Nagoya, the quiet, unassuming city between Tokyo and Osaka, has been experiencing somewhat of a boom in recent years when it comes to the arts in the English-speaking foreign community. Foreign-owned venues like GC Live, Plastic Factory, Red Rock, Shooters, and Coat of Arms have opened their doors to live music of all varieties, never demanding the musicians pay to play (which is a given in Japanese live houses.) The yearly Foreign Artists Exhibition has been growing over the course of nearly 3 decades to include the works of 70 artists in one given show, And then there’s live theatre. What can I say except… holy shit. Pardon my French, but really, it’s quite the phenomenon, and something to be celebrated.
The Nagoya Players got the ball rolling over thirty years ago, and it has been non-stop ever since. In the past decade, new theatre companies have been formed, including Nameless and KPB Theatre, bringing to Nagoya everything from Shakespeare to home-grown grassroots, personalised theatre and musical pieces. At times, there may even be a competitive nature in the theatre landscape and behind the scenes with the sheer number of productions being put on in the past few years. The people who truly reap the rewards from this flood of theatre in the city are Nagoyans themselves. We are so fortunate to have such a talented and motivated community of creative people right here in our own city.
But… hold the phones. Word on the street is that there’s a new kid in town, and she’s a trifecta; musician, actor, and director all wrapped into one unique package going under the moniker; “Theatre Iridescence.” The powerhouse behind this new theatre company is Hiroshima native Aya Kawakami. When she arrived in Nagoya and began participating in the theatre scene, she was impressed by the abundance of talent in such a relatively small English-language community. She did notice, however, one thing lacking was the presence of women in the writing/directing/producing areas of Nagoya theatre. While strong women actors were taking the stage, strong women voices in the form of character and dialogue weren’t being brought to the forefront in equal number. If you saw Aya in the role of Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, you would know that she is not one to sit idle. And, like Puck, Aya is powerful and gets things done almost magically.
But it ain’t magic. It’s (quite literally) blood, sweat and tears to get a theatre company up and running. The hard work and determination that Aya Kawakami has put into the creation of Theatre Iridescence will be centre stage just one month from today, on July 1st and 2nd in the form of her musical creation, “Transit.”
Aya has undertaken a theatrical first in Nagoya (at this level, in any case). She’s written a piece that is about the foreign community itself and its place within the context of where we all live; Japan. In her writing, Aya has touched on topics that have affected us all, whether vicariously or by actually experiencing them first- hand. Issues such as cultural identity, being “hafu”, not fitting in, and, something most English-speaking ex-pats can relate to – the role and expectations of foreign men and women within the community itself.
This is a reflective piece, and often touches on stereotypes that have their roots in truth – a truth that foreign men and women are very much aware of, but often don’t speak about forthrightly to each other (unless perhaps under the influence of a few Asahi Super Dry and a Sake or two.) Are the enigmatic “Charisma Man” and the world-weary “Western Woman” simply mythical tropes, or are these characters a reality in the lives of English-speaking foreigners? How do Japanese women and men fit into this equation? What if you are straddling both cultures… whose expectations will you conform to or try to satisfy? And, what if in the midst of it all, you fall in love?
These themes are woven together throughout Transit with music written by Aya and talented Nagoya musicians David Freeman and David Dycus. With the backdrop of Hiroshima, the music and dialogue are further driven by dancers expertly choreographed over months of rehearsals.
Helped by Veteran actress and director Jessica A. Robison, who puts on her director’s cap once again in this production, coaxing the best out of the actors on stage, (herself included!), all the while adding her organizational skills and vision into this mix.
Sartorial phenom Sophie Goto adds her editing skills not only to costuming, but to the written word as well. The artistic work is being supported behind the scenes by an experienced production team of accomplished Nagoyan expat women, such as Denise Hewitt, Mari Miyamoto, Rie Ando, Kanako Endo, and Naomi Yamaguchi – all seasoned and passionate about creating good theatre.
Theatre Iridescence has the combined force of many of Nagoya’s talented musicians, writers, directors, costumers, and, of course, actors, to bring to you a powerfully personal piece of theatre. Written, directed and produced by women, this is a forceful first for Nagoya theatre as well, providing a balanced and nuanced experience to the audience.
Transit will be a piece of theatrical art that will have a lasting effect on the audience long after they have exited the theatre. The themes will be conversation fodder for days after, and you’ll find yourself humming the music to yourself wondering… where did I hear that song (and when can I hear it again?)
For more information, to help out, and/or to see the show remotely via video link, click HERE.