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
Were there any specific feelings that you had when you had the actors read the script of Psychosis to you?
I am not clear as to why, but I was very conscious of the various voices for some reason. Voice is always something I am concerned with, but this time I was especially conscious of it. It was a question of the balance of the voices. The amplified sound of Yamakawa’s heartbeat was also big, and the voices of the crickets was a rather important element, so getting the right balance between them all was something that I struggled with right to the end. There was one day that the crickets were barely singing at all and I was really nervous about it. For some reason they just weren’t singing, and it became especially clear after the performance started. I said, “Hey, why aren’t they singing today?” (Laughs)

You were really using real live crickets?
Yes. When the performance started I called one of the crew and said, “Do something! They aren’t singing!” (Laughs). I had them run backstage and get more crickets and add them to the cage. You really never know what is going to happen until the curtain goes up. Eventually we had to leave the cricket part up to the crickets, and they would sing or not sing depending on the humidity that day or the brightness of the lights in a particular scene. But even though we left it basically to them, there would still be some days when I had to say, “This is just too much singing!” (Laughs) On a day like that I would ask the crew during the performance to please take a few out of the cage.

I was sure that the cricket sound was something the sound technician ZAK had pre-recorded and mixed into the soundtrack. Since the audience and stage where reversed for that show, the sound room had been moved out into the audience area. Was all that planning done by ZAK?
Yes. That was a rather important part of this production. An underwater speaker was placed in the pool of blood so that voices could be played from there and that made it possible to project the sound of Yamakawa saying his lines on several levels, and ZAK himself also created a number of sounds that way. In the cases of ZAK and the lighting designer Masayoshi Takada, I left most of the decisions up to them. If Takada came to me and said, “I’ve thought of a new plan today,” I’d say “OK, I’ll see it in the performance.”

So, it is basically a work-in-progress.
Is that what you call it? We had a mix of Yamakawa’s voice and strange instrumental sounds playing from the underwater speakers, but the choice of sounds was left up to ZAK, so I don’t even know what they are.

As I watched Psychosis I got the feeling that there was really no need to follow the text of the play. I had the impression that the opening scene was enough in itself, and there were also other scenes in the play that seemed to be complete in themselves.
In a contemporary play in translation like Psychosis we are working under the restriction that we can’t change the script at will, and there is a basic rule that we can’t cut out parts or change the order of the scenes. Honestly, when I heard that I thought it would be very difficult for me to mount this play. I was like, “Do we really have to include every single line? You must be joking.” It was a real trial for me, like some sort of ascetic training. But, because there are things that came out in me from that training and trials, I believe that was the value in having done that script in its entirety. It was the same when I directed Hirata’s Tenkosei (Transfer Student). There was something that came out naturally and spontaneously in the rehearsals as a result of having gone through the trials of the scene where the girl falls and the ending together with everyone. Conversely, I believe you can say that beginning from a state where you don’t know what the script is really about and working through the trials of bringing it to the stage can lead you to a discovery of what was really intended between the lines of the script.

For the recipients [the audience] of those sensitivities you bring to the stage it can feel less like watching theater and more like you are listening to cool music or watching a live concert.
Good music is something that you can often sense from the sound of the very first notes. I don’t usually listen to entire pieces of music, but also I feel that I can get the sound of the music without listening to the whole thing. Long ago, when I was doing the music for the Jokyo Gekijo theater company, I worked sometimes at the record room of the national broadcasting company, NHK, where I was told that I had free access to listen to tens of thousands of records and sound sources. I ended up listening to almost all of them. Of course it would have been impossible if I had been listening to the entire records, so I would put the needle down on the start of an LP and listen to the opening bars of the music. I did that with almost all of the records in that archive. And I found that you can often tell if the music truly has power almost instantaneously from the moment you put the needle down on the record. Of course, in a play it isn’t possible to give the audience just the first few lines like that; you have to carry it through all the way to the end, and that is what makes it so difficult.
 However, I believe that it is good to present the entire package, including the parts that may seem like a waste of time. Maybe it is because I have long lived with animals but I seem to have a good capacity for tolerating that kind of time that otherwise seems meaningless. The daily walks I take with my 3-year-old daughter are long, about three to even five hours. During that time I have to constantly be in position in case something happens, so it can be exhausting when it lasts that long. But it is the same as in the rehearsal studio, where if you [as the director] are too removed it is dangerous, but if you are too close you can have too much of an influence, so I have to be constantly making decisions about how much distance I should maintain. As a result, I concentrate on that too much when I walk with my daughter and end up being exhausted at the end (laughs). There are very few really interesting moments along the way, but I am still able to endure those hours quite well.

Hearing you talk about things like these walks with your daughter, It seems that while you are using your own body like a sensor to sense out many different things, and you are also interacting with the people around you in the realm of your artistic expression, including your daughter and your audience, and using them as satellite sensors to augment your own.
I don’t know whether that is true or not, but speaking in terms of sensitivities, I really have almost no sense of my own “self.” When I am in the rehearsal studio working on a piece, I am always thinking only about the other people there. And, although I may not be having such great thoughts, I am always thinking about the others there. Well, you could say that I like people, and it is not only people, but really everything that I like. So I am always thinking about other people and I realize that there is really nothing that I myself want to do. However, as a director I am given the right of decision-making, and although I often feel presumptuous having to exercise that right, I use it in ways like saying, “I think it looks great when so-and-so is sitting here instead.” In that way I spend all my time focusing on so-and-so with absolutely no consciousness of my “self.” And, in that sense it is not stressful, because I am not trying to do something myself. My only intention is to try my best to think about that person in that time and place.

I hear that you always bring your daughter to the studio.
Lately, it is interesting to see how she learns parts of the lines from the plays. The lines she learns are probably the ones that have impressed her most, but the first one she learned was “Drowning in the sea of logic!” When she suddenly shouted out that line I said to myself, “Is that it? Why that? (Laughs) She must have some kind of barometer inside her that gives it meaning. And just last night she recited again, “Do you think that it is possible for a person to be born into the wrong body? A long silence.” (Laughs)
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