国際交流基金 The Japan Foundation Performing Arts Network Japan

Artist Interview アーティストインタビュー

Jan. 30, 2023
Misaki Setoyama Photo: Takayasu Hattori



Seeking out the voices of the person’s concerned, Misaki Setoyama’s unwavering capacity to listen

Misaki Setoyama (born 1977) is a prominent playwright and director whose works include Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her, which examines the state of the media while moving back and forth between the two eras of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty protest demonstrations of the 1960s and the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011), which was nominated as a finalist for the 4th Kunio Kishida Drama Award. In addition to writing and directing performances for the theater unit Minamoza that she leads, Setoyama’s activities range widely, from writing scripts for other theater companies and stage productions, to involvement in commercial theater productions starring Pop Idols. And in January 2023, she will present her first musical. Over the years, Setoyama’s influence in Japan’s theater world has grown to the point that, in March 2022, she was appointed the position of President of the Japan Playwrights Association. In this long interview, we talked with Setoyama about her stance as a playwright, a director, and a performance industry leader.

Interviewer: Nobuko Tanaka

Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her
Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her
Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her
Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her

Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her (Kanojo wo Warau Hito ga Itemo)
(Dec. 4 – 18, 2021 at Setagaya Public Theatre)
Photo: Shinji Hosono

First of all, could you tell us about your original roots in theater?
When I was in the upper grades of elementary school, I went to see the play Masaya Omine in which Nobuko Otowa performed, and I was so impressed by the amazing stage equipment and the atmosphere of the theater. Because of that experience, I joined the drama club in my junior high school, where I was given the opportunity to do various things, including acting, constructing sets, and operating lighting and sound. Also, with whatever pocket money I had, I went to see plays on what was known at the time as the Small Theater scene about once a month. In the early 90s, I saw performances by Keralino Sandorovich’s theater company Gekidan Kenko and the last performance of Shoji Kokami’s Daisan Butai (Third Stage) company, but of all the things I saw, my favorite works were the plays by Kohei Tsuka (*1).

It began when I happened to read Tsuka-san’s plays at the library, and that led me to go on to read his essays and novels. The first time I saw Atami Satsujin Jiken (The Atami Murder Case), it was just so shocking to me that I went to see it again. At first, I was fascinated by the unprecedented directing, with the use of microphones to create loud performances and trailers, and I was especially attracted to the fact that it turned the unpleasing sides of human nature into entertainment.

As I continued to watch his plays, I realized that Tsuka-san would keep updating the same play, by changing the lead role from a man to a woman and changing the dialogue and the lines to keep them contemporary. I came to think that this method of his was very interesting. I realized that theater could be changed to reflect the current atmosphere of the times very quickly. I also liked the fact that could give theater a look of flashy entertainment while at the same time dealing with serious social issues such as the problem of discrimination and more.

In high school, I quit the drama club to devote time to preparing for university entrance exams, but I still took time to write scripts for voluntary plays at school festivals and the like. When I was in first grade, I wrote a play with a cartoon-like setting in which the nuclear weapon is a girl, and at the end, you have to kill the girl you like. It’s embarrassing when I think about it now (laughs).
After that, you entered the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University.
When I was a student, in addition to theater, I used to read my favorite manga and magazines. I liked music, and since my family home is in the Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo, so I used to frequent the live-music clubs there in search of the latest underground music. As for manga artists, my favorite is Hitoshi Iwaaki the author of Parasyte (*2), and I have all of his manga books. Basically, I like science-fiction manga, and I also like Kyoko Okazaki. So later, as an adult, I was really happy when I was given the job to write the script for Okazaki’s manga River’s Edge.

One of the reasons I took the entrance exam for Waseda was because it was strong in theater. At the time, I was also interested in welfare, so at university, I belonged to a sign language circle, and I continued to use that as a volunteer to play with children of the deaf. It was just around that time when the Setagaya Public Theatre opened, and I was able to see a variety of plays there while working part-time as a staff member at the theater’s reception desk.

