|PARC - Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication, is an NPO that works along with the Japan Foundation and other organizations on the organizing committee and serves as the administrative office for the TPAM in Yokohama 2014 (held this year from February 8 to 16), the annual performing arts market gathering professionals in the performing arts field from around the world. PARC was conceived as a non-profit organization for promoting international exchange in the performing arts by Tadao Nakane, the producer for director Yukio Ninagawa for 20 years and the man responsible for the success of Ninagawa’s first overseas production of Medea in 1983. PARC was launched in the wake of the Meeting for Pacific Basin Arts Communication organized by Nakane in Tokyo in 1990, and as an organization it received NPO status in 2002. In addition to holding informative seminars about international exchange in the performing arts, PARC was instrumental in planning the first TPAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Market) in 1995 in conjunction with the Tokyo International Performing Arts Festival (TIF). Through the various changes of the times, PARC has continued to serve as the primary administrative office functioning as the outlet and point of contact for international exchange. Now 30 years after the first overseas production of Medea, we speak with PARC’s President, Hiromi Maruoka, about its history as an organizer of international performing arts exchange in Japan and the present status of TPAM (now the Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama) with its transition from an arts “market” to a “meeting.”
Interviewers: Matsue Okazaki and Eiko Tsuboike
Would you begin by telling us about PARC (Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication) the organization and its origins?
PARC was established in December of 1990 with the aim of contributing to international exchange in the performing arts. At the time it was a private organization, but it became certified as a non-profit organization (NPO) in 2002. In November of 2002, our organization had served as the organizing secretariat of the Meeting for Pacific Basin Arts Communication, which is why our official English name is PARC - Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication. Today, people often tell us that they don’t understand the meaning of the name, but at the time there was a plan to create a Pacific basin arts market and PARC was positioned as its Japan Center.
Our main programs today are planning and organizing of TPAM (Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama)
, which was originally launched in 1995 as the Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM), Sound Live Tokyo, a program of the Tokyo Municipality in the form of a festival that explores the possibilities of sound and music launched in 2012. Since 1990, we have also been editing and publishing the “Performing Arts Exchange Yearbook” on commission from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.
In terms of size, our organization has a full-time staff of five, including myself, and that is increased to about ten each year at the time of TPAM. Our annual budget varies each year but it is in the range of 80 million yen.
PARC’s founder, Tadao Nakane, was a famous producer of the Toho Co. Ltd., a film and theater production company and the first to bring Yukio Ninagawa into the mainstream commercial theater industry from his former position as an underground theater director. He was also the man credited with pioneering the Japanese performing arts world’s first full-fledged ventures in the international market beginning with the overseas production of [Ninagawa’s] Medea in 1983, at a time when classical theater productions were the mainstream in Japan, along with some contemporary works, and there was an excess of imported production in the performing arts scene here. What was Nakane’s intention when he started PARC?
I didn’t join the staff of PARC until 1998, so I’m not completely familiar with that time, but I have been told that when Nakane planned the Medea
production for overseas there was no such scheme for that kind of activity at Toho, so he had to do it as a special project. Then a few years later Nakane personally created a new production company named Point Tokyo, Co., Ltd. to concentrate mainly on productions for overseas performances. I hear that, during that process, when he participated in the performing arts market held at Paris’ Jardin du Champ de Mars, he got the idea of creating an NPO in Japan to organize international exchanges in the performing arts.
To create such an organization he called on representatives in the performing arts from the countries of the Pacific rim to gather for what would become the “Meeting for Pacific Basin Arts Communication.” It turned out to be a very large conference gathering a very influential group of representatives from East and Southeast Asia, Australia, the U.S. and other countries of the Pacific basin. The participants from Japan included the late Chairman of the Shochiku film/theater company, Mr. Takeomi Nagayama, representatives from organizations like the Japan Foundation, Mr. Mitsuo Tamura (current board member of PARC), Mr. Hiroshi Takahagi (current vice director at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre), Ms. Maimi Sato (currently producer at the Sainokuni Saitama Arts Theater) and Ms. Miyako Kanamori (current HoriPro Inc. Senior Managing Director). From overseas the representatives included such distinguished figures as Mr. Wu Jing-jyi, who is known as the father of modern Taiwanese theater, Liew Chin Choy of Singapore, Jerry Yoshitomi of the Los Angeles Japanese American Culture Center and others. Board members were selected from among the participants and Chairman Nagayama was chosen as president of the conference, while Nakane took the position of administrative office director and carried through with the founding of PARC.
