Tomohiro Maekawa: On Being a Resident Playwright in UK 002

Tomohiro Maekawa
Playwright and director

It's July 7th, the first day of the program. We're supposed to meet in front of the dormitory in the evening. I wonder what the other participants are like. This year's participants come from nine countries: the Republic of Korea, India, Turkey, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Mexico and Japan. Incidentally, the FIFA World Cup has been under way. On June 24th, Japan beat Denmark to make it to the Round of 16. I must also do my best. No, wait; this isn't a competition where someone wins.

My room at the dorm. There's only a desk, a dresser and a bed. I'm borrowing the room at a college dormitory.

Chris and Elyse from the Royal Court Theatre (RCT) and a few of the program's participants were in front of the dorm. I said my hellos. Once everyone showed up, Chris started his explanations while walking. The plan was to show us the streets and point out the stores where we could find the things we'd need during our stay on the 25-minute walk to the theater.

I had already asked for advice on what to do about my problem with English through e-mail. The reply I got was that English wasn't the native language for most of the participants, so I didn't have to worry. I was also assured that the staff had the know-how to deal with such problems. My first thought was, "Well, if everyone else can't speak English, it must be okay." This laid-back attitude that is typical of most Japanese people disappeared long before we got to the theater. Everyone was using English to speak to one another. I looked up at the sky and thought, "Yikes." It wasn't that I had forgotten something at the dorm. There was no way I could improve my poor English skills in a few days' time. I stared off into the distance and thought again, "Yikes." There's a limit to not being able to speak English.

First, we toured the inside of the theater. We marched through the office, the meeting room and the two theaters. There were structural steel reinforcements and modern offices in place alongside the grave exterior and the old brick walls. I felt the spirit of the theater that placed importance on creating new plays while preserving history. After the tour, we had our welcome meeting. We were given copies of various documents we would need, our translated scripts and a leaflet of the program, along with the scripts of plays we would watch. We also listened to an explanation of what we would do during the program and introduced ourselves to the other participants. Since English wasn't the native language of most of the participants, they spoke slowly, which made it easy for me to understand. But I really couldn't keep up with the English that the native speakers spoke. I felt like they talked about a lot of important things like explanations about administrative matters and how we were to prepare for the program, but...I couldn't understand it. Elyse, the program's boss and the Associate Director of the theater, saw me sitting stunned after the meeting was over and asked me, "Tomohiro, are you okay? If there's anything you didn't understand, just tell us." I replied in my faltering English, "I don't understand what I don't understand."

Tonight is the match between Spain and Germany. Antonio, our Spanish playwright, is the center of most of the conversations. I need to be strong, because tomorrow, the work will begin in earnest.

img01.jpg Tomohiro Maekawa
Playwright and director. Maekawa was born in 1974 in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture. His style is to use props based on science fiction to bring out the "supernatural" that exists in our daily lives. He formed the theater company 'Ikiume' in 2003 as the base of his activities.He has written and directed a number of plays, including: Sanposuru shinryakusha (The Strolling Invader), Toshokan-teki jinsei (A Library-like Life), Kansu domino (Mathematical Domino), Kikkai--Koizumi Yakumo kara kiita hanashi (Mysterious--Stories I Heard from Koizumi Yakumo), Miezarumono no ikinokori (Survivors of the Invisible Ones), Semakimon yori haire (Enter through the Narrow Gate), and Omote to ura to sono mukou (Outside, Inside and Beyond). Maekawa won the excellent play award and excellent director award at the 16th (2008) Yomiuri Theater Awards, the excellent director award at the 17th (2009) Yomiuri Theater Awards, and the individual award at the 44th (2009) Kinokuniya Theater Awards. He was also given the 60th (2010) Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Art Encouragement Prize for New Artists.

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