Since its opening, Setagaya Public Theatre had a lot of momentum, and we were able to see a variety of works, including ones invited from overseas. When NODA/MAP performed Pandora’s Bells, I watched the performances about six times as an usher. As I watched the performances of the actors changing day by day, I remember feeling the potential of how much the stage performances could change.
After that, you auditioned for the Kita-ku Tsuka Kohei Theater Company (*3).
It was a period when there were very few jobs for new university graduates, and amid the pressure I felt in that atmosphere, I thought again about what I wanted to do, and the result was that I realized what I wanted to do was theater. I liked reading plays, so I wanted to write and direct, but I didn’t know how to go about pursuing that path. I thought I had to meet people, so I auditioned for a position as an actor in the Kita-ku Tsuka Kohei Theater Company. I thought it was impossible because I couldn’t dance the assigned dance, but when I pointed out my resume that I wanted to write and direct, I was allowed to participate in about two performances to help with the acoustics.

In 2001, the year after graduating from university, I performed in the first performance of the theater company Minamoza’s Kokoro no Naka (In the Heart) at Nakano Terpsichore, together with actors I had met on the theater scene. I talked to the people around me and got introductions to staff members, and then barely managed to feel my way through the performances.

I also liked the plays by Tetsu Yamazaki, who is famous for his works based on actual incidents. So, I decided to make a play about Kazuko Fukuda, the murderer of a bar hostess in Matsuyama who afterward managed to evade the police by living on the run changing her looks with plastic surgery. But I couldn’t write it all down, so in the end, the first performance was based on the murder case of a TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) female research office employee (*4). It was a portrayal of the story of a woman who was the victim of male society, and in the end, a man who was saddened by her death said a line something like, “Miss A (Yasuko Watanabe) defeated them by dying.”

At the time, this incident resonated with something inside me. I was shocked that even a woman who seemed to be highly educated and socially successful suffered the difficulty of living within the rules set by men. Being part of the theater industry which is different from such a competitive business environment, it made me think about how I would feel if I had a job at a business company like that, and whether there are limits to which women could go in a position like hers.
After that, you continued to work in theater and as a professional writer for a while. Can you tell us why you became a writer?
I liked magazines and wanted to make a career in writing, so I applied to a writer’s office I found in a part-time job information magazine and worked there for about a year. After that, I became a freelance writer and mainly wrote articles for women’s magazines.

At Minamoza, on the other hand, I continued to work mainly behind the scenes on about one production a year for some 10 years. I didn’t even have much interest in expanding my activities, and I think the people around me only thought of me as one for whom theater was just a hobby. I felt sad about that, but sometimes I would submit a script for a drama award. At that time, Mr. Masayoshi Yahagi, who was at the Setagaya Public Theatre at the time, suggested that I submit a play to “Next Generation,” a program for training young theater artists at Theatre Tram. I applied as he had suggested and finally my third submission, a play titled Emotional Labor (based on the subject of why there are only men and no women engaging in telephone bank transfer scams) was selected for a performance at Theatre Tram. With that, I was able to meet many different people when it was performed in January 2011.

At the time, I was thinking about making some kind of change in my activities if my play wasn’t selected, but this enabled me to decide that I would give it one more try. The encounters there led to future friendships. And from there, the number of performances of my works increased a little, and I started receiving work from outside. So, I finally felt that I could make it in the theater world.
When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, you were one of the first to deal with that disaster in your work Hot Particles.
It was around the time that I became acquainted with contemporary artists, and those artists were moving forward with things very quickly. Chim↑Pom was one of the first to enter the zone of Fukushima Prefecture where it was difficult for people to return to their homes after the nuclear power plant accident. I also wanted to go there and write a play, so I remember asking Ryuta Ushiro of Chim↑Pom how I could get into that zone. And when I went there, I wrote Hot Particle (a semi-autobiographical work written through the eyes of a 33-year-old woman who has been repeatedly unsuccessful in love and runs a theater company that doesn’t sell well but goes to Fukushima with all the momentum she can muster).