At first, PARC was mainly engaged in planning and organizing seminars and conferences while cooperating with local governments and arts/culture organizations in the holding of “Performing Arts Exchange Seminars” around the country. In 1993 PARC organized a “World Arts Festival Summit” inviting representatives from many of the world’s leading festivals. Working in collaboration with the Japan Foundation and other organizations, the Summit invited representatives from such influential festivals as Montreal’s Theater Festival of the Americas (Festival de théâtre des Amériques; current Festival TransAmériques
), the Avignon Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Adelaide Festival and others, and this was at a time when there was no opportunity for all of them to meet at one place and time.
In 1988, the Tokyo International Theater Festival ’88 Ikebukuro had been started as a biennial festival in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, but due to a number of circumstances, PARC took over the responsibilities of administrative office for the festival and the name was changed to Tokyo International Arts Festival (TIF) in 1995, and using the Champs de Mars arts market as a model, we were finally able to start a market event of our own in Tokyo that was given the name TPAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Market) in conjunction with the TIF festival.
We would like to look back for a minute to clarify some things. The Tokyo International Theater Festival was begun as an initiative of private-sector corporations based in the Ikebukuro district, including the Seibu Department Store group and the Tobu Department Store, both of which were strongly involved in culture programds at the time. After the collapse of Japan’s “Economic bubble” caused difficult times, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government stepped in to provide large-scale financial support from 1995 and the festival underwent a renewal as TIF. The organization that took over the festival’s organizational and administrative responsibilities at that time was PARC. After that, the difficulties involved in keeping the festival afloat led to a shift of the organizational and administrative duties to the NPO Art Network Japan in 2000 and its evolution into today’s Festival/Tokyo (F/T). In the meantime, PARC continued the responsibilities of running TPAM on an annual basis (with one break in 1997), and amid various changes, that work has continued for you until the present, which means a span of some two decades now. In the beginning, was there some special reason or meaning for starting an arts market in conjunction with TIF in 1995?
In the way of international performing arts exchange at the time, we had a few companies like Shinjuku Ryozanpaku and Daisan Erotica participating in theater festivals in Germany and Eastern Europe. However, factors like the fact that festivals in the German-speaking countries only presented plays in German, I believe it was a difficult era to cross borders for performances in foreign countries with works that were outside their cultural context. Within that environment, we wanted to promote Japanese contemporary performing arts abroad, so the issue was how we could do that. Nakane’s base was in the commercial theater world, but he also had connections with members of the board of PARC, so he knew the emerging underground theater of the time and the younger companies. So, while TIF was presenting the work of the next-generation small-theater companies like Rinkogun Theater Company, Shinjuku Ryozanpaku, Daisan Erotica and Gekidan Kaitaisha, the first TPAM arts market was organized to bring presenters together [so see them].
What was the first TPAM like?
It was an arts market where the exhibitors paid a fee to put up booths to exhibit their works ad presenters paid a participation fee to come and make the rounds seeing the booths. It tried to cover all the genres of Japanese performing arts, including Rakugo
comedians and the traditional performing arts. There were also seminars with famous television personalities as guests, and it all took place over two days at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Plaza.
At the time, I was working on production at Gekidan Kaitaisha and I participated in both the 1995 TPAM and the TIF festival. I had been active in my university’s drama club and I participated in the Toga Festival as a member of Kaitaisha and had begun to become seriously involved on a full-time basis. Also, from 1992 I had been helping out at PARC as a part-timer.
It was just around that time that Kaitaisha was looking for an additional field of activities overseas, but if you wanted to perform abroad at the time, the only way was by getting an introduction to a festival or a theater through someone’s connections and making the approach. And, if the director in charge didn’t happen to take an interest in us, the door would be closed.
