The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Keralino Sandorovich
Keralino Sandorovich
After graduating from the Yokohama Movie and Broadcasting College (now the Japan Academy of Moving Images), Keralino (aka Kera) formed and sang lead vocals for the new-wave band Uchoten. While at the forefront of the indie music boom, he also established the theater company Kenko, which presented mostly nonsense comedies from 1985 – 92. In 1993, he formed his present company, Nylon 100˚C, for whom he writes and directs most of the performances. Their regular members are joined by various guest artists who stage concept-oriented performances called “sessions,” and in addition to nonsense comedies they perform a wide range of live-style works incorporating sitcom, dance, film and skits, and even a Western performed by an all-female cast. In 1999, Kera won the Kishida Drama Award for Furozun bichi (Frozen Beach). In 2002 he won the first Asahi Performing Arts Award, and also in 2002 the fifth Tsuruya Nanboku Drama Award and the 9th Yomiuri Theater Award for Best Director for Shitsuon~Yoru no ongaku (Room Temperature: Music of the Night).
Nylon 100°C 34th Session
Setagaya Kafka

Written and directed by Keralino Sandorovich
(Sep. 28 – Oct. 12, 2009 at Honda Theatre)
Setagaya Kafka
Photo: Nobuhiko Hikiji
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Serious postmodern comedy  Keralino Sandorovich  
Serious postmodern comedy  Keralino Sandorovich  
Keralino Sandorovich (born 1963) emerged as a playwright and director in Tokyo in the 1980s against the backdrop of Japan’s “indies” scene, which included the independent small-theater movement, a boom in bands recording on independent labels and a boom in independent filmmaking. After leading the rock band Uchoten as a vocalist and owning the Nagomu Records music label under the name KERA, he became active in theater and founded the company Gekidan Kenko. Since 1993 he has been active primarily through his theater company Nylon 100°C as a leader of the Japanese contemporary theater scene along with figures like Oriza Hirata and Suzuki Matsuo. He is known for his prolific production of new works varying widely in subject and styles that include serious comedies, critical biographies and science fiction comedies. Behind his works lies a wealth of media experiences from film, music and literature he absorbed as a precocious youth born (1960) and raised in Tokyo with a manic appetite for new discoveries. We spoke with him about the Keralino Sandorovich theater world he has created as a golden boy of the postmodern era.
(Interviewer: Akihiko Senda)

It is now 25 years since you started the Gekidan Kenko theater company in 1985. That puts you in the veteran league among today’s playwrights and directors. Nonetheless, you continue to produce a great variety of new works, many of which seem to be opening up new possibilities for Japan’s contemporary theater. For someone to start out as a musician like you did and then become a playwright and director is almost unprecedented. Could you begin by telling us what led you to start a theater company?
The person who continues to work with me today in my theater productions, Inuko Inuyama, used to be a member of our music circle and do our stage makeup for us when we were performing as a band. At the time she was doing music as she studied to be an actress, and when, just for fun, I wrote a skit for her to perform at culture festivals, it somehow developed into the idea of starting a theater company. That was just around the time when companies like Shoji Kokami’s Daisanbutai were beginning to become the focus of attention on the theater scene. And, although they weren’t mainstream, Akio Miyazawa’s Radical Gajiberibinba System and the recently launched Wahaha Honpo were two comedy companies leading one sector of the theater scene at the time. They were completely different, one stylish, one down home, but they kept me going to the theater once every two months or so. In the process, my interest was staring to shift toward theater.
 It was just at that time that I was asked if I wanted to form a theater company, and we had the rather calculating idea that our band’s fans would be enough to fill the seats for a theater performance (laughs). Then we did a play as the maiden performance of the new company, which was financed with my private recording label, Nagomu Records as the producer. It was a kind of makeshift arrangement, and I didn’t think at the time that I would continue doing theater for very long. And in fact, in the early performances most of the audience was indeed made up of our band’s fans.

