Interview with Mr. Yokouchi
―Mr. Yokouchi, I heard that you were inspired to pursue acting after seeing a theater performance at the Prefectural Youth Center when you were invited by a senior member of the drama club in high school. What was it that moved you so much?
When I was a first year student at Atsugi High School, I was enrolled in the drama club on the verge of abolishing the club. I wasn't interested in theater at the time, but one of my club seniors brought me here to see Tsuka Kohei's "Atami Murder Case". That's how I got hooked on my heart and got hooked on the path of theater. It was the first time for me to see Kohei Tsuka's dramatic lines, words that cut through everyday life, tremendous power, and someone who yells like that. At that time, it wasn't so underground, and Tsuka's overwhelming laughter was amazing. I guess it was because of the current of the times, and as a high school student, I felt a sense of superiority, as if I had come into contact with an interesting new culture that my classmates probably didn't know about. At that time, I thought that I wanted to imitate him and become a writer.
-Mr. Yokouchi is the artistic director of the Atsugi City Cultural Center and is also active in the Tobiraza theater company in Tokyo. Please tell us how you got involved with Magcal.
Before Magcal started, I was asked to perform something for young people about three times at this prefectural youth center in a project called "Arts Fusion in KANAGAWA". This prefectural youth center is a very important place for me. This place was originally a mecca for high school theater, with a revolving stage and auctions, and I think it was a rarity in Japan. Moreover, they held workshops called "Theatrical Seminars" by inviting first-class professionals to high school students. 30 to 40 years ago, I don't think there were any other places doing that. Although he has passed away, Tadao Tamura, director of the school at the time, was very supportive of the school theater. When I was in high school, I was allowed to participate in a prefectural theater competition here, and I also participated in a summer theater seminar, and then started a theater company. I don't think I could be where I am today without this place. It's not like I'm giving something back here, but I want to show more theater to the younger generation.
―Maybe people don't 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 specialty as a theater hall and became more like a community center. In the past, there was a time when we lost our power even though we were so excited that we would have to stand in the audience when we performed. There was a time when the director of the museum changed every year, and I felt vain when I exchanged opinions every year about how wonderful this place is, how important it is, and how good the theater is. I had an idea, but no one was there to listen.
While doing so, when the governor of Kuroiwa Prefecture talked about Magcal and hit the governor, he listened and listened. The first time we gathered with Magcal Table members, we took a bus and toured all the theater facilities in the prefecture, and explained how this place has created various things at that time. I thought that I would only meet a governor who was so supportive of theater once in my life, and since I had come across a governor who loved theater, I decided that I had to sow the seeds at this timing and make them grow.
Around that time, the Sotetsu Honda Theater, a small theater that had been loved by local theater companies, was closed, and I thought that what should have been connected was connected. This is a place where anyone who sees it thinks it's a waste. I felt that I was able to make a logical decision to use it if I could use it more.
―So in October 2014, the “Maggal Performing Arts Academy” was opened. Three years are about to pass soon. How is the response?
Although a serious and professional group is trying to develop musical actors, I honestly feel that there are various differences in the degree of enthusiasm among the students. However, young people have room to grow, and we may see completely different growth today and tomorrow. This is a project run by the prefecture, and it is pure human resource development, not business. It would be a great stimulus for everyone if the students grew up from here and played an active role somewhere else, and I would like to firmly nurture such musical actors who can sing, dance and act.
-What would you say are your future challenges?
I feel that the challenge is how to increase the number of people who watch theater. Right now, all I can do is gather relatives who support them who are appearing at the Magcal Performing Arts Academy. Instead, we need to increase the experience of seeing theater more and more. I am actually teaching elementary school children in Atsugi, and I feel that there is a growing disparity in society. Conscious families show their children first-class musicals every month, but some families can't afford to do that. We think that public facilities must fill such a place. The first play I saw here was 500 yen only for high school drama club members. It was 500 yen, so my high school senior treated me to it. After all, in order to fill this gap, I think that such public facilities should play a role.
―What kind of things do you want to do in the future?
