The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Go Aoki
Go Aoki
Born in 1967 in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Go Aoki graduated from the Literature department of Meiji University with a major in Drama. After being active with the “Theatrical group EN,” Aoki formed the theater company Gring in 1997. Since then, he writes and directs all the works for the company. Besides theater, he has co-written screenplays such as Chugakusei Nikki (Middle Schooler Diary) a (NHK screenplay) and IKKA (11th PFF Scholarship winner), and he also writes radio drama scripts.
Niji (Rainbow)
Niji (Rainbow)
Niji (Rainbow)
Niji (Rainbow)
13th Gring production Niji (Rainbow)
Dec. 20-24, 2006 at Kinokuniya Hall
Written and directed by Go Aoki
Photo: Nobuyuki Kagamida
an overview
Play of the Month
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Portraying the places where people with grudges come and go. The world of Go Aoki, a playwright shining light on the creases of the soul 
After getting his initial training with a New Theater company, Go Aoki started his own production unit “Gring” and has been active since as its writer and director. Choosing places like an empty lot next to a cram school, the square of a run-down zoo and the backstage changing room of a strip joint, he stages plays what portray with sensitive detail the creases in the souls of the people who gather there. In this interview we delve into Aoki’s playwriting craft and what it reveals about people’s lives in contemporary society.
(Interviewer: Hirofumi Okano)

You are a former member of the institute affiliated with the theater company “En.” Considering the fact that most companies in the small-theater scene tend to be made up of people from the same college theater groups, it seems a bit unusual that you belonged to a New Theater company like En.
Let me start from the beginning by saying that I began theater when I was in high school. However, since it was the drama club in a boy’s school, I was the only one who was really interested in doing theater, while the rest of the club members joined for less reputable motives, like the fact that the club room had a door that could be locked to keep them from being observed. Since it was a high school with an affiliated university I could have just gone on to that university, but since it wasn’t very active in theater, I decided that the best universities to go to for theater were probably Waseda and Meiji. I took the entrance exams and got into Meiji.
However, it turned out to be a time when the Meiji student drama club “Daisan Erotica” had just gone independent and most of the best actors had gone there, so we were left with a lack of good members. With nothing better to do I agreed at the suggestion of an upperclassman to join the film research club, but there were some people who wanted to do drama and they asked me to be one of the actors—the director at that time was Yuko Matsumoto, who is now active at Bungakuza—and I later wrote and directed a work with the people I met then.
That turned out to be such an amateurish production that I realized the limits of working only with people of my same age and that led me to decide to join a theater company with people of all ages and learn from the beginning how plays are created. So, I took the exam to enter the company in my junior year of college.

Was En the only company (which has an affiliated institute) you took an entrance exam for?
In fact I also took the exam for the “Ninagawa Studio” group for young actors started by the director Yukio Ninagawa, but I wasn’t accepted. I was so nervous at that exam that I couldn’t remember any of the lines when we were given a script of a lay at random and asked to act it out in our own way. I was desperately trying to remember the lines and I ended up acting it out so slowly that Ninagawa told me, “It you act that slowly the audience will go to sleep, stupid. You can leave” (laughs).
Thanks to that experience, I went into the entrance exam for En institute thinking that I could never be as nervous as I was that time with the Ninagawa Studio exam, so I ended up not being nervous at all, and everything went well.

Why did you choose En?
Because it was a company with a variety of different types of directors doing completely different kinds of productions. It just happened that during the year I was thinking about taking the exam to enter a company En was doing works by the popular small-theater writer Kohei Tsuka and the silent theater of Shogo Ota and Shakespeare and Racine. So I thought, if they are doing such a wild mix there must be someplace that I could fit in.
I had no wish at the time to enter one of the existing small theater groups. They have a unique style in which the company is led by a playwright who also does the directing. So, I thought that if I got into one of those groups and said I wanted to write and direct too, they probably wouldn’t let me.

I believe that the New Theater companies are organizations for professional theater people with literature departments and acting departments. What kinds of things do they teach you there?
I don’t know about the other companies, but En’s institute didn’t have specific curriculum or things that we were taught. During our first six months the actors did do voice training and other things together, but after that we went right into doing things like serving as assistants for the stage directors in actual productions and helped making the sets and props. Since I was also on the staff for productions put on by the people in the company’s training course, I would be making sets, helping out at the rehearsals, make more sets, and then going out drinking afterwards with my colleagues maybe until 3:00 in the morning. After that I would have to get up at 7:30 to open the studio for the trainees doing independent studies. So, I was basically living at the studio (laughs).
Because of that situation I had to teach myself about playwriting and directing. However, there was one director who was very knowledgeable about Chekhov named Takashi Sakuma who taught me a lot. For example, I am still aided by today by one bit of advice he gave me. That was to always think about what the characters who aren’t on stage at the moment are doing while they are not on stage.

If there is no training system for new directors at a professional theater companies like En, how are Japan’s directors educated in their craft?
That is definitely a problem, I believe. Since they aren’t taught, it simply becomes a case of having people emerging who get the idea by themselves that something is new and interesting and it turns out to be new and interesting for other people as well. Because, in some cases, it just happens that something is right in sync with the social trends of the time and it becomes a hit for that reason alone.

How did you come to start your company Gring?
From the beginning I wanted to do writing and directing, but in my second year with En’s institute I switched to the actors department with the aim of becoming an actor. When I failed the qualifying to remain in the company at the end of my fourth year, I still wanted very much to be an actor, but now without a place to work, for a while I ended up accepting acting parts here and there, wherever I was asked.
But, since I had originally intended to be a writer and director, wherever I worked I was always acting like a director and saying things I had no real right to say. I would do things like tell the direct, “That movement isn’t right.” (Laughs) I was the type of actor that I know I would never want to work with from the beginning if I were a director. (Laughs) Eventually nobody offered me parts anymore, and people told me, “If you are so full of opinions, you should be running your own company.” So, I decided to take their advice and I rented a studio. I was already 30 by that time.

Did you rent the studio before you started Gring?
That’s right. Because Gring started out as a self-produced style of company where I would contact my former colleagues from En and get people who were free in terms of scheduling to work with me on a production. I had no money at the time and I had to work part-time as a cram-school teacher to just manage to get enough money together to stage our first three productions. The audience response wasn’t bad and so I proposed to our people that if we were going to continue doing production we should all pitch in and get together the capital to pay for them. That is the style we still use today.
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