Living And Breathing History, Through Noh

Noh performer Hisa Uzawa has spent her life devoted to an art form that—with its slow and steady movements, sparse staging and ancient chanting—may at first seem staid. In her hands, however, the 650-year-old tradition becomes relentlessly contemporary. Uzawa was born into a noh family in 1949. Her father, Masashi, was a shite (lead actor) in the Kanze School and part of the Tessenkai Ensemble, and Uzawa grew up steeped in traditional music and arts. “When I first moved here, the house we had was much smaller,” she tells The Japan Times from her home in Shinagawa Ward. “I could hear...

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“Goodbye, Mr. Yi Sang”: Seoul Performing Arts Company’s New Experiment

Theatre adaptations of novels are on the rise this season. Of course, this is nothing new. Fiction, both classic and modern, have always made up a good chunk of the performing arts repertoire. It would be more precise to say that some of the most successful and discussed productions this season are adaptations of novels. Why are novel adaptations generating such buzz right now? One reason might be because theatre artists have changed their approach to adapting fiction. Previously, adapters were too concerned with preserving the so-called “fragrance,” “beauty,” or “perfection” of the original novel’s language and structure. In...

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A Place To Be Seen: Global Queer Plays At The Arcola Theatre

On March 3 and 4 2018, the Arcola Theatre in East London presented Global Queer Plays, a series of rehearsed readings of LGBTQ+ plays in translation or from the parts of the English-speaking world less represented on UK stages. In this personal reflection on the event, translator and member of the festival’s team William Gregory describes the context of the festival, its story, and his hopes for its future. The Arcola Queer Collective was established in 2014. As part of the community engagement activities of the Arcola Theatre in the east London borough of Hackney, it seeks to involve...

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Divine Comedy Festival 2017 Review: “Cezary Goes To War”

Cezary Goes To War [Cezary Idzie Na Wojnę], an autobiographical piece directed by Cezary Tomaszewski, is a musically charged queer fantasia that directly and cheerfully attacks and deconstructs the military rhetoric and nationalistic ethos in Poland. As part of the Komuna//Warszawa (a critically acclaimed experimental theatre company based in Warsaw) series Before the War/War/After The War, Tomaszewski devises this dance-music-performance piece based on his personal experience with the army conscription committee, during which he was categorized based on the military standard of masculinity. He draws on the absurd official language of the definitions of each category (usually a long list of...

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Why I Can’t Accept “Amy And The Orphans”

What do you do with a disabled child you can’t emotionally support? While not the biggest question that Amy And The Orphans, by Lindsey Ferrentino, asks, it is certainly one of the more important ones. The short answer is: “put her in a state-run institution.” “Her” being Amy (Jamie Brewer), a woman with Down syndrome, the daughter of a young couple with two other children and a crumbling marriage. While it might be “refreshing” to talk about disability during the first five minutes of a play, one of the only things to come out of doing so is the...

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Opera Forward Festival: Amsterdam, March 2018

If you ask any resident of Amsterdam: “how did the National Opera House look from the opposite side of the Amstel last weekend?” their answer should very well be: “glowing.” Through the charge of the audiences, the urgency of the moment and the boldness of the craft, DNO’s architectural was shocked with a pulse of electricity from the buzz of the artists and audience who inhabited the building. That’s because the DNO played host to the annual (and undoubtedly successful) “Opera Forward Festival:” an invitation from artists and general public alike to witness the development and craft of the...

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“Lessons Learnt” By A Professional Translator–Adapting The Same Play Three Times Over Three Years

I have just finished translating Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Hasn’t Yet Started for the third time in as many years. I’m in an unusual situation–one translator creating three different versions of the same play. As far as I know, that doesn’t normally happen. I have tried to take advantage of each opportunity to re-translate the play, adapting it significantly to the specific target audience. In 2015, I translated The War for the first time, for my Ph.D. at Queen Mary University of London. Subsequently, this translation was presented as a rehearsed reading at the Frontline Club in London. I knew that the Frontline Club attracts a...

