While Japan Society’s base in New York City, located at 333 East 47th Street, is temporarily closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic, the non-profit organization, founded in 1907, is continuing its mission as the country’s leading platform for Kizuna (deep, meaningful connection) between the US and Japan with its pre-eminent cultural programming. Using this time of self-isolating and social distancing as an opportunity to grow, its programs offer new ways to bring people together from around the world to share inspiring moments that reach beyond the traditional limitations of live in-person performance and travel.
As part of the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 Performing Arts Season, featuring innovative programs by visionary artists in music, theater, and more, the Japan Society’s annual “Play Reading Series” of contemporary Japanese works in English translation, now in its fifteenth installment, is being presented online. The current season launched with a virtual concert, Reiko Yamada: Sound Installation on Silent Movies on October 21, and will be followed by the livestream production of award-winning playwright Satoko Ichihara’s Underground Fairy on Wednesday, November 18, at 8 pm.
Translated by Aya Ogawa and directed by New York-based theater-maker and director Tara Ahmadinejad (co-founder of the live arts collective Piehole), the timely new adaptation, in response to COVID-19, addresses the topical themes of isolation, alienation, inclusivity, and the meaning of community. Through a series of absurd vignettes, Ichihara examines the relationship between feeling segregated, becoming an adult, and conforming to societal norms, as we follow Euriaeria, a half-fairy-half-human living in a fairy community, where she seems to be accepted – but is it genuine, or is she still viewed as an outsider?
According to the playwright, “Though the scenes are very randomly presented . . . [the audience] might start to see the whole thing as the delusion of ‘one woman who is a nobody.’ As we witness her suppressed desires emerge and run wild, the audience starts to realize their own suppressed desires.”
Underground Fairy will be performed live by a cast of American actors and followed by a post-show Q&A with Ahmadinejad and Ichihara (from Tokyo). Tickets for the premiere are on sale at $15 for the general public and $12 for Japan Society members, and a recording of the program will be available to purchase and to watch on demand, with unlimited viewing November 18-December 2. For more information and tickets, call (212) 832-1155, or go online; you can view the promotional video here:
Next month, Japan Society returns online with Kagami-kaja (A Mirror Servant), a contemporary kyogen play (meaning “mad words” or “wild speech”), accompanied by a second piece from the traditional kyogen repertoire, directed and performed by Mansai Nomura (December 9). The legendary kyogen actor will then sit down with Japan Society’s Artistic Director Yoko Shioya for a live Q&A, to discuss his fresh approach to the 650-year-old Japanese tradition of comic theater (December 12).