How did you come up with your very non-Japanese artist’s name, Keralino Sandorovich?
It is a name that one of the upperclassmen in my high school drama club gave me, and it also became my nickname in our band, Uchoten. Then, when we were making the leaflet for the performance commemorating the founding of our theater group, I needed a name to use and decided to use Keralino Sandorovich temporarily.
 I like the Marx Brothers very much, and in their films, for example Groucho always used long, ostentatious roll names like Dr. Hackenbush or Rufus T. Firefly. As for Chico, since his specialty was acting with an Italian accent, he would use a name like Chicolini. I guess it was an unconscious copying of those names that led me to use Keralino Sandorovich. But I don’t remember much. And, when doing comedy routines it is more interesting to have an ostentatious name like that (laughs).

Now that you have mentioned the Marx Brothers, it seems to me that a lot of your works are based on films and music and literature that you were familiar with from your childhood. To understand this better, could you please tell us something about your childhood? We hear that your father was a musician.
Yes. My father was a jazz musician, and I believe that had a big effect on me. Among his friends were leading comedians of the day, like Toru Yuri and Shin Morikawa, and we also have a photograph taken of me as a little child held by Enoken (Kenichi Enomoto). The sound of jazz playing was always a part of life in my childhood, and when I was in elementary school I saw a performance by Eiichi Ono on Shinji Maki’s TV program “Taisho TV Yose.” His thing was doing takes on Chaplin and it was from watching him that I first learned about Chaplin. Just after that there was a showing in Japan 10 revival Chaplin films series called “Viva! Chaplin” and I went to see Modern Times. That got me hooked on Chaplin. It was a completely different world from the ones in the popular movies of that time like The Exorcist or Enter the Dragon. It was silent movies in black & white with music somewhere between jazz and classical playing through the entire movie. But they succeeded in making you laugh without the use of words. It attracted me as a kind of dream world and I was really taken by it.

So, that was your first encounter with silent movies.
The next thing I got into was Buster Keaton. At the time they had just found some Keaton film negatives that were thought to be lost and we finally had the full Keaton works again. As a result a showing was made of the full dozen or so Keaton works in Japan that drew the attention of college students and others at time. I was still in the 5th or 6th grade of elementary school, but during the summer vacation and holidays I was spending all day at the movie theater. The woman working at the concession stand there got to know me and gave me crackers sometimes which made me happy. She told me she was worried that I was spending the whole day at the theater not eating anything.
 It has always been my nature that when I discover people like Chaplin and Keaton, I naturally want to find out what other artists there are in their genre. So, I would go to used book shops and look at old movie magazines and learn that after Chaplin comes Harold Lloyd, and after Keaton comes the Marx Brothers in the talking pictures, and in the process my knowledge and world of interests gradually expands.

Is it true that you had your own collection of silent films when you were young?
I got so into silent comedies that I began buying films that only real maniac collectors knew from the US, Germany and Italy via importers. Once I even withdrew 2 mil. JPN (approx. 22,000 USD) from one of my father’s long-term savings accounts to buy films. That really got me in trouble when he found out about it! By the time I was in middle school, I was renting places to organize movie showings from my collection. When adults came to see the films, they would ask me if I was helping out my father. It was a bother to try to explain that it was my collection, so I would just answer, “Yes.” (Laughs)

Among the artists of that period, it is Keaton that you liked best, isn’t it? It seems that Keaton is still at the base of your working style today.
I don’t know if it is calculated, or if it comes naturally from his character, but in Keaton with his un-solicitous comedy, there is a cool and somewhat melancholic atmosphere, isn’t there? Chaplin was the original reason I came to love silent movies, but the more I came to know, the more I was attracted to Keaton and the Marx Brothers, in other words the ones whose comedy was at the opposite extreme from humanism, with an aspect of anarchy. If it weren’t for Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers and Monty Python, I wouldn’t have continued to do the work I am doing today. And from about the age of 30, Woody Allen joined this list for me.
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