The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
Norimizu Ameya, an artist who directs stages with a strong degree of reality
Norimizu Ameya, an artist who directs stages with a strong degree of reality
Festival/Tokyo 09 Autumn Program
4.48 Psychosis

(Nov. 16 – 23, 2009 at Owlspot Theater)
Written by Sarah Kane
Directed by Norimizu Ameya
4.48 Psychosis
4.48 Psychosis
4.48 Psychosis
4.48 Psychosis
Photo: Jun Ishikawa
But along with your close-to-nature way of thinking you also have a knack for using the latest technologies as well. Hearing about how you use YouTube earlier, it suggests that you are a real child of the contemporary world as well.
Yes, I like new things like that. The “Kao ni Miso” (Miso in the face) performance (20 people of different nationalities, professions and ages muttered “kao ni miso” as they did performances) that I did for the Azumabashi Dance Crossing is something that I call “Twitter Theater” in my mind. (Laughs)

While that intuitive approach in performance has been successful, what are your thoughts about stage/theater expression, where audiences expect more in the way of meaning?
When I am creating a new work my mind sometimes thinks that way. “If I use this and this I think I can portray what I want,” or, “This should be able to communicate it in this way.” But when you go to that extreme things get boring, so I make concerted efforts to avoid working in that way. If you have so clear an idea of, “This is what I want to say,” there is no need to do it from the beginning, and if you don’t approach creation through a different circuit, it becomes demonstrative and will only solicit a response of, “Well, is that so.” On my walks I take pictures of things that catch my interest with my cell phone, and there is almost never a tangible explanation for why I have felt it was good. But, I am certain that I can believe in my instincts when I find something good or interesting at that given moment. That is the thought/working circuit I want to place my trust in and use in my creative activities.

In your works, you take those perceptions and sensitivities you have and give form and expression to them through collaboration with other performers, and I am interested to know what that process is like. For example, with 4.48 Psychosis you reversed the roles of the stage and audience area to perform in the audience seating area. In the lobby you had a pool of blood with a motorcycle half sunk in it and between the stage and the audience area you had another pond of red blood. The sound technician was the engineer ZAK, who is active in many music activities, and the performers, including Yamakawa, were mostly people with no previous acting experience. How do you communicate your images to the people you are creating the work with?
I don’t communicate anything. For example, in the latest work Psychosis there is a woman who reads weather reports, but she was just someone who emailed me when we were about halfway through our rehearsal period and said that she just wanted very much to take part. And there was an office worker type talking on the phone in the phone booth sunk in the pond and he was just someone who emailed me saying that he had quit his company in September and wondered if he could come and hang out at our rehearsal studio, so I used him too. Of course if these people hadn’t come of their own initiative, the production wouldn’t have included those parts, and there was no initial image that they were working from or anything that I communicated to them about the images that I might have had. People often talk about “Ameya images” but there are no such things. Those parts just happened because those people came of their own will, and if different people had come things would have been different still. That is always where the answers come from and I never have thoughts about what my own images might be.

So, what was the working process that produced Psychosis?
I was told by the production manager from what day they had the rehearsal studio reserved for us, so I went there alone the first day and read the script, because I thought it would be a waste if the studio wasn’t being used. But I am really one who can’t read a script in print. It puts me to sleep right away and I can’t remember at all what I have read. But after reading to some extent I began calling people who said they wanted to take part or people who I thought might want to take part until I gradually got together a group of performers, and I had them read it to me.

You have the actors do a reading first and then you see how it looks and begin working from there?
When I see one part the next parts begin to come to me naturally. There is no working plan. As for the woman who read the weather report, since she said she wanted to take part, I wanted to do my best to use her in some way and I began by having her read parts from the script. But no matter what lines she read it wasn’t good. I knew that it was no good, because I have my own sort of line for decision-making. But Yamakawa looked at her and said that she looked like an announcer, so I had her read a weather report and she did it very well. So I said, “OK, that’s your part.” That is the way things get decided. During the first month in the rehearsal studio we were trying things and seeing how Psychosis could be developed.

So, you begin with the searching process and continue to make adjustments right up to the start of performances?
Yes. I make a lot of adjustments right up to the last minute, and we don’t know how many parts will turn out until the very end. So if we had had a half a year in the studio it would have changed even more, and if there were more time than that it would have changed even further. The project is decided by the production people and in this latest case we had two to three months to prepare, so each day during that allotted time we continued thinking and when we had new realizations we would add something here and there. That was the working process. A good example of that process involved the footnotes in the script like “Silence,” and I realized part way through the rehearsals that it was better when the footnote was read along with the script. Since we had three months to do that kind of development, we ended up with a final product that had three months worth of those kinds of additions and developments. And generally speaking, the whole thing doesn’t come together in my mind until just before opening night.

In other words, if you are given a year to work on a production and there were three performances during that year, each of them would turn out to be a completely different production?
Yes, they would naturally become different works. For example, if you move to a new town, the way the different parts of the town will look to you will change from the first week to the first month and then the third month, won’t they? Getting to know the town naturally takes time. If you work with a script for three months, it is like the eyes you develop after three months in a new town. And just as your perceptions and feelings change with time, the work will naturally change and develop.

On the opening day, just after the doors opened prior to the performance, your little daughter was running around the blood pool installation in the lobby I am told. Was that also something that was decided at the last minute?
It wasn’t my decision to have the child running. She just started running spontaneously and I was impressed how she kept going around and around it (laughs). She just ran around it again and again.

So that and other things like it are all OK with you? For people who saw it and those who didn’t the show probably had quite a different appearance, I would think.
Yes. I believe that is true. I am not the one for setting a director’s seat in the audience, and I think it is a rather strange concept to begin with. Because there is only one person in the audience who will see the play from that position, isn’t there? All the rest of the audience will be seeing the play from a different angle, so it seems strange for me to be sitting there and saying, “A little more to the right. Yes, there, OK.” That is one thing about the stage that is completely different from film: it is an absolute premise that everyone will be seeing the play from a different angle. And so, theater is a medium that accepts that fact as OK.
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