The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Organizing a large-scale Japan-themed festival for 2008 The policies behind the Kennedy Center's international programs
Are there management training programs also that are part of the education programs?
Yes, Five years ago when Michael Kaiser came on board he created the Kennedy Center Fellows program that was initially called the Vilar Fellows, after a donor. It is a program for mid-career arts management professionals anywhere in the world to come and study at the Kennedy Center for a nine-month period. It is competitive and there is an application process that anyone interested must go through. We also have had an ongoing internship program for about 20 to 25 young people, who are in college or have recently graduated from college to come and work and learn at the Center for a four –month period. All are paid stipends for their participation in both of these programs.

What is the Kennedy Center Honors?
Our biggest production in the television realm is a program called the Kennedy Center Honors, which awards artists (generally at the end of their careers) for excellence in their work. This show is taped for later broadcast on CBS and usually airs around Christmas. The President attends and both the White House and the State Department host private events for Honorees and special guests of the Center each year.

I would like to ask you about the Japan program that you are going to have at the Kennedy Center in February of 2008. First of all, you chose the name “Japan! Culture + Hyper Culture.” What does the Hyper Culture term mean.
I have been producing international programs for many years now, traveling all over the world, and when I came to Japan several times to start preparing for this Japan festival I saw arts and artists that reflect the traditional culture, like Kabuki, Kyogen, Noh, Bunraku, and I also saw more contemporary work like Ninagawa’s theater production, Jo Kanamori’s choreography, or Strange Kinokos. But then I was introduced to a whole different world in Japanese arts like otaku (nerd culture), the robots, the use of art in technology such as the work of Maywa Denki or the laptop orchestra. This work to me went beyond anything else that I had seen in the world of arts. One day I was reading an article about Japanese design which they described as hyper design to define the ultra contemporary nature of the work. And I thought that this was the right word to describe this new work. So since the festival would feature a range of artists and mix of work I thought Japan! Culture and Hyperculture was a good title for it.

Why Robots as part of the festival?
No one in the world is making robots, not at the level and for the purpose that they are being made in Japan. In Washington we had the Toyota Partner Robot, (the trumpet-playing robot) to help announce our new season at a press event last March in Washington. Some people didn’t realize that it was actually playing the song “What a Wonderful World.” But it was! Robots are astonishing and extraordinary, and I think they are a way to the future. At first I was puzzled why Toyota and Honda and other car manufacturers’ in Japan would be making robots. But I went to the Toyota museum where I first saw the robot and learned the history of Toyota and Mr. Toyoda’s avid concern about humanity as well as commerce; he really wanted to provide what the Japanese needed first and then the world. So, first he was in the textile business to be able to clothe a nation and then he started making cars after the war as he saw that Japan needed them for self-reliance—and good ones. That outlook has prevailed in the company as they look to this millennium and its needs. When calculating the changing demographics of Japan and the aging of society, for example, it is obvious that something has to be done to prepare for it; there will not be enough younger people to care for the aging. So, maybe a robot that can help older people or the sick will be very important. It is the way of thinking about humanity and commerce combined I think that makes this company’s approach unique. Clearly, they have inspired others and further, that they are making robots that play good music is astounding,

I was impressed when I saw the schedule of programs you selected for next year’s Japan festival. It looks like you tried to reflect the full diversity of Japanese culture.
Yes, and it is because I have never seen a culture so diverse as that of Japan. Japan’s ancient culture is rooted in Chinese culture and its modern traditions include Japanese and western influences. So when I created the program, I tried to reflect the diversity of Japanese arts and culture including work that I feel best tells the story of Japan.

You have had several programs on Japan in the past at the Kennedy Center.
We have had a long relationship with Japan. We have a Japanese Endowment that was created in 1989 to support Japanese arts at the Kennedy Center. What we have done is to create an annual program called the “Arts of Japan” to present Japanese artists. These programs are usually presented in conjunction with the cherry blossom celebration in Washington in the spring. This year we presented a work titled AOI/KOMACHI that was created at the Setagaya Public Theater and was also being toured by the Japan Society in New York City.
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