The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Seigo Hatasawa
Seigo Hatasawa
Born in Akita Prefecture, Hatasawa started out as an actor and has specialized as a playwright and director since 2000. In 2005 Ore no kabane o koete ike (Over My Dead Body) won the top prize in the short drama competition at the Japan Playwrights Association Congress 2005 in Kumamoto. In the same year, Hatasawa formed the theater production collective Watanabe Genshiro Shoten, based in Aomori, which later became a theater company in 2008. He is also involved in training local people in theater and is working to establish a new art network throughout Japan. With their blend of deep human insight and a unique sense of humor, Hatasawa’s plays have been endorsed by a wide range of companies including Subaru and Seinen Gekijo. He also writes for other theater companies. In addition, he is a high school teacher and supervises the school drama club, which frequently participates in national high school drama competitions, which it won in 2005 for Shugaku ryoko (School Trip). Hatasawa has won the top prize at the National Arts Festival for his radio dramas, as well as other major awards in broadcasting.

Watanabe Genshiro Shoten

Upcoming production:
Minira on March 27
9th production of Watanabe Genshiro Shoten

Written and directed by Seigo Hatasawa
Apr. 19-26, 2009, Atelier Green Park, Aomori
May. 2-6, 2009 The Suzunari, Tokyo
May. 23, 2009 Akita City Hall, Akita

Aomori Chuo High School drama club
Shugaku Ryoko (School trip), first edition

(Oct. 2004, Hachinohe Kokaido hall)
Photo: Masaru Nisizawa
Shugaku Ryoko

*High school theater
High school theater refers to the theater activities of the drama clubs in high schools and their equivalents throughout Japan. There is a National High School Theater Council confederated by drama club organizations in each prefecture and the administration is divided into eight blocks, consisting of Hokkaido, the Tokoku, Kanto, Chubu Nihon, Kinki and Chugoku regions and the islands of Shikoku and Kyushu. Each year a nationwide theater contest is held with twelve competing clubs that have won preliminary competitions at the prefectural and block levels. The winner of this contest is presented the National High School Theater Council Chairman’s Award.
an overview
Play of the Month
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
The theater world of Seigo Hatasawa, with its unique focus on “communities” and “schools”  
The theater world of Seigo Hatasawa, with its unique focus on “communities” and “schools”  
Seigo Hatasawa is the leader of the Watanabe Genshiro Shoten theater company based in Japan’s northern Aomori Prefecture. The plays he writes from his perspective as an active high school teacher have won a broad-based following, due to the insightful relevance with which he depicts the distortions that emerge in the relationships between parents, students and teachers, informed by his intimate knowledge of the actual workings of the world of education. This interview explores the theatrical roots of Hatasawa, who is active today not only in writing plays but also education through theater, personnel development training programs and creating a network of regional theater companies. In the process we also get a look at his vision of the future of regional theater.
(Interviewer: Kumiko Ohori)

You live in Aomori Pref. and are an art teacher in a prefectural high school. You also teach high school theater (*), write scenarios for radio drama and are the leader of the local theater company Watanabe Genshiro Shoten. Would you begin by telling us how you became involved in theater and the other broad-ranging creative activities you are involved in?
It was actually quite a silly thing that got me interested in theater. I am originally from Akita Prefecture. and I played basketball all through junior and senior high school. Basketball was my entire life. (laugh) I was good enough that I was even offered a scholarship from a university in Tokyo. But when I was in high school it was at the time when girl’s manga with a very high level of literary sophistication like Hi Izuru Tokorono Tenshi, Wata no Kuni Boshi (The Star of Cottonland) and Eroika yori Ai wo komete (From Eroika with Love) by the manga artists Ryoko Yamagishi, Yumiko Oshima and Yasuko Aoike. And I really got into those manga. I couldn’t go buy girls manga myself, of course, so I had the girl who was manager of our basketball team go and buy them for me (laughs).
 Meanwhile it was nearing the time for my college entrance exams, and since the Akita Prefectural High School I was going to was right next to Akita University and was almost like its affiliated high school, I eventually decided to enter the education department there.
 When I’d get tired of cramming for the entrance exams, I’d go to spend my time at the book store, and one of the things I discovered there was Suzue Miuchi’s manga Garasu no Kamen (Glass Mask). I read through the whole series of that manga, and reading the descriptions of the main character Maya Kitajima’s performances, I got the idea that I could do that myself (laughs). That’s when I decided that when I went to university I would join the drama club.