However, when we put up a booth at TPAM we got an invitation from the Eurokaz Festival and were able to make a performance tour of three cities in Croatia. On that tour the response of the audience and the producers was very direct and it became a turning point for the company. After that, we began to get invitations to perform abroad one after another. From that experience I personally realized that participating in TPAM and getting the opportunity to talk directly to overseas presenters was the most effective way to get overseas performances. But at the time, TPAM covered such a wide range of genres that the vast majority of participating companies got no positive effect from it.
At the time there was only one computer in the office and use of the internet hadn’t spread much, so it was very difficult to get an image of who to connect to and how to go about it. But, if you put up a booth at TPAM there would be presenters from all over the world and all around Japan there, so you could sell performances. And, I believe there was a feeling that if your work didn’t sell at TPAM it was due to the lack of strength of your company’s work.
The next year (1996), the Tokyo International Forum was provided as a new venue that enabled TPAM to be held independent of TIF, and until 2002 that is how it continued to be held. For the 1996 TPAM (held in February of ’97), the number of booths reached a new high, with approximately 400 companies and organizations exhibiting, and from overseas we invited Frie Leysen
and the legendary artistic director of the Adelaide Festival, Robyn Archer and others and we held a variety of seminars. At that time our group of sponsors included the Japan Foundation, the Japan Foundation for Regional Art Activities, The Association of Public Theaters and Halls in Japan and the GEIDANKYO (Japan Council of Performers’ Rights & Performing Arts Organizations), but due to the differing missions of these organizations, it was a system that would not last for long.
By the way, I had quit my activities with the theater company (Kaitaisha) in 1997 and the following year I became a full-time staff member at PARC. However, there were only two of us on the operations staff, so I took on the jobs of accounting, publicity and serving as the liaison for the exhibitor organizations. My desire was to get more groups who were interested in performing abroad to take advantage of the TPAM opportunity, but I was in a position where it was all I could do just to keep up with the work at hand.
Looking back now, what do you think of that period?
As I think about it from today’s perspective, in the period from 1995 to 2002, I feel TPAM was in a stage where it was putting the necessary infrastructure in place. I myself knew very little about how arts markets around the world were being run, and was just going about my work in somewhat of a cloud. We also had difficulties with funding. However, from around the year 2000, I was beginning to go abroad to study other arts markets and realizing that we weren’t yet doing a lot of the things that were taken for granted as essential parts of arts markets abroad.
What markets did you go to see, and what were some of the specific discoveries you made there?
I went to arts markets like New York’s APAP, Montreal’s CINARS
, the Adelaide’s Australia Performing Arts Market, Singapore’s Asian Arts Mart (AAM) and others. In all of them the showcases were under a thorough direction system, and they all made many opportunities for communication. Besides the seminars, there were breakfast meetings, luncheons, receptions and so many other opportunities to meet and talk with people. At night the participant would drink together and talk often until morning, so these markets were operating in a way that every possible opportunity was made for the participants to meet each other. Also, I found that they used part of their budget to cover the costs of the presenters they invited to attend.
The attitude of people involved in Japan’s performing arts scene at the time, myself included, was a passive one, with the idea that if you simply concentrated on creation of good works, you would eventually be picked up. But, if you are going to work well with someone and create something good, you first of all have to know the persons you are working with. To be called a real creator or producer, you have to now what the other person wants and what you can do to respond to that need. So, I thought that we should make TPAM the kind of platform where the people who will be working together can get to know each other.
You left PARC to go for a year of study in New York on a grant from Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Overseas Study Program from 2003. After returning to Japan you took the job of director of TPAM from 2005.
I had a desire to see what New York artists were doing after 9.11. After staying there for a year, I came to feel that it was natural to be among people who had a different cultural context from yours, and I also became inspired by the new forms of expression I found there involving sound and music. Since I had the experience of producing the Postmainstream Performing Arts Festival at PARC in 2003, I thought that I wanted to be a producer to invite international presenters to participate in TPAM after returning to Japan. But, when Nakane asked me if I would take the job the TPAM office manager, I say that if I were to take the job I wanted it to be as director.
Usually, an arts market will have a chief officer or an organizer, but they don’t have directors. However, since TPAM had an organizing committee made up of a number of organizations, I thought that it needed a directorship in order to ensure that there it was run with a clear direction to its objective and programs.
When you became the director you changed the name from Arts Market to the Tokyo Performing Arts Market and created the policy that emphasized “building a network for professionals involved in contemporary performing arts.” What kinds of changes did you make?