At the time, I was still a writer for magazines, so in April of 2011 I was already covering the disaster-stricken areas, and I was thinking about how to make this situation into theater. I wanted to write something to perform as soon as possible, and in the end, I just did my own story as I was living it, which may have been an act that in retrospect seems rather brashly spontaneous. Once I got the idea, I felt that I just had to go through with it, and that I could work out the reasons for it later. Anyway, because of my nature as a writer, I thought that I just had to go straight to the scene and work on-site.
I feel that your motivation as a writer lies close to the reality you see.
Speaking in terms of the internal and external, I think of myself as one who focuses on both “reality plus the internal aspects,” and I don’t want to portray a reality that isn’t touching me internally. I don’t want to write about things that I I’m not thinking about or that don’t involve things I dislike at the time. One of my weaknesses is that I can’t write fiction, and when that fact is pointed out to me in the final stage of selection for the Kishida Drama Award, it certainly sounds convincing to me. I have been told by them that if you don’t write about what lies beyond the realities you see, you have to transpose it properly into metaphor.
What kinds of incidents do you want to write works about? Do the subjects you choose have anything in common that draws you to them?
I think the thing most of my subjects have in common is a concern for a woman’s position. I wanted to write last year’s Even if Some People Laugh at Her because it was about Michiko Kanba (*5), and the same is true of my play about the TEPCO OL murder case Emotional Labor, it has the woman’s position in common. Also, when I wrote Hot Particle, that’s eventually what I talked about. Even though I am just writing about my daily life, sexual harassment is a common presence, and I find myself unable to speak out in a homosocial space. I discovered these things while writing scripts.

At the time, I saw nuclear power as a symbol of something very masculine, and I was thinking about how to stop it. People may think that the principal subject matter is an incident, but what concerns me the most in everyday life is the position of women in Japanese society.

Regarding the murder of the young Otowa girl that was the model I chose for creating Minamoza’s second performance Blue Mountains (a case in which a 2-year-old nursery school girl was murdered by a mother whose own child went to the same nursery school), I think what struck me was the way that a women who did not seek a career but concentrated fully on raising her child as a full-time housewife could become so obsessed with that sole standard of values as to be driven to such an act.
Speaking of the position of women, the other day you talked about the state of the theater world in a lecture held by the International Association of Theater Critics. What did you say in that talk?
We talked about harassment in the theater world, but we also talked about the efforts of the Japan Playwrights Association, of which I am now Chairperson. Currently, there is a quota system for councilors (to promote gender equality, the rule is that the respective percentages of male and female council members must not fall below 40% for either gender). Also, in the plays receiving awards there tends to be a bias in favor of male authors, and there are too few plays written from the perspective of women. I don’t know if I can raise the women-oriented content, but I would like to try to increase it, and I want to think about how I can do that. We talked about the importance of more diversity in expression.
Could you tell us about the creative process of turning incidents and subjects that interested you into plays?
I will first cover what I can around me without thinking too much about the eventual output. I had once visited a community theater company called the London Bubble Theatre Company in the UK to see what I could learn there, and that experience made me decide that it would be helpful to make use of their creative methods, so I incorporated them in my working method. The method is based on not deciding on the recipe you want from the beginning, but to first concentrate on just gathering ingredients. Then you start arranging the gathered materials and thinking about what to make with them. It was a local community theater company, so people of all ages, occupations and both genders got together once a week to spend a year creating the work.

Even in my own theater company, I listen first to what people have to say. With my play Their Enemy, which premiered in 2013 (a film interviewed by Takayasu Hattori, a victim of the 1991 kidnapping of Waseda University students in Pakistan who later became a photographer), I went to the studio on the first day of rehearsals with zero pages of script, and what I did was to ask the model for the play (Hattori) to come to the studio and talk to us for two days. From there, my process was basically that I would write a little bit and then rewrite it again. Sometimes what I write is good, but sometimes it doesn’t work, and as a result, there were times when the script didn’t get finished in time.

Actually, before that, there was a case where I spent two years interviewing the people involved, but I couldn’t bring myself to start writing a script from that material before it came time for the first day of rehearsals. So, I had the actors come to the rehearsal studio and asked them to do the interviewing, and I listened to that and began to think together with them and wrote down the things I wanted to be included. At the time of the first re-performance, I thought that I needed to know more about Pakistan, because the story was about Pakistan, so I wrote it little by little while listening to talks that were held at the Pakistan Association in Japan, and then I added and re-wrote things that came out of that.

