Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

THE BOX IS BACK WHERE IT BELONGS

Today is the 32nd anniversary of Terayama Shūji’s (寺山 修司) death. Curiously, it coincides with Memorial Day in The Netherlands- the day preceding Liberation Day where the Dutch observe two minutes of silence from 20:00 to 20:02 to commemorate their country men who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions from the onset of World War II onwards.

Teryama Shūji, playwright, director, poet, filmmaker, innovator, died on May 4th 1983, at age 47.

My connection to his work dates back to late 1977, through a notice posted by the Mickery Theater on the bulletin board of the University of Amsterdam’s Institute of Dramatic Arts. Following up on that notice – that asked for help with the elaborate performances of Cloud Cuckooland, a visit – my life would never be the same again.

Tenjō Sajiki (天井桟敷), an avantgarde theater group from Tokyo, had settled that winter in Amsterdam at the Mickery Theater for a three-month residency to convert Terayama’s Nuhikun (奴婢訓, based on Jonathan Swift’s Directions for Servants) to a moving theater experience that took place in the entire building. Literally moving, and that’s where my role comes in. Perched high up in the rafters of the main theater, I was in charge of directing traffic below on the stage floor, where three curtained boxes mounted on hoovers and moved around by several stage hands transported spectators from scene to scene. Sometimes the audience faced a bare wall or closed curtains, with just audible access to what was going on beyond their 20-person box. This was, of course, in the heydey of audience participation- and manipulation. In the smaller theater upstairs, spectators were treated to the Cloud Cuckooland-part, conceived by Ritsaert ten Cate, only to be acquainted with Nuhikun by the end of the evening, when through a glass pane they could observe the grand finale of Terayama’s play.

What remained of the performance after Nuhikun had toured the rest of The Netherlands, London and Paris (without its hoovering boxes), was a maquette constructed by Tenjō Sajiki’s art director Kotake Nobutake (小竹信節), built of balsa wood inside a suitcase-type box measuring 46 x 30 x 10 cm of thin triplex board. On the day of departure, all cast and crew signed it, rendering it a wonderful time capsule.

Fast forward to September 5, 2008 when Ritsaert ten Cate, founder and director of the Mickery Theater and later Touch Time, dies. I inherit the model of Nuhikun. It is in disrepair. I feel it needs to be in a place where it can be enjoyed by more people than just me.

I get in touch with Terayama’s former wife and Tenjō Sajiki producer Kujō Kyōko (九條今日子), who tells me about her involvement in the establishment of a museum to house the archives of Terayama’s work. It is connected to a memorial, close to where he grew up in Aomori prefecture, in a tranquil and wooded section of Misawa city (of American Airforce Base-fame), overlooking Odanai Pond.

It takes some time to get organised – time in which the model is restored and Kujō-san dies, on 30 April 2014 – but last October, I finally made the pilgrimage to Japan’s deep north to return a piece of Terayama history to its rightful place.

The Terayama Memorial Museum is a wonderfully playful building, where Terayama’s literary, dramatic and cinematographic legacy are kept. Visitors can interact with the material by taking place in a darkened room behind desks where materials are kept, in chronological order and under glass in side drawers, and films are projected onto the desk surface through use of mirrors. In the next room, there is a tableau of Nuhikun set pieces and photographs that illustrate the history of Tenjō Sajiki and Terayama’s life. Manuscripts and further archive materials can be consulted in an adjacent library room.

The memorial overlooking the lake can be reached by walking down a meandering path behind the museum. In short, visiting here means immersion into another world, playful and peaceful at once.

I am treated to an overwhelmingly warm welcome by the museum’s director Eimei Sasaki (佐々木英明) and the Vice Mayor of Misawa, Maita Koichiro, who proceeds to read out loud a Letter of Recognition to me and a gathered audience of members of the press as well as a delegation from City Hall and the local Chamber of Commerce. To my surprise, and great joy, this is a big deal for the city of Misawa.

For a few hours, Mickery’s and Tenjō Sajiki’s illustrious histories are rekindled through storytelling and anecdotes, and Terayama Shūji and Ritsaert ten Cate are in the spotlight once more to illuminate their visionary approach to theater.

And the box is back where it belongs.

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan/Terayama Shuji Memorial Museum, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

The Nuhikun model

The Nuhikun model

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Translation DAILY TOHOKU NEWS, Thursday, 23 October 2014

On the 22nd of October, Dutch director Erica Bilder presented to the Terayama Shuji Memorial Hall of Misawa a stage model, dating from the time when the theater company ‘Tenjo-Sajiki’ directed by Terayama Shuji – a poet and a playwright who spent his childhood in Misawa – performed in 1978 in The Netherlands.

This stage model is probably the only one existent for Tenjo-Sajiki, and museum director Eimei Sasaki said with great joy, “It is a most valuable addition to understand the whole of Terayama’s use of performance space.”

In that year, ‘Directions to Servants,’ created and directed by Terayama was presented at the theater in Amsterdam.

Terayama also traveled on tour, and he directed the avant-garde performance [in The Mickery] with many small audiences and stages that move about in the theater .

The actors and staff used this model to understand the arrangement of complex scene changes changes during the performance.

The model was made by Nobutaka Kotake, who was a company member and art director at the time (he is currently a professor at Musashino Art University).