The musical "Byte Show -International Edition-" scheduled to be held next month is an arrangement of the one launched by our theater company Tobiraza. The original concept was for our theater company, so I would like to create a completely new work that can be staged as a musical work. Here, if you really want to do a stage, you need 1000 people at a time. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it at least 3 or 4 times, not just once. In that case, the audience must be about 3,000 people to be successful. Borrowing a celebrity from somewhere to attract customers would be a waste, so I want to make it happen with the power of this student. I'm thinking of doing it in the next 2-3 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 leading actor has reached the level of a leading actor rather than an amateur, whether they can create a stage where they can compete normally, and whether they can invite people they do not know.
With Keiko Fukasawa as the singing instructor, Lucky Ikeda as the dance instructor, and Eri Saiki as the dance instructor, we have created professional stages here and there. I would like to present a completely new work custom-made only for this academy. To that end, I would like to create a character who can play the leading role and make them famous.
―Have you already come up with a concept for a new musical?
An idea, a concept. I draw something like a foreign story by young people. This area is a magistrate's office, and it is thought that many things happened, such as making beer for the first time, making soap, and quarreling with foreigners when they came. I would like to do a musical with the theme of Yokohama, a port town. At that time, I would like to be able to show it to young people for free, such as by getting a sponsor.
What is "Byte Show - International Edition! -"
Last summer, it was a musical that became a hot topic as a stage in which the audience seats were temporarily set up on a revolving stage called the "Theater In Theater format" and the audience could rotate around 360 degrees.
This year, in collaboration with "Vietnam Festa in Kanagawa", a Vietnamese exchange student who is actually staying in Japan while working part-time will also appear, so it will not be a simple replay but a revised version.
Magcal Performing Arts Academy Performance 2017 Byte Show International Edition!ー
An omnibus musical depicting the days of struggle between hope and frustration of young people who spend their days working part-time jobs and taking lessons while chasing their dreams.
Written and Directed by Kensuke Yokouchi Music Director and Composer by Keiko Fukasawa Choreography by Lucky Ikeda and Eri Saiki Assistant Director by Risa Suzuki Script Cooperation by Koko 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 advance 3,000 yen General admission 3,500 yen University students and younger advance 1,000 yen College students and younger 1,500 yen on the day
Venue: Kanagawa Prefectural Youth Center Hall
Ticket handling <Advance sale start date August 23 (Wednesday)>
1. Gekidan Tobiraza 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)
3. Internet http://www.kanagawa-arts.or.jp/tc/
Inquiries about performances Gekidan Tobiraza 03-3221-0530
Inquiries about Magcal Performing Arts Academy Kanagawa Prefectural Culture Division (Magcal Promotion Group) 045-210-3806
We would like to hear from the performers about next month's "Byte Show -International Edition!-".
I came to Japan when I was 18, and I'm 21 now. I am studying Japanese at university. Originally from Bac Giang, Vietnam, which is famous for its lychee production, I would like to become a bridge between Vietnam and Japan. At the Vietnamese festival held in Japan, people wear traditional costumes and perform Vietnamese dances. My dream for the future is to be a travel guide. I work part-time as a waitress at a restaurant to earn money for school while studying hard and taking lessons. I joined the academy when I was introduced to it by the Vietnamese Embassy. Sometimes I feel that dancing is a little difficult, but I love singing and acting, and everyone at the academy is kind, so it was good. Yokouchi-sensei is a good teacher, and she does her best with musicals.
Ruka Shibata (Toho Gakuen University Music Department Vocal Music Department 1st year)
This is my 4th year at the academy, and I love singing so it's really fun. My role is the type that has a sense of reality, like chasing only dreams can't be helped. So, it clashes with the role played by Mr. Tsuda. Dreams are important, but you need money to live every day. I think that people will sympathize with the image of young people who are worried about living independently and chasing their dreams.
Ayaka Tsuda (Fujisawa Seiryu High School 2nd year)
I entered the academy last year. The role is the dance leader, a self-centered type who thinks only about dance and chases dreams. However, when you meet various people in the world and learn that they are all doing their best to live their lives, you will change as a person. I want you to feel the process of being rubbed by people, absorbing various things, and growing as a person.
Shiori Yokota (Tokyo College of Music Vocal Music Department 2nd year)
I entered the academy in my second year of high school, so I am now in my fourth year. We play the role of a group of three, and I play the role of intermediary when the roles played by Mr. Shibata and Mr. Tsuda quarrel. He's a pacifist, and you might say he's a little idle type. I love singing as well as dancing. Everyone will come together to create the best musical, so please come and see it!