(Andrew Eglinton’s and Mika Eglinton’s article appeared in the Japan Times, 8/13.)
Since the late 1970s, people from all over the world have traveled to the village of Toga in rural Toyama Prefecture to attend Tadashi Suzuki’s renowned acting classes or to see the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) and other invited artists perform at the site’s specially crafted indoor and outdoor theater spaces.
The village has also played host to the Toga Festival, which brings practitioners together in the creation of new dramatic works. The festival is testament to Suzuki’s deep-held belief in the collaborative power of theater. For Suzuki, collaboration is not simply mixing cultural difference and creative passion: It involves training and learning a shared vocabulary of movements, expressions and ideas; and finding a common ground on which to build something entirely new. This is part of the reason why Suzuki decided to elaborate his own theater methodology and has taught it since the 1970s.
The site itself helps facilitate this pursuit of artistic truth. The combination of remote access, sprawling wilderness, and the iconic gasshō-zukuri, or A-frame thatched roof farm houses used for performance practice, brings a focus and clarity to the collaborative work that is increasingly difficult to achieve amid the mass distractions of urban life.
This same spirit of collaboration will form the backdrop of the ninth edition of the Theatre Olympics in August and September. The event is co-hosted by Japan and Russia, and Suzuki will oversee a program at the Toga Art Park, while his counterpart, Valery Fokin, will run a separate program at the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Both events will showcase international works, many of which were directly or indirectly influenced by the theater culture of Toga.
Photo: Japan Times