Since that’s the way I work, there are always a lot of things we all do together. From about a year before a scheduled performance, there are times when the actors will also go along with me to do interviews. In WILCO (about a Japanese man who becomes a mercenary in a foreign army), a play that begins with a survival game scene, at times we went there together. In the case of Minamoza, the attitude is always like, “Let’s just go and try it.” But when I receive a request from outside, I can’t just go into rehearsals with zero pages of the script.

Basically, rather than relying on documented materials, I usually meet with the related people involved and listen to their stories. However, in the case of Even if There Are People Who Laugh at Her, there were too few people I could interview, so I depended on the documented material. At the time of Rachi mo naku, Kegare naku (Without Bounds, Without Guile) about the life of playwright Masanori Otakeno, who passed away in 2009, I visited Osaka, where Otakeno-san was based, a number of times with producer Rin Watanuki-san and met with many people, especially (Otakeno’s) wife, Kozue, to hear her story.
Their Enemy
Their Enemy
Their Enemy

Theater company Minamoza Karera no Teki (Their Enemy)
(Jul. 24 - Aug. 4, 2013 at Komaba Agora Theater)
Takayasu Hattori

When you listen to what people tell you at such interviews, what is the first thing that stands out? Is it the characters involved? Or is it the story?
I often get a picture of what the first scene should be like. The feeling is that I am looking at the stage scene not through the eyes of a playwright, but through those of a stage director, and I get a picture of what the stage setting should look like. Actually, I’m really bad at writing just scripts. Of course, there are cases where I write only the script and leave the staging to the director, but in such cases, I make it a point to write it with sufficient blank spaces so that the script won’t restrict the stage direction.

I go to interview the people involved numerous times, and towards the end, they often let out their true feelings in rather straightforward words. I want to include words like that, and that’s where the scenes (pictures) are decided. In the case of the play about Otakeno-san, just before rehearsals were about to start, I went to talk to his widow, Kozue-san, one last-minute time, I asked her what she was doing lately, and she said that she had been going camping alone lately. When I heard that, I decided that I wanted to begin making a picture from there (for the first scene). In my case, I really can’t write if I don’t meet people and listen to them. If my heart isn’t moved by input from others, I usually can’t write at all.
Do you mean that when you meet people and something comes out that you want to write about, various blocks melt away and you can start writing?
Well, it was the same with Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her. The reason why I wanted to write about Michiko Kanba in the first place was because I learned about her existence in Tsuka-san’s Hiryuden. I have always wondered why there were such female students at the Tokyo University. So, I told the director, Tamiya Kuriyama, that I wanted to write about Kanba-san. But I couldn’t write anything for 10 months. At that time, the producer advised me that it would be good to have a current perspective.

When I happened to see a posting by a poet I knew from Fukushima, Yukiko Mihara, she said that Namie Town, where she originally lived, seemed to be recovering (from the Great East Japan Earthquake) but that was only how things looked on the surface, while the underlying reality was completely different. Hearing that, I finally realized what the structure of the play I needed to write should be. Until then, I had been fishing around for materials and picking up things that bothered me, but thanks to those words (of Mihara), I was able to write something that was more than just a story from the past.
Although you didn’t direct Even if There Are People Who Laugh at Her, after it your activities have expanded beyond your work until then with Minamoza, where you have continued to do all the writing and directing, hasn’t it?
From around last year, about 10 years after my play Emotional Labor was selected for the Next Generation program of Setagaya Public Theatre, I began to feel that I needed to rethink the direction I should be pursuing in terms of my expression (as an artist).

As a result, in the past few years, I have decided that I wanted to concentrate more on work as a director, so I’ve been taking on jobs that involve only directing. Actually, I’m not good at writing just scripts, as I said earlier. Rather, I am more of a person who gets pictures appearing in my mind, so I tend to get various ideas coming to mind in that way to use for directing. It’s a lot of fun for me to think about how to take things that other people have written, such as stage scripts based on novels or foreign plays, and then mount them as stage productions.