I changed the focus to contemporary performing arts. Because there were other markets for commercial theater and the traditional arts, but with regard to the non-commercial performing arts, despite the international demand for them as forms of contemporary expression, there was no system of support for them and no system of exchanges. Even in Japan, there were only a limited number of theaters that were receptive to that kind of [contemporary] artistic expression.
Also, I wanted to make a clear appeal for TPAM as a completely bilingual event in Japanese and English and an event aimed at the presenters (the people who connect the art and the audience). Furthermore, we increased the number of opportunities for people to talk directly with each other, such as lunch meetings and receptions. To make it clear what kinds of artist you would be able to see and meet if you came to TPAM, I also introduced a director system for all of the showcases.
At the same time, I made efforts to raise TPAM’s presence at overseas performing arts markets. We put up TPAM booths at APAP, CINARS and other markets, and in cooperation with overseas arts/culture agencies like the British Council
and the Quebec provincial government and the Japan Foundation, we acted as go-between in sending Japanese presenters abroad and we also held seminars overseas introducing Japanese performing arts.
In the process, the word “Network” gradually emerged clearly as a key work in our activities. If you are going to be an international event for professionals who work as arts presenters, it is meaningless if you can’t give them some form of, some degree of a network to plug into. So I thought it was important for us to strengthen our connections with overseas presenter networking conferences. That is what led to my encounter with IETM (International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts). I participated in the 2008 IETM Asian conference and found it to be quite an informal meting where you could talk quite frankly, and it made me think that this might be something that TPAM could do too. I was very inspired by the ideas about networks of the administrative director at the time, Mary-Ann DeVlieg
, and the way the conference was designed to help the professsionals deepen their understanding and thoughts about contemporary performing arts by talking with each other. Then, as a way to promote the shift in TPAM toward a networking forum, we held an IETM satellite meeting the same year.
At that time, was the international trend in performing arts markets already moving toward networking?
I believe that it was already headed in that direction. Everyone was thinking that rather than just going to see showcases and selecting works to invite, like going shopping, we could do better work in the long run by meeting people and looking for ones we wanted to work with. Everyone had gotten sick of just buying works they saw at arts markets or inviting works that had received some degree of critical acclaim from professionals at festivals.
I came to think that TPAM wouldn’t be performing the role it should if we couldn’t offer things that people hadn’t seen before or provide places where new value might be created going forward. I thought that TPAM’s role as a platform should be a place where the world’s presenters can meet and talk frankly, and a place they can go to before going to the theater and encounter a variety of new things, even if it turns out be a mix that includes both good and mediocre works. I also thought that I wanted it to be a platform where people could come and, as professionals, find things with potential to develop.
In 2011, you moved the TPAM venues from Tokyo to Yokohama and you changed the name from “Market” to “Meeting.” You also adopted a showcase system that emphasizes direction by young directors.
Until then we had been moved around a number of times due to the agendas of the venue facilities, and then we got an offer from the Kanagawa Arts Theatre promising us a venue for several years in Yokohama. And since Yokohama as a city has been investing a lot in its “Creative City Yokohama” program, we decided to take the leap and move to Yokohama. Currently, our organizing committee consists of the Japan Foundation, the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, the Yokohama Arts Foundation and PARC.
Under its Creative City Yokohama program, the city had created a “Creative Core Area” with several arts centers within walking distance of each other. And one of the benefits we have enjoyed since moving to Yokohama is this increased ease of access. We have also increased the length of TPAM to nine days.
In terms of programming, we no longer feel much meaning in making an effort to present a showcase with a digest type program, so we have increased the number of works on our “TPAM Showcase” program of full-length performances. At the same time, we have launched our “TPAM Direction” program that enlists a number of young producers as directors in an effort to show our desire at the TPAM office to indicate emerging directions in the performing arts. Presently, I have personally been choosing the directors and asking them to be conscious of the fact that their choices will be seen by people who don’t understand Japanese or the Japanese cultural contexts and to be conscious of our desire to do things that can only be done at TPAM.
Since its start in 1995, TPAM has been successfully serving as an access point for overseas presenters for almost 20 years, through good times and difficult ones. Over the years we imagine that numerous connections have been made. Could you tell us about some of the accumulated results?
