Archive for the ‘ Performing Arts ’ Category


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:ūji_Terayamaō_Sajiki


Judith Malina, co-founder of the Living Theatre, June 4, 1926 – April 10, 2015

New York Theater

“Tremble:your whole life is a rehearsal for the moment you are in now”~Judith Malina

Judith Malina died this morning at age 88.

Malina and Julian Beck began the Living Theatre in the 1940s, which for the last several decades has been called “legendary,” though many attached angrier adjectives at the beginning; the two theater artists even spent time in prison for their work.

From an interview with her in 2014:

Born in Kiel, Germany, in 1926, Malina says that her early life experiences, which included fleeing Germany with her parents, shaped her political vision. (Her father was an outspoken critic of the Nazis and feared their rise was inevitable.) But she also believes that her future as an actress was something that was preordained.

LivingTheaterJudithMalina“My mother had been an actress,” she says, “but my father was a rabbi, so she had to quit. This was the 1920s. A rabbi couldn’t…

View original post 752 more words

Concerned Theatre Japan: A pioneering English-language magazine about 1970’s Japanese theatre

Thanks, And thanks, and ever thanks for making Concerned Theatre Japan digitally available!
I was one of those ‘lonely theatre scholars’ (albeit second generation, researching Japanese avantgarde theater with a Monbusho scholarship from 1980-1982) and have cherished the copies of Concerned Theatre Japan ever since David Goodman was kind enough to present me with a full set way back when!

Tokyo Stages

Today students of Japanese post-war and contemporary theatre are fortunate to have numerous resources at their disposal. While much more needs to be done — and I hope this blog has also made its own humble but useful contribution — before griping over any lack of translations and articles, we should first consider the pitiful state the lonely theatre scholar found himself or herself in were they so foolish enough as to attempt a study of Japanese performing arts several decades ago.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, while the angura movement boomed and troupes such as Tenjō Sajiki toured the globe, almost nothing substantial was available in print, with one notable exception. Edited by David G. Goodman, Concerned Theatre Japan was pioneering magazine that was practically the only resource in English about angura theatre until Goodman himself and others began publishing play anthologies and other scholarly books from the 1980’s…

View original post 1,077 more words

Judith Malina’s “No Place To Hide”

The Living Theatre might be the longest-running avantgarde theater company in the world. In its 67th season now, founder and director Judith Malina is still going strong with a new piece that just opened in Manhattan: “No Place To Hide,” and working on another one, “The Triumph of Time,” for her fellow-actors in residence at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey.

Here is an excellent photo essay by Gaia Squarci of Judith in action, accompanied by a text of Chelsea Matiash for the Wall Street Journal blog, as well as two photographs by theworldforacountry of the event mentioned in the blog, a work-in-progress presentation at The Whitney Museum of American Art (during the Rituals of Rented Island exhibition) of “The Chairs,” by multi-media artist and theater director Theodora Skipitares.

Judith Malina after the performance of The Chairs, a work-in-progress presented at The Whitney Museum of American Art

Judith Malina after the performance of “The Chairs”, a work-in-progress presented at The Whitney Museum of American Art