In terms of directing, I am aware of the fact that the directing method differs depending on the size of the theater, and I would like to gain experience in that aspect. And since I want to have the works that I direct be quick in pace, even at large theaters, I want to learn more about the technical aspects to enable that. For performances at large theaters there are equally large budgets that allow a director to experiment with new things, and as a theatergoer since I was young, I have seen productions on various scales in small, medium-sized and large theaters, and there are many things that I want to try to do myself as a director.
You are not only the director of your own theater company, Minamoza, but you also belong to Origamix Partners Co., Ltd., which mainly serves as an agent for film/video scriptwriters. In Japan, there are many management companies for actors, but there are few that mainly serve as agents for screenwriters.
I was invited by a screenwriter friend who worked at that agency when I was working as a writer. At first, I was only registered as a member, but in 2013, as my first big job, I wrote the script for a stage production of Kuniko Mukoda’s novel Like Ashura. And because the Quaras company, which hosted the play, was also producing stages in which young “idols” from the Johnny’s Office talent agency appeared, from that connection I began to direct that kind of production as well. As a job that came via Origamix Partners, I was able to write scripts and direct productions for the dance performance group S**t Kingz in 2019 and 2021. I don’t think I would have been able to receive these requests if I had not been a member of the company.
In March 2022, you became President of the Japan Playwrights Association. First of all, could you tell us what kind of organization the Japan Playwrights Association is and what kind of activities it undertakes?
The Japan Playwrights Association (hereinafter referred to as “the Association”) will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2023. In addition to Hisashi Inoue, the first President, people such as Minoru Betsuyaku and Ai Nagai have served as its President. In addition to protecting the rights of playwrights, such as performance fees and copyrights, the purpose of the Association is to improve the status of playwrights in a broader sense. Another major objective is to nurture young playwrights.

Currently, the number of members is just under 600, and the scope of its programs has gradually increased over the past 30 years. The main programs it sponsors include drama seminars, the New Writer’s Drama Award, and the Tsukiichi (monthly) Readings (workshops that aim to brush up the play scripts through drama readings and discussions by actors) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Association. With the exception of the programs commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the income from drama seminars and the rest of the Association’s programs are held with the members working on a voluntary basis and are not compensated even for members who hold a position in the organization.

Many people study in the drama seminars that have been held for many years, and among the graduates are professional playwrights such as Ikue Osada. In addition, the Playwrights Association New Drama Award is chosen by playwrights, and it has come to be known as a gateway to success for young playwrights. Also, the Japan Playwrights Association CONGRESS is held once every few years in collaboration with a regional theater or local government somewhere in Japan, in which citizens can participate and attract playwrights from all over the country. There are branches in each region, and they publish collections of the plays submitted and hold events. In these congresses it is mainly the regional branches that play the larger role.
In Japan, there are many playwrights and directors, but how is the Association dealing with the problems of harassment in creative settings, freedom of expression in the content of plays, racism and others that are currently regarded as the most problematic issues?
With regard to harassment, I think our Association started relatively early in the industry to deal with this issue. Around 2018, a study group was set up to create basic guidelines for dealing with harassment claims. And in 2020, we announced basic guidelines concerning sexual harassment.

This is basically for dealing with issues of sexual harassment that occur in the course of programs conducted by the Association, and the contact center we have set up to receive complaints or claims is also for that purpose. We also created a system by which the perpetrators do not know of the claims, so that the investigations are conducted by lawyers and clinical psychologists. In fact, some people mistake the contact center as one for all harassment cases that have occurred in the theater industry, and we are sometimes consulted for advice in individual cases, but we make it a point to respond within the limits of our actual capabilities.

In September of 2022, we also created guidelines on harassment in a broad sense, including power harassment, and they will soon be implemented after taking into consideration public comments from all of our members. Although the directors until now have dealt with these cases, because of the limitations involved, we have newly established a new countermeasures committee regarding harassment. In the future, these issues will be handled by this team made up of nationwide members.

Regarding harassment-related matters, in its budget for fiscal 2023, the Agency for Cultural Affairs has newly announced “support for harassment prevention measures” (75 projects involving works and performances, up to 200,000 yen per project (planned)) and we are looking into the prospect of requesting that the Agency for Cultural Affairs take budgetary measures for umbrella organizations such as our Association.

We are also working to establish a third-party organization to report a wider range of cases, rather than those occurring just during projects. The Theater Emergency Support Project, which was established by 32 industry-related organizations, including the Japan Directors Association and the Association of Japanese Theatre Companies for the purpose of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, has also begun discussions about a third-party organization.

