Participation in SHINSAI: Theaters for Japan has now grown to almost 70 organizations, with over twenty states represented! As we celebrate this now international fundraising event for the Japanese theatre community affected by the March 11 disaster, I want to focus for a moment on the theatres that started it all, and their event at the Cooper Union.
It all started when actor James Yaegashi, whose family is from a nearby area, called friends in the New York theatre to say, “We as a theatre community have to do something to help our fellow artists on the other side of the world.”
A friendly consortium of over a dozen organizations then came together, including the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, The Atlantic Theater, The Cooper Union, The Dramatists Guild, The Dramatists Guild Fund, Gorgeous Entertainment, Japan Playwrights Association, Japan Society, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Play Company, Playwrights Horizons, The Public Theater, The Martin E. Segal Theater Center, New York Theatre Workshop and TCG.
It has been a joy collaborating with these organizations on this project, and this Sunday it all come to fruition at the Cooper Union. The cast is amazing, and I just learned that Patti LuPone, Richard Thomas, Mary Beth Hurt, Jay O. Sanders and Henry Stram will join forces with the previously announced Michi Barral, Cindy Cheung, Joel de la Fuente, Angel Desai, Ann Harada, Jennifer Ikeda, Paul Juhn, Peter Kim, Ken Leung, Li Jun Li, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Paolo Montalban, Olivia Oguma, Jon Norman Schneider, Thom Sesma, Sab Shimono, Jade Wu, Jonny Wo, James Yaegashi and Stacey Yen. The cast varies slightly from the 3pm to 8pm event, so to learn more and get your tickets, please go here.
Under the direction of Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher, this cast will perform a series of ten minute plays and musical numbers by an eclectic group of award-winning American and Japanese writers and composers including Edward Albee, Shoki Kokami, Oriza Hirata, Richard Greenberg, John Guare, Kumiko Shinohara, John Kander, Fred Ebb & Joseph Stein, Tony Kushner & Jeanine Tesori, Nen Ishihara, Toshiki Okada, Toshiro Suzue and Yoji Sakate. Playwrights Philip Kan Gotanda, Richard Greenberg, Suzan-Lori-Parks, Naomi Iizuka and Doug Wright will contribute original work to the benefit which will also feature a segment from the 1976 musical Pacific Overtures revised, with new lyrics, especially for the occasion by its creators librettist John Weidman and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
Tickets to the Cooper Union events for SHINSAI: Theaters for Japan are priced at $25 for each performance, are available at the Public Theater box office (425 Lafayette Street), by phone at (212) 967-7555 or by visiting www.publictheater.org.
I also want to give a special shout-out to The Japan Society and their follow-up event on March 12, SHINSAI: The Conversation. This companion event provides a forum for anyone interested in further raising awareness of the disaster in Japan, or in asking questions of participants from the NYC SHINSAI event at Cooper Union. Japanese and American playwrights and actors Philip Kan Gotanda, John Guare, Naomi Iizuka, Kumiko Shinohara, John Weidman and James Yaegashi will share their responses to the previous day’s proceedings and engage in a conversation about how artists can band together to support Japan. The event will be moderated by Anne Cattaneo from Lincoln Center Theater, and will be live streamed at ustream.tv/japansociety.
On March 11, the largest recorded earthquake to ever hit Japan launched deadly tsunami waves and nuclear crises, with a staggering toll of 15,850 dead, 6,011 injured and 3,287 people missing, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was US$235 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in world history.
Against the overwhelming tragedy of those numbers, our nearly 70 collaborating organizations may seem small, but our hope is that this event will not only make a tangible difference to the Japanese theatre community but serve as a template for future international collaboration between theatres. Please join us by finding a participating theatre near you and getting your tickets today!
August Schulenburg is the Associate Director of Communications at TCG. He is also the Artistic Director of Flux Theatre Ensemble, winner of the 2011 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award. He is a playwright whose produced plays include Riding the Bull, Carrin Beginning, The Lesser Seductions of History, Dream Walker, Rue, Jacob’s House and Other Bodies. He is also a director (most recently Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq) and actor (the recent film, The Golden Scallop). Learn more here.