Interview with Mr. Yokouchi
- Mr. Yokouchi, I hear that you started pursuing a career in theater after seeing a theater performance at the Prefectural Youth Center at the invitation of a senior in your high school drama club. What moved you so much?
When I was a first-year student at Atsugi High School, I was enrolled in the drama club, which was on the verge of disbanding, in my name. At the time, I wasn't interested in theater, but a senior member of my club brought me here to see the Tsuka Kohei Theater Company's production of ``The Atami Murder Case.'' That really grabbed my attention, and I fell in love with acting. Kouhei Tsuka's dramatic lines, words that cut through everyday life, tremendous power, and it was my first experience seeing someone yell so much. At that time, it wasn't that underground, and Tsukasan's overwhelming laughter was amazing. As a high school student, I probably felt a bit of a sense of superiority, as I was exposed to a new and somewhat interesting culture that my classmates probably didn't know about. At that moment, I realized that I wanted to imitate him and become a writer.
- Mr. Yokouchi, you are the artistic director of Atsugi City Cultural Center and also active with the Tobiza theater company in Tokyo. Please tell us how you became involved with Magcal.
Long before Magcal started, I was asked to perform for young people about three times at the Prefectural Youth Center as part of a project called ``Arts Fusion in KANAGAWA.'' This Prefectural Youth Center is a very important place to me. This was originally a mecca for high school drama, with a revolving stage and auctions, which I think was rare even in Japan. What's more, they held workshops for high school students called ``Drama Seminars'' by inviting top professionals. I don't think there was any other place that was doing that 30 to 40 years ago. Although he has now passed away, the director at the time, Tadao Tamura, was a great supporter of the school play. When I was in high school, I was allowed to participate in the prefectural theater competition here, and I also participated in the summer drama seminar, and then started my own theater company. I don't think I would be where I am today without this place. I'm not here to give back in any way, but I want to show more theater to the younger generation.
-I don't think many people know that the Prefectural Youth Center is such a wonderful place that specializes in theater.
There was a time when this place itself began to lose its professionalism as a theater hall and started to feel more like a community center. There was a time in the past when we would get so excited that there would be a standing room when we held a performance, but we lost that power. There was a time when the director of the theater changed every year, and I felt empty that even though we exchanged opinions every year about how great this place is, how important it is, how good the theater is, nothing was getting anywhere. I had thoughts, but no one was willing to listen to me.
In the meantime, Governor Kuroiwa of Prefecture came up with a story about Magcal, and when I shared my thoughts with him, he listened intently. The first time Magcal Table members gathered together, we boarded a bus and went on a tour of all the theater facilities in the prefecture, and at that time we explained how this place has produced so many different things. I thought that I would only meet a governor who is so passionate about theater once in a lifetime, and since I had come across a governor who loves theater, I knew that I needed to take this opportunity to sow the seeds and make them sprout.
Around that time, the Sotetsu Honda Theater, a small theater that was loved by local theater groups, closed down, and I thought that things that should have been connected had been connected. This is a place that anyone who sees it will feel spoiled. I felt like he gave me a reason to use it if I could use it more.
-That's why "Magcal Performing Arts Academy" was opened in October 2014. Almost three years have passed. How do you feel about it?
Although a group of serious professionals is trying to train musical actors, I honestly feel that there are many differences in enthusiasm among the students. However, young people have room to grow, and today's and tomorrow's growth may be completely different. This is a project run by the prefecture, and it is not a business, but pure human resource development. It would be an inspiration to everyone if the students who grew up from here went on to become successful elsewhere, and I would like to develop musical actors who can sing, dance, and act.
-What are your future challenges?
I feel that the challenge is how to increase the number of people who see theater. Right now, all I can do is gather my family members to support them as they perform at Magcal Performing Arts Academy. Instead, we need to further increase the experience of watching theater. I actually teach elementary school children in Atsugi, and I feel that society is becoming more unequal. Conscious families show their children top-notch musicals every month, but some families can't afford to do that. I think public facilities need to fill that gap. The first play I saw here was 500 yen for high school drama club members. It was 500 yen, so my high school senior treated me to it. I think that in order to bridge this gap, it would be better for public facilities like this to take on the responsibility.
-What kind of things are you thinking about doing from now on?
The musical ``Bite Show - International Edition'' scheduled to be held next month is an arrangement of the musical that was launched at our theater company Tobiza. The original concept belongs to our theater company, so we would like to create something completely new that can be performed as a musical. Now, if we really want to do a stage performance, we need 1,000 people at a time. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it at least three or four times, not just once. In that case, there would have to be around 3,000 people in the audience for it to be successful. It would be a waste if we borrowed a celebrity from somewhere in order to attract customers, so we want to make that happen with the help of these students. I'm thinking of making this a reality in two or three years.