It is a wooden box, and is 1/60 scale of the real thing, length 46cm, width 30cm, and height 10cm. It has parts that simulate the audience and stage, and the model is accompanied by the script that Mrs. Bilder put together, so the original state of each scene in the theater can be recreated.

There are messages of Terayama and members of theater company on the back of its lid.

Mrs.Bilder was assistant of the stage director in the ’78 performance, and she told “I was shocked when I first saw the performance. It gave me a chance to learn about avant-garde theater in Japan. My life was changed by this work.”

She received the model from the producer in 2008, and told with a smile, “I am happy to present this to Terayama Memorial Hall because it belongs here.”

See also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shūji_Terayama

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenjō_Sajiki

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2008/oct/31/ritsaert-ten-cate-obituary

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/M/bo12379632.html

https://www.terayamaworld.com/museum.html

https://www.terayamaworld.com/about/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/03/11/stage/going-terayamas-rare-spirit-lives/#.VUcZl6bvjBH

 

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NaNoWriMo Kick-off

NaNoWriMo 2011

Fabulous NaNoWriMo 2011 kickoff at the Central Amsterdam Library (OBA) today.
NaNo veteran Nico Janssen sketched a bit of NaNoWriMo history for newcomers and pointed out that by last year, 2.8 billion words have been generated through the NaNoWriMo community that has grown to 200.000 writers!
The challenge is personal. It is no problem if you don’t finish or manage to get 50.000 words in by the end of the month. It’s about being productive all the time, every day, writing during the month of November with 200.000 fellow writers spread out over the globe.
Lisa Friedman introduced freewriting to the assembled NaNoWriMo wannabees. “Just Do It, Don’t Think, Outrun the Critic.”
Some of her tips on how to be productive during NaNoWriMo include “Train yourself like a dog to write on command; don’t re-read (as of yet); replace self-criticism with encouragement; forget about Facebook.”
Are we ready?
I am.

Marvelous Molière

There is a chair in the museum collection of the Comédie-Française in Paris, which is displayed in a corridor right off the theater’s main lobby, encased in a glass cabinet like Sleeping Beauty. It is a simple armchair on casters, upholstered in tattered leather. The chair is old, at least some 350 years. Legend has it, that the playwright-actor Molière practically died in it, on stage, when he had a coughing fit during the fourth performance of Le Malade Imaginaire, playing Argan the Hypondriac (or Imaginary Invalid). He barely made it through the last act and died at home shortly after the performance. (There is a parallel here with the death of the great British actor Edmund Keane, who almost died onstage in the arms of his actor-son Charles who was playing Iago to his Othello).
An untimely death at 51 for the playwright-actor-manager Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Molière, who had spent many years touring France, making people laugh in a period of grime and mud and sky-high infant mortality rates, with Commedia dell’Arte-type plays that unmasked the abyss dividing rich and poor, the uselessness of the medical profession and the hypocrisy of the clergy.
But it was not an entirely unforeseen death, as he suffered from tuberculosis – most likely contracted during a stint in debtor’s prison.
When Molière had returned to Paris he was eventually incorporated in the entertainments at the court of Louis XIV. His breakthrough at the Sun King’s court was greatly engineered by another Jean-Baptiste, the naturalized Italian composer Gianbattista Lully. Alas, after some splendid collaborations, Lully got tired of playing second fiddle to Molière’s words. Lully had ambitions to create his own operas, so the two were estranged by the time Molière staged Le Malade Imaginaire in 1673. The musical interludes were written by another composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This all to the chagrin of Lully, who had claimed a solid monopoly for his operas and had managed to get a royal edict passed to the effect that theatrical performances were only allowed the services of two strings and two voices.
Why am I telling all this?
I never cared much for the staid interpretations of Molière’s biting, satirical plays, until I saw De Ingebeelde Zieke performed last week in a staging by Jos Thie at the municipal theater in Utrecht.
Building on a tradition that was perhaps set in motion by Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1978 film Molière ou la vie d’un honnête homme, Thie renders the play in a way that neither wants to be excruciatingly contemporary, nor wants to forget about all the layers built up around such a classic in terms of its (performance) history and its underlying socio-political context. An extra gift is, that the long-lost music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier has been incorporated in this incredibly funny, superbly acted and beautifully designed performance. Finally we can see Molière the magnificent, who registered all the wrongs of his times, and may have been biting the hand that fed him, yet it didn’t stop him to speak his mind with mastery, insight and an enormous dose of humor.

Laurie Lives

Was that fabulous last night?
Those of you who were there must agree.
Laurie Anderson.
Delusion.
Finely worked jewels of personal short stories sprouted from the back of Laurie Anderson’s mind, interspersed with shards of music played on her electronic violin, backed up by arrays of sound bits.
Laurie Anderson – in real life of small stature – on stage larger than life, moving between folding and draped objects that function as reflecting screens. Behind her, a huge back projection spitting out an avalanche of delicious images mixed live.
The stories go deeper than ever. About time, space, and loss. The bind one finds oneself in, realizing that the death of a beloved dog causes more pain than the death of the mother.
Sometimes the deep chords of her music made the walls of the theater vibrate and my body with it. A pleasant sensation. Her voice, and her Fenway Bergamot’s voice, which never ages, soothingly, sagaciously and whimsically drove home some truths to think about during sleepless hours.

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