Judith Chairs 2

Theodora Skipitares in artist talk at The Whitney Museum of American Art, after the performance of “The Chairs.” In background, left, narrator Judith Malina Living Theatre to Debut Judith Malina’s “No Place To Hide”By Chelsea Matiash When the Living Theatre gave up its home on the Lower East Side in 2013, it appeared to be the end of an era. Unable to pay the rent, the company closed is doors and packed the bags of its ailing longtime leader, Judith Malina. Ms. Malina, the group’s co-founder and artistic director, relocated from her apartment above the performance space to the Lillian Booth Actors Home, an assisted-living and nursing-care facility for entertainment professionals in Englewood, N.J. Ms. Malina, 87, suffers from emphysema but continues to write from her new home, where members of the group visit her often. Photographer Gaia Squarci recently spent time with Ms. Malina and previewed her latest play as part of a project documenting the Living Theatre and its co-founder. Despite the struggles of the past year, Ms. Malina’s story is one of resilience, Ms. Squarci said. She described her first encounter with Ms. Malina this winter during a show at the Whitney Museum. “Judith was sitting on a chair all dressed in black, black hair lightly turning white close to the scalp, wide-open eyes and bright pink nails,” Ms. Squarci recalled. ”She looked small and frail from a distance,” but she was the center of a flurry of handshakes and smiles. “She doesn’t hide her fragilities,” she said. Since that encounter, she has followed the Living Theatre during a transitional period. The experimental company, whose performances are rooted in social change, politics and the avant-garde, is no stranger to losing its home. In the 1950s and ’60s, the group’s unconventional performances led to the closing by authorities of all the Living Theatre’s New York venues, after which it began a new existence as a touring ensemble, traveling internationally. Over the years, the company reinvented itself, presenting performances in different venues and spaces before settling at the Clinton Street Theater– its first permanent home since 1993. Ms. Malina will direct when the company debuts her new play, “No Place to Hide,” at Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on Wednesday, marking the Living Theatre’s first production since losing its space on Clinton Street. The production, presented as a work in progress, explores “the reasons and consequences of hiding” and invites audience participation. Said Brad Burgess, the executive producer: “We want to help the public and ourselves confront where we’ve come from, what we’ve done to each other, and expose ways of making things better through what we do for each other.” Looking into the future, Ms. Malina said one of her plays, “The Triumph of Time,” will explore the positive aspects of aging, in contrast to “the views of society.” She said she hopes to involve other older actors living at the Lillian Booth Actors Home. Aging “is when you become who you really are and what you’ve been building up to,” she said. “You’re more complete.” Below, Ms. Sqaurci’s photographs provide an inside look at the latest work of Ms. Malina and her company.

Judith Malina sat back in her room at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J.

Gaia Squarci for The Wall Street Journal
Judith Malina sat back in her room at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J.

Ms. Malina penciled in an item on her calendar

Gaia Squarci for the Wall Street Journal
Ms. Malina penciled in an item on her calendar

Gaia Squarci for The Wall Street Journal Performers worked during a rehearsal of the Living Theatre Company directed by Ms. Malina at La MaMa rehearsal studios.

Gaia Squarci for The Wall Street Journal
Performers worked during a rehearsal of the Living Theatre Company directed by Ms. Malina at La MaMa rehearsal studios.

Gaia Squarci for The Wall Street Journal Ms. Malina is helped down the stairs following rehearsal.

Gaia Squarci for The Wall Street Journal
Ms. Malina is helped down the stairs following rehearsal.


The performance of INTAGLIO -with music by Philip Glass – broke an almost 40-year silence of creator/choreographer/dancer Koert Stuyf and his muse, the inimitable stage legend Ellen Edinoff.

Philip Glass himself introduced the world premiere of INTAGLIO at the Rabozaal in Amsterdam on 29 April 2012.

Afterwards, a minutes-long curtain call for Ellen Edinoff, Koert Stuyf, Mickey de Haan, Peter Spoor (all in costumes designed by Zandra Rhodes), Philip Glass, Michael Riesman, and the producer of INTAGLIO, Rob Malasch.

Here’s a short reportage with images of Ellen Edinoff and fragments of an interview with Koert Stuyf.


And  the evening’s  introduction by Philip Glass and minutes-long curtain call at the end.