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When It’s Written On Your Face: Teatr 21 And The Paradox Of Invisibility

The discussions framing social theatre are all too often carried out in the language of public policy. Projects are promoted by their ability to produce outcomes such as “supporting self-esteem,” “healing socio-psychological wounds,” or “developing participatory community networks.” And while many applied theatre programs in places like prisons, schools, and refugee camps certainly benefit their participants in myriad ways, James Thompson and Richard Schechner warn in a “very special issue” of TDR that such paradigms can restrict the conversation surrounding these productions to their measurable therapeutic effects, discounting their artistic merits and putting them at imminent risk of death...

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Dairakudakan’s “Unearthly” Butoh Meets A Tortured Russian tale

Following a January press conference in which the New National Theatre, Tokyo, announced that Dairakudakan, one of the world’s leading butoh companies, would be staging two performances of Tsumi To Batsu (Crime And Punishment) in March, troupe founder Akaji Maro delivered a triumphant statement. Having this unexpected yet fantastic opportunity (to work with the NNTT) feels revolutionary like we’ve finally conquered this national (state-run) citadel after so many years, – the 75-year-old artist said. – So I am very excited to seize our chance to create the best possible performance piece for the NNTT. Maro and his cast of white-painted,...

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American Actors Give New Voice To French Theater

As a young French director visiting New York with his theater troupe, Paul Desveaux hardly expected to fall in love with an American painter’s work one afternoon on a trip to a museum. Even more remote was the possibility that in 20 years, he would return to New York to direct his own production about that same artist. Yet further from his mind was the idea that this original French theater piece would be presented in English, and brought to life in part thanks to the French Embassy. But this is precisely what transpired. The year is 1998, and...

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Confronting The Limits: Konfrontacje Festival 2017

The famous Polish critic Konstanty Puzyna once mused, “Why the hell even write about theatre if not to write about life?” And so, it goes, what about that life? Why the hell even write, make theatre or think about theatre if not to dive into some crucial issues concerning our lives and tell us something more about the situation we got ourselves into? Let’s reach for a cliché for once–things have changed. And we, the Poles, and we the people, are deeply divided again; bridges have been burnt, lit up with matches belonging to no-one in particular. Some theatre...

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Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” at The Playhouse Theatre: Is It Possible to Get Too Much of American Politics?

Is it possible to get too much of American politics? With Donald Trump’s daily tweets invading our digital space, a new Kevin-Spacey-free House Of Cards on the, well, cards, and new films set in Watergate times, it might be that few will have any appetite for this revival of Gore Vidal’s 1960 play, The Best Man, which is set during a Democratic Party convention, and now makes its West End debut. But to dismiss it completely would be a pity because, for all the creaks of its plotting, this is quite a watchable account of political in-fighting. After all, any show...

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Legendary Russian Actor Oleg Tabakov Has Died. Why Was This Actor Loved by Everyone in Russia?

People’s Artist of the USSR, legendary Russian actor and director, Oleg Tabakov died on March 12, 2018, at the age of 82 years. “Oleg Tabakov, the great actor of a great era, died: the man loved by the whole country has gone,” journalist Dmitry Smirnov wrote, representing the voice of numerous admirers, colleagues and students, mourning the death of the master. Having been the head of one of the most significant Russian theatres for 18 years, the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre, Tabakov was one of the most important Soviet and Russian theatre and cinema actors for many generations of...

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“Jubilee” at The Lyric Hammersmith: Adapting Punk Classic

The late Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee is a punk classic. I think he was in his Fellini phase, his vision peopled by freaks, dwarfs, and cracked actors. And punks of every description. Plus a few New Romantics. And a touch of Andy Warhol (as in film-maker). The film is theatrical, situationist, punky, camp, awkward, word-choked, and often as slow as a drop of sweat dribbling down your back on a hot day—basically a mess, but great if you see it as a late nighter. And stoned. If not, a touch embarrassing. Cringe-making. You just need to pick out the good bits like...

