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Born: 1967
Function: stage director playwright
Company: Gring

Born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Aoki graduated in Drama and Theater Arts from Meiji University, and trained further at the institute affiliated with the Theatrical Group EN. He formed his own theater company, Gring, in 1997, and has written and directed all their productions ever since. He also writes for other groups, including EN, Bungakuza, and SIS Company, and has been nominated for various awards, including the 2005 Tsuruya Nanboku Drama Award for Kochi (East Wind) staged by EN, and the 2006 Kishida Drama Award for Baku no yurikago (The Tapir's Cradle). Using semi-public spaces as settings, such as the empty lot next to a cram school, a plaza in a zoo on the verge of bankruptcy, backstage at a strip joint, a barber's shop, or a school trip lodging facility, he carefully portrays the innermost feelings of the people who gather there with a unique ability to capture the way people live in today's society. Besides theater, he has also cowritten screenplays, such as Chugakusei nikki (Junior High Schooler Diary) for NHK and the 11th Pia Film Festival Scholarship film IKKA, as well as radio drama scripts.

Photo: Iida Kenki
Esuperanto—kyoshi-tachi no shugaku ryoko no yoru (Esperanto: A Night with the Teachers on the School Trip)
It is May, and the last night of the school trip. The setting is a space linking a run-down old inn near Lake Towada with its annex building. Here, the relationships between a group of teachers each with his/her own burdens and at odds with each other are played out. There is a discussion over the interpretation of a poem in Esperanto by Miyazawa Kenji, and a commotion when somebody appears to be drowning in the bath. Amidst all this, Mr. Hoshi, who—due to an unresolved inferiority complex caused by his mother’s infidelities—has been preraricating over his relationship with fellow teacher Takako, finally plucks up the courage to propose to her.

First staged: 2006
Acts/scenes: 1 act
Cast: 12 (7 male, 5 female)
First staged by: Bungakuza

Photo: Kagamida Nobuyuki
Hitogata (Hitogata—Doll)
A wake is being held for a woman whose son is a doll maker. As family and relatives come and go, the conflict between him and his own son comes to light. The son hates his father, who he holds responsible for the suicide of his younger brother. At the same time, he is ambivalent about his wife’s pregnancy since he fears that he too will be hated by his own son. A doll that his younger brother had treasured is found smashed, and as the son questions his father about it he realizes how much the father had really loved the younger brother and how he has never gotten over his death. Finally he is able to announce his impending fatherhood and to share his joy.

First staged: 2007
Acts/scenes: 1 act
Cast: 10 (5 male, 5 female)
First staged by: Gring