Furthermore, what must be realized is that the students are certainly working hard and growing, but they are improving their skills. In other words, whether the main character has reached the level of a main character rather than an amateur, whether he can create a stage where he can compete normally, and whether he can attract customers who are not acquaintances.
We have created professional stages here and there, with singing instructors such as Keiko Fukazawa, dance instructors Lucky Ikeda, and Eri Saiki. I would like to create and present completely new works that are custom-made just for this academy. For that to happen, I would like to create characters who can play the leading roles and become famous.
-Have you already come up with a plan for a new musical?
It's a concept, or rather a concept. It depicts something like a foreign story told by young people. The area around this area was the magistrate's office, and it is believed that a lot of things happened here, including the first time beer was made, soap was made, and there were conflicts when foreigners came. I'd like to do a musical with the theme of Yokohama, a port town. At that time, I would like to be able to get sponsors and show it to young people for free.
What is "Bite Show - International Edition!"?
Last summer, this musical became a hot topic for its ``Theater In Theater'' format, in which seats were temporarily set up on a revolving stage and the entire audience rotated 360 degrees.
This year, in collaboration with "Vietnam Festa in Kanagawa", Vietnamese students who are actually living in Japan while working part-time will also appear, so it will not be a mere re-performance, but a revised version.
Magcal Performing Arts Academy Performance 2017 Baito Show - International Edition! -
An omnibus musical that depicts the struggle between hopes and setbacks of young people who spend all their time working part-time jobs and taking lessons in pursuit of various dreams.
Written and directed by: Kensuke Yokouchi, Musical director and composer: Keiko Fukasawa, Choreography: Lucky Ikeda, Eri Saiki, Assistant director: Risa Suzuki, Script cooperation: Kouko Iida
September 15, 2017 18:00, 16th 13:00, 18:00, 17th 13:00, 18:00, 18th 13:00
Admission fee (all seats free, tax included)
General admission 3,000 yen General admission 3,500 yen on the day Advance admission 1,000 yen for university students and younger Students 1,500 yen on the day
Venue: Kanagawa Prefectural Youth Center Hall
Ticket handling〈Advance sale start date August 23rd (Wednesday)〉
1.Gekidan Tobiza 03-3221-0530 (Weekdays 12:00-18:00/Closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays)
2.Ticket Kanagawa 0570-015-415 (10:00-18:00)
Inquiries regarding performances: Tobiza Theater Company 03-3221-0530
Inquiries regarding Magcal Performing Arts Academy Kanagawa Prefectural Culture Division (Magcal Promotion Group) 045-210-3806
We will talk to the performers about the "Bite Show - International Edition!" which will be held next month.
I came to Japan at the age of 18 and am now 21 years old. I'm studying Japanese at university. I am from Bac Giang, Vietnam, which is famous for producing lychees, and I want to be a bridge between Vietnam and Japan. At Vietnam festivals held in Japan, people wear traditional costumes and perform Vietnamese dances. My dream for the future is to become a travel guide. I'm working part-time as a waitress at a restaurant to earn money for my tuition while studying and taking lessons. I joined the academy after being introduced to it by the Vietnamese embassy. Dancing can be a little difficult at times, but I love singing and acting, and everyone at the academy is so kind, so it was great. Mr. Yokouchi is a good teacher, and he does his best in musicals.
Ruka Shibata (1st year, Department of Vocal Music, Faculty of Music, Toho Gakuen University)
This is my fourth year at the academy, and I love singing so it's really fun. My character is the type of person who is realistic and believes that there's no point in chasing dreams, and that you can't live a life based on dreams alone. So it clashes with the role played by Mr. Tsuda. Dreams are important, but you need money to live every day. I think people will be able to empathize with the image of young people struggling with living independently and chasing their dreams.
Ayaka Tsuda (2nd year, Fujisawa Seiryu High School)
I entered the academy last year. Her role is a dance leader, a self-centered type who only thinks about dance and pursues her dreams. Then, as you meet various people in the world and learn that everyone is doing their best in life, you will change as a person. I want them to get a feel for the process of being rubbed around by people, absorbing a lot of things, and growing as a person.
Shiori Yokota (2nd year, vocal music department, Tokyo College of Music)
I joined the academy in my second year of high school, so I'm currently in my fourth year. We play the roles of a group of three people, and I play the role of arbitrating between the characters played by Mr. Shibata and Mr. Tsuda. I'm a pacifist, and you might say I'm a bit of an idle type. I love dancing as well as singing. We will all work together to create the best musical ever, so please come and see us!