Each year, about 150 presenters from Japan and abroad attend TPAM and we now have a list of over 6,000 presenters that we know of. Almost all of the presenters in Japan who are interested in overseas connections attend and they are connected to overseas networks. We also have strengthened our connections not only with organizations like IETM, CINARS, the Edinburgh Showcase and leading European festivals (Wiener Festwochen, Kunsten Festival des Arts
, Theater der Welt, Zürcher Theater Spektakel
, etc.), as well as keeping close contact with emerging networks in Asia such as those of the Indonesia Dance Festival, Seoul’s PAMS and the new arts complex in Gwangju, S. Korea. At TPAM this year we have gotten new participants from Australia through the Australia Arts Council network, and we plan to introduce the IETM Asian Conference to be held in Melbourne. Today, TPAM has a much larger overseas presence and there are almost no performing arts professionals who don’t know about us.
Lately, there are new projects being developed as a result of encounters at TPAM. For example, the site-responsive performance work ONE DAY, MAYBE
that was performed in Gwangju in S. Korea and Kochi and Kanazawa in Japan in 2013 was a product of a tree-country collaborative project between dreamthinkspeak (UK), the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Japan) and the S. Korea’s Asia Now program.
Last year (2013) saw the birth of the new organization ON-PAM (Open Network for Performing Arts Management) that you serve as vice-president for. Presently ON-PAM has a membership of about 150 public- and private-sector theaters and production companies around Japan, and free-lance producers, etc. Would you tell us about how it came to be created, its aims and its connection to TPAM?
I think of networks in terms of three types: project consortiums, associations and open networks. Project consortiums are put together for purposes such as collaboration on the touring of a specific production, etc., an association is an organization with a hierarchy that works together to protect their own interests, while the image of an open network is one that anyone can join or leave freely, has a large portal and has numerous sub-networks.
ON-PAM is a group that came together with the purpose of exchanging information and doing study on questions like why we are engaged in this profession and reaching ideas and principles that we can turn into policy proposals, and one of its unique aspects is that we hold meetings in each region. I learned about the concept of open networks at the 2008 IETM conference and thought it would be good if we could create one [in Japan] someday. After experiencing the devastation of 3.11 (March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami), everyone was in the mood to make a platform for discussion, and with support from the Saison Foundation
, we created ON-PAM. I am hoping the TPAM can become one of its base supporters.
Finally, we would like to ask you what recent trends and issues you see with your perspective of having worked on the performing arts international exchange scene for so many years.
One of the big issues now being dealt with by festivals in Europe and North America is how to get young people to come to the theaters. The audience is getting older and most of the volunteers working at the festivals are getting older too. In light of this, Japanese contemporary works are being sited for their power in bringing young people to the theaters.
In 2010, the Japanese company FaiFai won the ZKB Patronage Prize at the Zürcher Theater Spektakel
I was on the jury for that prize and among the young jurors was one who said, “They are me. I feel the same depths of hopelessness and despair.” And they also have refined aesthetics and sense that we haven’t seen before. That is why works like that from companies like chelfitsch are being invited to those festivals. What’s more, an increasing number of works that go out into the town and to play out storied or install devices are also being invited to the festivals. I believe that both of these trends are evidence of the fact that how to rejuvenate the aging media of performing arts is an important theme in Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, in Asia it is exactly the opposite; the towns are very young. For example, the average age of the population of Indonesia is about 28. But, these young people don’t have the money to go to the theater. So, thinking in terms of Asian networks, a very important theme is what kind of artistic expression is necessary in the context of this frustrated young generation. Until now, things like “Mahabharat” that use uniquely Asian qualities and individuality and apply it in influential ways in the global context may have won approval, but when you actually travel around Asian cities you find that people are seeking something else.
What is needed are networks that support more unique local sensibilities and enable overlapping exchange between different local arts and cultures. The idea isn’t to invite works that have won praise in Europe. We want to get to know them because of the longing they have for the individualism, the democracy and the freedom that they haven’t gotten yet, and that is why we want to have exchanges with them. And, I believe that how to respond to this will become one of the big issues and both TPAM and ON-PAM.