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“The Second Woman”: A 24-Hour Lesson in the Gendered Performance of Intimacy

The idea that femininity is a social performance, while masculinity simply sets the coordinates for the social, explains why so many classic melodramas turn on the figure of the actress, such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) or John Cassavetes’ Opening Night(1977). Inspired by the latter, Nat Randall and Anna Breckon have co-created The Second Woman, which will be presented for the fourth time this month at the Perth Festival. Originally developed for Melbourne’s Next Wave Festival in 2016, it was subsequently performed at both Dark Mofo! in Tasmania and Liveworks in Sydney in 2017. It...

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From the Space-Race to Filial Tensions, Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon” Explores Reconciliation

In The Far Side of the Moon, Philippe and Andre, two estranged brothers, deal with the aftermath of their mother’s death. Written, directed, and designed by French-Canadian artist Robert Lepage, with music by Laurie Anderson among others, the show has been periodically on tour since its 2000 premiere in Quebec City. All roles have been performed by either Lepage or by the French-Canadian actor, Yves Jacques. On this current tour, it is performed by Jacques who gives a strong physical performance. Philippe, who the performance mainly focuses on, is an occasional teacher, a part-time telemarketer, and a long-term Ph.D....

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Interpreting The Epics

The Tenkutittu and Badagutittu traditional theatre styles of coastal Karnataka come alive. The casual observer might well consider most traditional theatre forms of India to be monolithic institutions whose tenets have been passed down centuries. While the provenance or historicity of these forms are never called into question, the variations and nuanced diversity innate to a performance style is often glossed over by the pervasive exoticisation of our times. For instance, the catch-all Yakshagana, or the traditional theatre of coastal Karnataka, conjures up images of archetypal performances in all too familiar regalia that are scarcely indistinguishable from each other. Yet,...

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“Memorial” Is A Shattering Excavation Of The Scars Of War Through Poetry, Dance, And Mind Blowing Score

Arthur Danto, in his Analytic Philosophy of History, calls the common noun “scar” a “past-referring term.” In this way, language acknowledges the passing of time, representing verbally what happens to us physically. The mystery of appearance and disappearance in the world–the cycle of life and death–is caught in the warp and weft of how we speak, the soul made manifest by the word. Memorial is a large-scale performance piece drenched in a sense of time passed. Based on Alice Oswald’s poetic exploration of the Iliad (the precise, and again temporally charged, descriptor is “excavation”), it brings together a transcendent...

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Unfulfilled Dreams, Stunning Portraits

Bharatmuni Rang Utsav saw some moving productions highlighting moral dilemmas and disturbing truths of our times. For over a decade or so, Rajnarain Dixit has been exploring to adapt to stage significant contemporary Hindi novels by Kashinath Singh, Bhisam Sahni, Vibhuti Narain Rai and Rahi Masoom Raza. He is equally fascinated by the works of Ismat Chughtai, which are bold and progressive, indicating conservative Indian society. Once again, he has presented a new production based on her life and fictional characters titled Kaagazi Pairahan which was presented at Bharatmuni Rang Utsav at Shri Ram Centre organized by the Sahitya...

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A Conversation With Gia Forakis, Theatre And Opera Director

My aesthetic as a stage director is built first on a desire to create an experience that captures the poetic nature of the human condition. It’s a desire to connect with something larger than our sense of self, something sacred. And that’s what I see as the beauty of the theatre. In terms of the expression of that desire, my process is to bring to life a very visual, theatrical, and specific life on stage that illuminates increments of thought as components of physical action, which is how I articulate the methodology of One-Thought-One-Action.

The beauty of OTOA is that if you want to, you can use it almost like the cinematic process of editing film where one can compose one frame of action at a time. It’s how the text supports the physical actions on stage so that even if you could turn off the sound of the actors, the viewer would still get the story being told through the visual embodiment of thought as physical action.

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