Tomohiro Maekawa: On Being a Resident Playwright in UK 004

Tomohiro Maekawa
Playwright and director

The first read-through of the scripts was referred to as a "cold reading" in the program leaflet. Apparently it means we'll be reading our scripts out loud without any preparation. Each read-through takes an hour and a half. Since all nine participants will attend, the entire process will take two whole days. I'd thought that we would begin working individually, so I'm thankful that I'll get a chance to see everyone's work. The read-through of my script is scheduled for the second day, and I watch with interest on the first day as other participants' scripts are being read one by one. It's difficult for me to keep up with the lines being read, so I borrow the scripts and listen while following the words on the scripts. This way, I can understand a little bit. I'm interested in seeing the works of others, and I want to say what I feel about each piece. I would feel dejected if nobody commented on my script, and communicating with people from different backgrounds will surely benefit me a lot. That must be the reason all of us are doing this together.

It's fun watching the actors. I've seen native English speakers acting in movies and such many times before, but it's my first time seeing them thinking about and reading the lines of the scripts in their hands in a cramped rehearsal room. Although it's my first time seeing this, I feel that performers have the same job no matter where they are in the world. I tend to get anxious because I'm in a foreign place, but I feel that seeing things like this helps me relax little by little. Maybe it's only natural, since we all share one thing in the form of theater. If that's the case, what's different about the home of theater? I'll probably make it one of my objectives to find out.

Everyone's work was different. I listened to plays ranging from the comedic to the absurd, plays that incorporated a country's political or historical aspects and even science fiction stories involving aliens. I don't know if I understood the stories correctly because of my language problem, but the acting made it easy for me to understand the feelings of the characters and the situations they were in, and I enjoyed it overall. There aren't many people making plays about politics in Japan nowadays, and there are also not many people interested in seeing such plays. I'm not saying it's good or bad, just that that's the way it is. I simply wondered why someone would choose to make a play about such a topic, but then, I could ask myself the same question. It made me aware of the social conditions and the culture that surround me. Even if I'm not aware of it, these things are woven into my work.

At night, we all go out to see a play.

I get together with the actors, director, translator and script advisor of my team. It's very exciting to hear the actors read my translated script aloud. It being my script, I obviously can understand what's going on just by looking at the gestures of the actors. My team is laughing at the funny parts of my play. The overall mood isn't bad, either. I wonder what the others think. I feel as excited as I did the day my first play was performed. Once the reading is over, Elyse is all smiles. The other participants also begin talking to me one after another. It's just the first draft, so I don't think it's because my work was particularly great. But I had never really spoken much because of my poor English, and they have just heard my words for 90 minutes straight. Having seeing my work, they can understand what I am interested in and what kinds of things I am thinking about. In other words, we have communicated. It's like they were saying, "You've got some interesting ideas," and from then on, we started becoming closer. A wall between us has disappeared because of my play. As an artist, I couldn't be happier.

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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