Also, at the Japan Playwrights Association, in order to prevent the concentration of decision-making power, with the exception of councilors chosen by election, we have set an age limit of 60 for the president and committee members. If we don’t revise things now to make sure that the next generation will move up to take up positions of responsibility, there has been concern voiced that their participation will taper off. However, the transition will not proceed smoothly if the people in positions of responsibility are all replaced at once, we have adopted rules that only the vice president is appointed by the president, and we have made it possible for people over 60 years of age to become vice presidents. Currently, all the other committee members are in their 30s and 40s.

I believe that measures should be taken based on the basic premise that there is an unlimited possibility of harassment for playwrights and directors. I hope to share that with the association, including young people. However, the current situation is still at the beginning, and I feel that, regardless of age or gender, harassment is really coming to the surface. Actually, I think we need to learn about harassment first before we start theater, and I believe that it should even be taught at school as well.
Could you tell us about the association’s activities other than anti-harassment measures?
I think the most significant thing to improve on is performance rights and fees. The association has a regulation regarding performance fees (the minimum performance fee is 5% of the total budget, and it must not fall below one million yen at any time. However, that is with the exception of non-profit performances), and when I learned about that I finally felt that I could live in this (theater) world. These regulations are not enforceable, but the protection of performance fees and copyrights is important for playwrights to make a living, so I think that the Association should take proper measures in this area.

In reality, more often than not, it is said that it is impossible to designate a specific amount of money, but we cite these standards and then negotiate from there. Still, I plan to begin thinking again about standards that are based on the type of performance conditions involved. It would probably be something like perhaps lowering the payment ratio for performances with a large overall budget, while for companies eligible for subsidies or grants we would say one million yen, and for amateurs there would be a different rate. The Japan Directors Association can calculate the director fee based on the number of working days, but for playwrights there is no such measure that applies, so it is necessary to create such a standard specifically for them.
Are there any specific qualifications for becoming a member of the Association? Also, are there any measures you are taking to increase the number of young members?
Anyone who has written a play even just once, is eligible for membership. Also, for people under the age of 35 who intend to become professional playwrights, we recently started a scholarship system that exempts them from membership fees for the first three years. As of now, about a dozen people have joined all at once. However, since many of our members are active at the amateur level, we try not to create a gap between them and the professionals.

Also, as an Agency for Cultural Affairs “Digital Theater Support Project” (EPAD *6), a “Playtext Digital Archive” has been created. (https://playtextdigitalarchive.com/) Currently, more than 330 writers have been registered and more than 500 of their works can be read from this archive. I would like to see this number continue to increase, and I am thinking that it would be good for us to get it to the point where applications could be made for permission online.
Could you tell us about the status of applications for your New Playwright’s Award?
Every year, we receive about 200 to 250 applications, but in fiscal 2022, it decreased a little to just under 200. Our analysis is that the decrease in the number of applications is simply a result of the decrease in the number of plays being performed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the designation is “New Playwrights,” there is no limitation on applicant age.

Today we are in a time where it is very difficult to sponsor and stage works by yourself, so I feel that there is a tendency for playwrights to take advantage of play awards and theater competitions to get opportunities to have their works performed. Although our Japan Playwrights Association doesn’t perform the work selected for our New Playwright’s Award, we did decide to do readings of them.
How do you feel from the standpoint of being a female writer?
Of our 600 or so members, I think about 30% of the writers are women, judging by their names alone. Of course, there are more than a few who presumably cannot be defined simply as male or female. Still, it is clear that there are far more men. And probably, when it comes to professional playwrights, I believe there are even fewer women. In today’s theater world, the most critical time to work hard to build a career for writers comes around their late 30s, so I think that must be a good number of female writers who have to struggle with balancing their career with important things like pregnancy and childbirth. And since the fact is that many of them work freelance, the barriers that have to be overcome for childbirth will feel severe. Still, I don’t want to give up on the idea of growing the number of non-male playwrights and creating means by which women who have given birth to children can continue to write.
It seems that it’s really hard to make theater now considering the high level of risks involved, such as the possibility of cancellation due to COVID-19.
Before COVID-19, the reason why my theater company, Minamoza, was able to continue to perform, even if it was only one show a year, was because even if a production put us in debt, I was able to recover from that through other work or with the next performance. But now, due to the influence of COVID-19, many organizations really have no spare capacity left. So, if one production fails, it's all over, and they will decide to leave theater. In that case, as I mentioned earlier, being selected in the competition will be a valuable opportunity.

