frederic was the senior director. In addition to working in the rehearsal studio, I was able to study theater management there as well.
 After coming back from Paris, I did the production Chiten 2 – Dansho, Suzue Toshiro. I have often been told that my directing style changed drastically with that play. I tried a style where you walk slowly and deliver your lines slowly and generally do as you please, but it didn’t turn out to be very interesting (laughs). Looking back, I realize it turned out that way because of the strong influence of Claude Regy. Regy is a director who places great importance on the French language in the way he has his actors deliver their lines, and although his works are contemporary theater, the movement of the actors is slow like Japanese Noh theater.
 At the time, Regy was already in his late 70s but still active, and his production of Jon Fosse’s Someone Is Going To Come was truly wonderful. His stages simply involve delivering the lines slowly and there is no cutting of the text, so a performance of a play like Someone Is Going To Come takes about three hours altogether. It is a type of directing that succeeds sometimes and clearly doesn’t succeed other times, but I liked it.
 I also watched Peter Brook’s production of Hamlet. I didn’t think I would like it much, but when you actually watch it and see how the so-called “empty space” works and how it is enough to just lay out a carpet and have the actors standing there. They stand there and recite Shakespeare. I realized, “So, this is it. This is how the lines can be set down. Set down and delivered as narrative.” In Japan, people are always striving for realism in acting, but that experience made me realize that theater is in fact a form of speech-giving.
 I also found Comedy Francaise interesting. The French today look down on it and no one goes to see it but Molière theater is actually quite impressive. The actors are highly skilled and deliver their stories with great expertise. Of course it is old in style and orthodox but it erased my aversion to classical theater in one fell swoop and got me reading the drama classics once again.

Could you tell us in some more detail what it was that interested you about Regy?
Just by having the actors deliver their lines slowly, makes the listener hear the words in their pure and inherent form. For example, Someone Is Going To Come in French is Quelqu’un va venir, but under Regy’s direction it is stretched out at a very slow tempo to become Quelqu—’un va venir—. You might think that would just make it long and heavy and sleep-inducing, but when it works, you hear the words in all their fullness and the expressive meaning they hold. It creates a presence where the actors almost sound as if they are praying.
 I have only seen it in video but in Shogo Ohta’s “silent theater” work Mizu no Eki (Water Station) the slow pace of motion creates the impression that each and every bit of motion represents a precious and irreplaceable moment in time. There is a feeling of fertile richness that makes you forget the passage of time. Watching Regy’s Someone Is Going To Come made me feel like I was watching a verbalized version of Mizu no Eki. There tends to be a sharp division between those who like it and those who don’t like Regy’s directing. I thought that that kind of work should not be disregarded.

Is the importance you place on verbal delivery in your directing an influence from Regy?
I think that influence is considerable, but that is not the entirety. In fact, the learning method employed in the intensive French course I took at the Athenee Francais school was extremely new and interesting to me. You use a hand mirror [to watch your own mouth] as you practice “a” “b” “c” “d” … to correct your pronunciation thoroughly, to the point that you are actually drooling and need a handkerchief in the other hand. You begin with the pronunciation of the alphabet to learn the sounds that French is constructed from and also all the other aspects, using both linguistic and scientific analysis. That corrective approach language instruction was very interesting to me. The concept of diction proved to me to be a theatrical experience.
 
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