#22 Winter 2001
Happy New Year!
The new millennium is upon us. As well as being healthy and I happy, I hope this year to be able to create some enjoyable Shakespeare.
In comparison to what we were before we went to Edinburgh, having experienced Edinburgh we could now say we were in our "After Edinburgh" (A.E.) stage. Not quite the same way as After the War or post-war but more in line with the change from B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domino), although you must excuse our exaggerated and rather cheeky self titling.
What has changed ? To be honest, I do not know yet in what way we have changed. Perhaps that change will show itself in our next and further productions. However, we feel that we have jumped on a giant springboard towards our goals that were at the centre of our enthusiasm when we started the company ? building a theatre, the reality of an Asian Shakespeare Festival.
As soon as we returned from Edinburgh we were inundated with so much charming response from abroad. Firstly there was a letter from Dr Wiertz in Germany. He is a producer of a Shakespeare theatre in a town near Dusseldorf and he fell in love with our "Macbeth" in Edinburgh, and as a result wanted to inviter us to a festival of plays in June the following year. We were so happy. I remember the splitting applause from the crowd in Edinburgh and I am deeply grateful to those who gave such an enthusiastic response to people like us.
The whole troupe talked it over and in the end, although it may have been good, we decided to decline the offer. I wrote a letter back saying that we create our plays because of the spirit of the venue, that is to say, because it was Scotland we could do "Macbeth"; also we exhausted our energies in the two year journey from Osorezan to our destination in Edinburgh, and we would be grateful if he could excuse the extreme selfishness of an amateur trope, and other words to that effect.
There wasn't a reply from Dr Wiertz for some time, and just when I thought that maybe we had offended him, the next day: "It is unfortunate that your answer is no but your letter was most enjoyable. Please come to Germany sometime. Also you said that next year you are doing "As You Like It" in a hot-spring resort. Well, Germany has hot-springs!" ? a letter enveloped in a warm humour. And so, we felt that maybe after performing "Hamlet" in Denmark in 2004, we could pay a visit to Germany.
On October 20th a diploma student from Oxford University, named Gallimor, said he was moved by our "Macbeth" in Edinburgh and he visited Sendai all the way from Britain to watch and research our activities. He was writing a thesis on the Japanese translations of Shakespeare, especially "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and I was a little surprised and startled by the fact that here was an Englishman researching Japanese translations and performances. His Japanese ability was extraordinary and when I thought that his ability to understand the original works was at least superior to any Japanese, I realised we wouldnft be able to idle away.
A further 10 days later a letter arrived in my office from Dr Latiff, assistant professor at the Malaysia Science University. He was a friend of mine since 1994 when we had a heated discussion at a performance seminar held in London, and he had seen our Edinburgh performance on Reuters' news, become restless and wrote that he wanted to research Shakespeare in Sendai. Whilst on the phone with him for the first time in six years, I was struck by the words "Shakespeare in Malaysia is still in English. I want to do it in Malay. Would you help me work out how to do that?"
If he gets a scholarship from the Japan Foundation then he will come to Sendai in the autumn of 2001 for three months as a research fellow at TGU. I am so looking forward to seeing him again and working with him. Also, it's possible that this could be the first step to opening the door into Asia.
In mid November a fax arrived which read "We apologise for this sudden correspondence. It is our pleasure to inform you that the Shakespeare Company Japan has been nominated for the 5th Theatrical Assistance Award from our foundation". The sender was the Kobun Scheherazade Foundation.@The fax listed others that were picked and continued "Assistance will be awarded to the theatre or performing troupe that contributes to the development of the Japanese theatrical world through it's performing activities".
I wonder when they came to see us. I didn't really understand but by just being nominated, that must mean that they came to see my play and that made me happy. Afterwards, we received a further letter saying that we had been unsuccessful but, as we look at it, the happiness we feel because they saw us is far greater that the disappointment.
When Edinburgh finished, the Shakespeare Company entered a new century. After Edinburgh. As the words imply, we are reborn and working towards a new Shakespeare creation, and we are fully determined. Whilst fixing our roots in Tohoku, we'll go around the area, once every four years take a trip abroad, and I hope we exhibit our theatrical performances far and wide. And so we hope that one day, a warm, bright day will come when the Japanese made Globe Theatre will become the sun not just of Japan but of all Asia.
Being with Mr Shimodate
By Nogami Katsuhiko, assistant professor, Chiba University of Engineering
I think the first time I met Mr Shimodate was the summer of 1993. He was staying as an overseas fellow researching Dante at Cambridge University, he had come to Stratford, the birthplace of Shakespeare, and we happened to meet as I was residing at the Shakespeare Research Centre. The first impression was very strong, but first off I cannot forget the ramen story. I was surprised when I heard expressions philosophising ramen, the passion and the immense knowledge. Despite this, when we would meet I would see him eating "Donbei" and I would feel pity for him as he seemed to be being forced to compromise whilst in the UK.
When we were first together he was rather careful, but once we got talking about performing Shakespeare in Tohoku-ben he opened up to me about intending to build a Globe Theatre in Sendai. At that moment he was more passionate about it than ramen so I got the distinct impression that there was no compromise here, just real spirit. Evidence of this is in the fact that since then I have never heard another ramen story from Mr Shimodate. Regardless of that, performing Shakespeare in Tohoku-ben actually didn't seem out of place to me because I had always felt that someone like this would turn up, and from the instant I heard this idea you could say I was hooked. The same as today, back then I felt there was something missing from a life of being shut in a library all day, and that was that the question of how much could one commit oneself to Shakespeare ? could not be answered by researching in a library alone, and here was the key to solving my dilemma.
Also at that time, I remember that we talked about how the difficult undertaking of performing in Tohoku-ben was actually not off the mark but probably the correct method, and I thought this because as a result of watching the RSC performances for 10 years, I came to think that performing a sincerely translated Shakespeare play was not at all reckless. I think that moving the setting to Tohoku and establishing characters particular to Tohoku, that is to say, adapting Shakespeare in a Tohoku way itself is the freshest way and best way to make the work live. There is no other way for something to live other than by creating something particular to itself. Mr Shimodate and I agreed on this.
Mr Shimodate is a doer. He is someone who creates something. And that has to be something that exceeds study. I guess there are many hardships when it comes to the all inclusive art of performance, but since it started six years ago, this grandiose plan has come to fruition every year and every goal achieved is something worth waiting for.
I heard directly from Mr Shimodate about the success of Edinburgh, and I saw the piece on News Station on 3rd October, and I am happy from the bottom of my heart that it ended successfully. Thank you very much.