So “Glass Mask” was you point of departure (laughs). But wasn’t the drama club a lot different from what you imagined from the manga?
It was completely different. I entered Akita University in 1983 and I joined its Kitanokai drama club and became an actor, but the plays there were doing were very dark “Angura” (underground) style plays (laughs). But, I did find that theater was something that suited my nature.
 The first play I was in was Soh Kitamura’s Hogi Uta (Ode to Joy; a dialogue drama in which two traveling performers, Gesaku and Kiyoko, and a Christ-like figure named Yasuo (Yaso) talk about the approaching end of the world), and from that very first play just after the school year began, I was given the lead role of Yaso. With the heat of the spotlights and my nervous excitement, I was getting nose bleeds and such (laughs), but I also got a good taste of the rewards and enjoyment of acting.
 Being in good shape from years of playing basketball also proved helpful on the stage. With a strong back and set of legs, I could move well and nimbly on stage, and the strong voice I had developed from shouting and cheering in basketball games gave me a good stage voice from the very start. We would practice and rehearse long hours almost every day, from the time classes ended at 5:00 pm until about midnight.
 From my second year in university I began acting as a guest actor outside the university as well. It happened to be the year that Akita city began to sponsor its public musical series and there was a plan to do a production of Hisashi Inoue’s musical Juippiki no Neko (Eleven Cats). I got really absorbed in it, discovering what a great playwright Inoue was. That led me to read a lot of his plays.
 After that, our Kitanokai club did things like the plays of Juichiro Takeuchi, but the underclassmen coming into the club were not as serious and the rehearse-till-midnight atmosphere got lost somewhere. So a few of the leading members broke off and formed a new company that we called Mankindo. One of the members was a writer, so we began doing our own original plays.

Weren’t you thinking about writing plays yourself at that stage?
I did some directing, but that was still a time when I was thinking only of becoming an actor. At the time I was a member of two drama clubs in our university and a company named Theatre Le Faucon Bleu outside the university. I was also involved in an art seminar and making 8-milimeter parody films independently with members of that group. So, I was involved in a lot of creative events.

Despite all those activities, you became a school teacher after graduating. Didn’t you think of becoming an actor?
Maybe it is just that I’m indecisive, or tend to go with the flow (laughs). In the case of the teacher qualification exam, it wasn’t so much my own intention as much as it was the fact that I was in the education department and all the other students around me were preparing for the exam, and watching then I began to think that maybe I should be taking it too. It was a fact that on the one hand I was thinking of going to Tokyo and trying to make my way as an actor, but will I was trying to make up my mind the exam came around and I took it. I didn’t pass the second-level exam the first time around, but I did manage to get a job as a part time teacher in Akita city. So I taught for a year while also doing theater with the local theater company. Then I passed the second level exam the next year and got a job teaching at a middle school in Hiuchimachi (present Odate city). There I became the coach of the basketball club, and for the next three years I was immersed in basketball again.
 The fact is, my father, who passed away early at the age of 53, was also a teacher and a well-known basketball coach in Akita. There is even a basketball tournament named him, the “Hatasawa Shosaku Cup,” and everyone thought it was the picture of filial piety that his son should also be a middle school basketball coach.
 But somewhere in my third year of that I suddenly got a glimpse of the future. A middle school teacher’s job is a very busy one, with classes all day and then coaching after school until about 8:00 in the evening, then it was back to the office to finish up the paperwork. I wouldn’t get home until after 11:00 at night. Then I began thinking: Am I going to go on like this and end up like my father? Can I really give up acting? When I was asking myself this, what came to mind was the Hirosaki Theater.

Hirosaki Theater is a company that is active in Aomori Pref. Had you seen there performances when you were a student?
A friend who wrote for our Mankindo company was a fan of theirs and he had brought them in to perform at our university culture fairs twice or so. The Hirosaki Theater had only been active for about five years at that time, and I believe they had just begun to do original productions of their own. Unlike today, the Hirosaki Theater at that time had a very strong “Angura” (underground) orientation, and I remember there was always Beatles music playing at the end of their plays (laughs). Their main actor, then and now, Kenji Fukushi, was a very strong presence on stage, and I had the desire to be able to perform with him some day.
 I went to Hirosaki for that reason several times and I searched out their rehearsal studio. When I introduced myself, some of the people in the company remembered me from my acting in my college days. That was around February of 1991. After that I immediately asked to become a member of the company. Once I became a member, they had me doing lead roles in their studio performances right away, so I was able to make my theater comeback quite quickly. Until then I had been trying to decide whether to go to Tokyo and pursue an acting career or to make teaching my career, but after joining the company I realized that in Hirosaki I could do both.
 Half a year after joining the company, I married one of the company’s actresses and moved to Aomori, even though I was still teaching in Akita. It was a two-hour commute to work and two hours back, which was really tough (laughs). I tried hard to find a school to teach at in Aomori, but there wasn’t an opening until four years later and I finally got a job teaching at Aomori Prefectural Aomori Chuo High School (at the time a girls school) as an art teacher in 1995.
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