Generations at Dansgroep Amsterdam: Learning from the Masters

Scottish choreographer William Collins, an alumnus of the Amsterdam School for New Dance Development, kicks off the Generations program with Exclamations. Collins’ choreography is larded with indeed, exclamations, shards of song and talk about a dead cat. These burlesque moments and assistant-choreographer Airen Koopman’s plain and playful costumes, relieve and counteract the anguish created by Collins’ proclivity for distortion and disjointed movements. Collins’ insistence to go back to the essence: the dancer’s body (and voice), in a bare setting, without a sound score, is admirable. However, too often in works like these, I can glean the studio exercises that lay at the basis of its creation. There are quotes (unbeknownst to Collins?) from the early works of Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker and Pina Bausch. Exclamations has its moments, but for me, it is not a finished work. It is not yet polished with the ambiguity and multi-interpretability that characterizes all great art. Now, one can’t expect a young choreographer to be a great artist all at once. Collins’ approach is an honest exploration. But approaching dance this way, leaning toward theatricality but skipping its dramaturgical considerations, there is always the danger that the choreography will not rise above the common workshop performance experience. Collins’s work tells me that dramatic tension as I know and enjoy it, may be dead. So: a true generation-gap. Exclamations lacks a certain charisma that keeps my attention fully going, like with the next choreography on the program Remains to be Seen. Michael Schumacher is a seasoned and hugely accomplished dancer/choreographer, who worked with the likes of Ballet Frankfurt and Twyla Tharp. His latest work has an intensity and clear dramatic line that almost belies its improvisational origin. It shows the hand of a true dance-master. Again, the stage is bare, but Pink Steenvoorden’s light plot dresses the stage in mysterious auburn hues, until a sudden switch to daylight reveals the true colors of dancers and costumes (by Elian Smits). Tiny search lights, like lost stars, signal at the beginning and the middle the “remains to be seen,” mesmerizingly underscored by Steven Heather’s music. All through this 20-minute choreography I am sitting at the edge of my seat, wondering “What’s next? What’s next?”
In Infinite, Hungarian-born grande dame of Dutch dance Krisztina de Châtel shows what maturity and mastery can accomplish. Piazzolla’s Eight Seasons, as played by violinist Gidon Kremer and reworked and adapted by Han Otten, forms the powerful soundscape against which Abu-Graib-like hooded figures (the entire DGA ensemble) rhythmically stomp around the stage in endlessly fascinating patterns. Performers unite with audience in an ever-tightening noose-around-the-neck. This is spine-tingling dancing at its best. Sometimes dancers will break out of the faceless anonymity of the clinically-clad crowd in hospital blues and greens, like Charlie Chaplins on the loose in Modern Times.
At the end, a moving moment when Krisztina de Chatel joins DGA’s 12 fabulously versatile dancers on stage to take the bow. Hopeful signs of new beginnings for DGA and new dance generations to come.

see also:

Mayor Bloomberg Speaks at La MaMa Fiftieth Anniversary Gala

Mayor Bloomberg spoke yesterday at La MaMa’s Fiftieth Anniversary Gala at the Ellen Stewart Theater on East 4th Street, the block that is now renamed “Ellen Stewart Way.”
Bloomberg talked about his first encounter in 2006 with Ellen’s driving visionary force, which made him hand over the building that was formerly called “the Annex” for one dollar (1$)!
He also announced that – at the instruction of Kate D. Levin, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) – the city will support La MaMa with 2 million dollars for capital improvements on four facilities (the original La MaMa building, the Ellen Stewart Theater, La MaMa Galleria on 1st Street and the rehearsal studio building on 47 Great Jones Street). This not only to perpetuate La MaMa’s own activities in theater, the visual arts and education, but also to support La MaMa’s guiding light function in a “Naturally Occurring Cultural District.”
“Theater, including off-off-Broadway,” said the mayor, “is a major industry in our city. In fact, on-Broadway theaters have a quarter-billion-dollar impact on our economy every year.” And that is why he thinks investing in La MaMa is “a sound investment in the city’s future.”
The evening was full of wonderful theatrical surprises, like Estelle Parsons and John Kelly in a beautifully executed mother-and-son scene of Harvey Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy,’ touching video messages from Harvey Keitel and Sam Shepard, who received the first-ever Ellen Stewart Award, a scene from Wallace Shawn’s zany ‘Hotel Play’ with a million characters young and old flocking to the stage including Shawn himself as the bell-boy, and a vibrant new piece by the inimitable Elizabeth Swados, a ‘La MaMa Cantata’ set to Ellen Stewart’s own words. MC’d by La MaMa old-timers Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches, the evening was a reconfirmation that La MaMa’s future is secured for at least another fifty years.

%d bloggers like this: