Minneapolis Playwright Trista Baldwin and Japanese performance artist Shirotama Hitsujiya continue a long-term association with a public workshop production of Mesujika DOE, a collaboration in progress, spanning three years and six thousand miles, offering a rare opportunity to look inside this critically acclaimed creative partnership.
Performances will be held on August 29-30, 2010, 7:00 p.m. at the Playwrights’ Center, 2301 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55406. A post-show discussion with the creators will follow each performance.
The August 29 performance will feature a talkback with distinguished Japanese theater scholar and critic Tadashi Uchino. There is a $10 suggested donation and advance reservations are accepted through Brown Paper Tickets.
Driving alone on a foreign road, Jane hits a deer. Leaving the doe to die, she returns to her home in Hokaido seemingly unscathed. But Jane is haunted by the mysterious event. What happened on the road? What did she leave to die? The doe calls to her like a siren, and Jane’s pursuit of the deer becomes a pursuit of her own identity in a foreign land.
Shirotama Hitsujiya and Trista Baldwin were introduced as collaborators through the Playwrights’ Center’s exchange with the Tokyo International Festival in 2007. Hitsujiya directed a workshop performance of Baldwin’s original play DOE entirely in Japanese, for a Japanese audience.
The collaboration that began during that workshop continued with Baldwin and Hitsujiya co-developing a new version of the piece, DOE 2.0 (later renamed Mesujika DOE) in which the two cultures and languages exist together on stage, pushing the theme of mutable identity beyond the current borders of the text and into the added realms of language and country.
The work makes use of visual storytelling to eliminate the need for translation for audience members that do not speak both English and Japanese, creating a seamless identity onstage that merges, splits, and sews together the languages and cultures.
Baldwin ia a Professor of Playwriting at St. Cloud State University, is co-producing DOE, an original work that is now DOE2.0, a three-year collaboration in English and Japanese and in co-direction with both Hitsujiya and Baldwin. The two performed an updated work of DOE2.0 in Tokyo.
In DOE2.0 the two create a way to perceive American and Japanese actors on stage in both languages in a way that no translation is needed, said Baldwin. The play explores identity and relationships within the realm of language and culture – and of how the two are defined within the self when with someone else.
In DOE, the original, a woman wakes up in a hotel and cannot remember her name or anything about the woman sleeping next to her. She struggles to recall how she left her husband and then hit a deer.
“The other woman is sort of related to the incident,” said Baldwin. “She stays her while the deer is dying. It is about mortality and our own mortality – the whole assessment of self.”
The DOE2.0 collaboration is set in Japan and America, with a similar story in each place – what Baldwin calls a shared experience or sort of doppelganger in two countries. The binding element to the two stories is the woman in the bed.
The 3-year project began when DOE was invited to be performed on at the 2007 Tokyo International Festival. Although Baldwin said she has not ever lived in Japan or had a relationship with a Japanese person, she was very curious why her work on the internal female landscape translated so well to this audience.
The first update was staged in summer 2008 when Hitsujiya came to Minneapolis. The work went well, according to Baldwin, who was concerned about two languages on stage at the same time.
Baldwin said Sharatomi brings a physicality that serves as a third language of the body on stage. She said it wove together in such a way that the audience could feel what was being said.
The cast included local American actors along with Haruka Lee of New York, and local Japanese speaking actors, Sachiko Nishiuchi (Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre) and Masanari Kawahara (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre).
While in Tokyo, Baldwin said the two investigated new ways of developing an imaginative script based on images and themes. They also hope to create some new work together.
Baldwin said she is excited to continue the collaboration with someone who also has a strong emphasis on the feminine experience and thinks a little outside the box on societal and spiritual topics.
She said the process on DOE2.0 has revealed some interesting perceptual differences on relationships, with the emphasis more about east–west than Japan-U.S. She said the incidents in the play were worked out on stage between the different couples with big differences in dialogue and physical expression.
Hitsujiya is known for taking stereotypical pop images of girls in Japan and reinterpreting them in her work. Baldwin says this process exposes exterior images, and explores the humanity and intelligence behind sexually charged motivations to reveal a more thoughtful and intelligent work that is often considered avant-garde.
Hitsujiya started her career as a Tokyo nightclub singer and then founded YUBIWA Hotel, an all-female theater company that works to form new views and images of society, the world and women. She continues to serve as its artistic director and is known for her work depicting “human desire, sexuality, violence and the instinct for food, life, and death,” according to her Web site description (www.shirotama.com).
She is now the Director of the Japan Directors Association, and has an international presence and most recently in America, France and Brazil.
Baldwin grew up in the Seattle area, and moved to Minnesota from New York, which she considers her home. She produces work as a writer, director and performer, and is known for her plays on economics and class, humor and satire, sexuality, feminism and gender issues, and on death and dying.