All About Japan

All About Kangeki Theatre

| Theater , Nagoya

While Tokyo and Yokohama have been bringing English-language theater to audiences for over a century, Nagoya's a relative newcomer on the scene. Japan's fourth-largest city is brimming with performance arts groups, and we sat down with Jessica A. Robison, founding member of Kangeki Theatre, for info about the budding group and its upcoming show.

How was the company founded, and by whom?

Kangeki Theatre was founded in September 2014, when Matthew Hegstrom, one of our founding members, wanted to produce a show called Nagasaki Dust. The group was initially formed in order to get the show off the ground, but we also had a view to produce works in the future. As a group, we wanted to do more multicultural work that involved the Japanese and foreign theater communities working collaboratively to produce works with universal appeal.

How many active members are there?

Matthew has since returned to the U.S., but we currently have four active founding members in Japan: Miho Kobayshi, specializing in dance and movement; Megumi Miura, specializing in dance, movement and sound design; Sophie Goto, specializing in acting and costume design; and myself, specializing in acting and directing. Another Japanese member, Naomi Yamaguchi, deals with things like accounting and translation support. We also rely on the help of others for elements such as photography, videography and lighting design.

For our current show, The Face of It, we are using the photography of Ozan Aktas, video design by Katsutoshi Furuya and lighting design by Sachiko Mihara.

Do you perform in English or Japanese?

Our first show, Nagasaki Dust, involved actors and crew from the non-Japanese and Japanese theater communities. It was performed in Japanese and English with corresponding subtitles. Nagasaki Dust told the story of a Japanese-American man who is unlucky enough to be stuck in Japan at the start of World War II. He was forced to make an impossible choice: execution or joining the Japanese army. In the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, we hear his story told before and during his trial.

Our upcoming original show, called The Face of It, is scriptless. It's a series of vignettes based on interviews in which we asked two questions: "What is the most unforgettable experience in your life?" and "What makes you happy now?" The show is movement-based, and we're using sound and video to convey each vignette.

In addition to our public performances, we are pleased to be performing The Face of It at the International Metropolis Conference 2016 in Aichi-Nagoya, to be held on October 26, 2016. Because the conference will be attended by participants from all over the world, it was especially important to make the themes in our show universal.

What's it like performing theater in Nagoya, and how strong is the community?

English-language theater in Nagoya has only been growing in the last 10 years. In addition to Kangeki Theatre, there are also three to four other theater companies in operation, as well as occasional independent productions, including Life in Light and Darkness, a double-bill consisting of two one-act plays set to be performed in October 2016.

Because of the number of theater companies, and the relative size of the foreign theater community, we have crossover with actors, directors and staff—with all the companies supporting each other. With so many projects going on, it can get busy, but it’s also an exciting time for theater in Nagoya! Kangeki Theatre is excited to be producing shows in this environment.

What makes Kangeki Theatre different?

What probably makes us different from the other companies in Nagoya is the makeup of our members, and the type of theater we are currently producing. All of our current active members in Japan are women—two Japanese, one from the U.K. and one from the U.S. In addition, we are working collaboratively with the Japanese theater community: Nagasaki Dust included many Japanese actors who had never had exposure to the foreign acting community before, and The Face of It, in addition to the four members mentioned above, is also featuring an all-Japanese dance troupe. We are a truly multicultural company. Also, while our movement and vignette-based show style is not foreign to the Japanese theater community in Nagoya, it is the first of its kind to include non-Japanese performers. We are proud to be producing unique theater in Nagoya and in Japan.

Finally, can you tell us a little more about 'The Face of It'?

Finally, can you tell us a little more about 'The Face of It'?

The Face of It is a cross-genre performance piece based on those moments during everyday life when we're forced to stop, recognize and confront our human existence. In this piece, we explore themes such as endurance, materialism and migration in the attempt to ask ourselves: Are we living according to our own will, or simply being propelled through life by forces outside of our control?

The Face of It
Urinko Theatre (near Issha Station on Nagoya's Higashiyama Line)

Dates & Times:
9/10 (Sat) – 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
9/11 (Sun) – 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets:
¥2,500 in advance
¥2,800 at the door

For tickets, contact Kangeki Theatre on Facebook, at tickets@kangekitheatre.com, or at 090-6586-9680 (English or Japanese).