I will be a judge for the upcoming “Sengawa Theater Drama Competition,” and since one of the organizations involved in this competition is a theater, there is a possibility that I will be involved in the outreach project to schools and other places that the theater conducts.

Even if it is difficult for theater companies to engage in their creative activities now, there is still a possibility that theater producers can discover talented young theater people. In my case, that is the way it was when I was at Setagaya Public Theatre. Four years after my work was selected by the Next Generation program, I was given the opportunity to individually mount a production, for which I wrote Invisible Clouds, and after that, I was asked to produce Gendai Noh Theater X ‘Theory of Happiness’ and my play Even If There Are People Who Laugh at Her. It was having producers like that who thought about my future that was a big support for me.
Finally, please tell us about your plans going forward and what challenges you would like to take on in the future.
In 2023, I will direct a musical theater for the first time. It is a musical titled The Beautiful Game with music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and lyrics by Ben Elton and it deals with the conflict in Ireland while depicting the question of what kind of a future we want to pass on to our young people, so I definitely wanted to do it. I am also in charge of writing the stage script. Next, will be a script for a production that will be performed at the Kinokuniya Southern Theater Takashimaya in Tokyo at the end of February, and then will tour to high schools around the country.
Thank you very much for your time. We look forward to your activities in a wide range of fields.

*1 Kohei Tsuka (1948-2010)
Tsuka is a playwright, director and novelist. He began his theater career while a student at Keio University, and in 1973 he wrote The Atami Murder Case (a perverse tragicomedy in which chief detective, Denbei Kimura, repeatedly role-plays with a useless detective, Rukichi Kumada and others, the circumstances that led the murderer Kintaro Oyama, who was caught killing his lover Hanako, into a “first-class criminal”) for which he became the youngest person at the time to win the Kishida Drama Award, at the age of 25. In 1974, he established the Tsuka Kohei Office, which went on to create a sensation in the 1970s and ‘80s. Taking a single play, Tsuka would freely manipulate the stage script by his Kuchi-date method of having the actors improvise changes in the lines he gave them by word of mouth in order to repeatedly create new revised versions of the original play scripts he wrote. In the process, he had a great influence on many playwrights, directors and actors.

*2 Parasyte
Humans whose brains have been taken over by parasitic creatures (parasites) that have flown in from space have come to prey on other humans. Shinichi Izumi, a high school student, is attacked by a parasite, but the parasite is only able to take over part of his right hand instead of his brain. This highly popular manga depicts the strange symbiotic life of Shinichi and the parasitic creatures who have come to call themselves “Migi” and the ensuing battle between humans and the parasites.

*3 Kita-ku Tsuka Kohei Theater Company
Kita-ku Tsuka Kohei Theater Company is a theater company based in Kita-ku, established by Tsuka in 1994 at the request of Tokyo’s Kita-ku (Kita Ward). They focused on training actors but disbanded in 2011 due to Tsuka’s death.

*4 The TEPCO OL (female office worker) murder case
An unsolved case of a murder that actually occurred in 1997. The body of a murdered woman who worked at the Tokyo head office of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was found in a vacant room of an apartment building in Maruyama-cho, Shibuya Ward. It attracted attention as a case in which a female employee of a large company during the day was engaging in prostitution at night, and an illegally residing foreign man who was falsely accused of her murder. The incident became the subject of numerous non-fiction books.

*5 Michiko Kanba
A female student activist at the University of Tokyo who participated in the protests against amendments to the Japan-U.S. security treaty. She was killed in a clash with police at a demonstration site on June 15, 1960, at the age of 22.

This is one of the support projects implemented by the Agency for Cultural Affairs together with the “Emergency Performing Arts Network,” which was launched in 2020 with the participation of industry organizations to support the performing arts industry, in light of the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the industry.