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Kanagawa Musical Summit (Part 1)

かながわミュージカルサミット(前編)

Yokosuka Citizen Musical Making Association (SUKA Mu)

SUKA Mu representative Kumi Yamazaki (left) and staff member Mita (right)
SUKA Mu representative Kumi Yamazaki (right) and staff member Mita (left)

--- I saw your website. It's a project with a long history.

Mr. Yamazaki: That's right. It was founded in 2001, so it has been 15 years. It all started when artists who were originally in Yokosuka started to create musicals that were original to Yokosuka. We dig up stories about Yokosuka's history, legends, buildings, etc. that even local residents don't know about, so we want people in the city to know that Yokosuka was a city like this and that it had a history like this. , it will be an advertisement for the city for those outside the city.
Also, we do not have any qualifications for participation. There is no upper age limit as long as you are an elementary school student or older. So... (calling out to the white-haired member in the dressing room) There is also a member who will be 84 years old this year. Dancing may be difficult, but if you have the passion, you can stand on stage, sing, and participate even in a small way. There are people from a wide range of ages, so in the form of intergenerational interaction, young children learn a lot from adults, and elderly people gain energy from the children, and learn from each other both horizontally (locally) and vertically ( The purpose is also to expand connections between both generations.

−− Please tell us about the joy of creating citizen musicals.

Mr. Yamazaki: Musicals involve singing, dancing, and acting, so it's very difficult for people who have never done it before to jump into it, but we tell them that it's okay even if you don't have any experience. All of our teachers are professionals and will teach you in a way that suits you.
However, I am careful not to turn it into a school performance. It's not like the small children have to be given the same lines, but the quality is important, so in that sense it's strict, and you can get a glimpse of the essence of stage production, and it's not only about making memories, but also about what's to come. I'm trying to keep things like this in mind. There are some SUKA-Mu alumni who have gone on to become professionals, so I want to open up those possibilities to young children, and I want older people to continue playing as a place to find purpose in life. I think there is something to look forward to.

A scene from “Nami and Charu: Civilization and enlightenment began in Yokosuka!”
A scene from “Nami and Charu: Civilization and enlightenment began in Yokosuka!”

--- Thank you very much. What kind of performance is this time?

Mr. Yamazaki: This time, it's a stage play called "Nami and Charu," which is SUKA Mu's only series work. There is a story called ``The Legend of the White Monkey'' about a girl named Nami who lives in Yokosuka and Sarushima Island, and the story is like a time slip fantasy where the white monkey's son Charu visits Yokosuka in the past.
The story takes place at the end of the Edo period at the Yokosuka Steel Works, which later became a shipyard and Japan's first French-style dock. Just last year was the 150th anniversary of the Yokosuka Steel Works, and it received a lot of attention. This is a story of the people of Yokosuka village living strong lives despite being caught up in the era of rich nations, strong soldiers, and heading toward war, and Nami and Charu who see this and think about and discover what is important.

A scene from “Nami and Charu: Civilization and enlightenment began in Yokosuka!”
A scene from “Nami and Charu: Civilization and enlightenment began in Yokosuka!”

−− I would like to enliven citizen musicals through this musical summit. Could you please give me a message?

Mr. Yamazaki: I want as many people as possible to experience the joy of being on stage and being in the spotlight at least once. This may be an exaggeration, but it will give you the strength to live. Let's work together to make citizen musicals more exciting.

With the main performance scheduled for the following week, SUKA Myu put on a wonderful performance as the top performer of the Musical Summit. You mentioned that this was your first performance in three years, but I don't think the audience felt that. As Mr. Yamazaki mentioned, the story, which is based on Yokosuka's historical facts, was interesting and captivating even though the stage was only 30 minutes long.

Theater Company Poka Poka

Toshiko Kigure (far right), representative of the theater company Poka Poka, and member Sato (far left)
Toshiko Kigure (far right), representative of the theater company Poka Poka, and member Sato (far left)

−− Please tell us about the history of the theater company.

Mr. Kogure: It all started 20 years ago when four or five of my fellow childcare workers were having a chat over tea, thinking it would be great to do cultural activities for parents and children. There were some puppet shows, but there weren't many plays, and he said it would be great if he could get people around him involved in creating them.
Manabu Inoue (Secretary General of the Kanagawa Prefectural Theater Federation) wrote the script for us, and when we held our first performance at Kamigo Mori's House, it was sold out, and when we moved to Sakae Public Hall two years later, it was still full. There are few opportunities for parents and children to experience cultural activities such as concerts, so I felt a strong need for children to be able to see plays up close. That made me feel better, and before I knew it, I had come to the 20th anniversary performance in June of this year.
We spend half a year preparing for our annual performance. I make the costumes, compose and write the music, make the props, and the script is original. This is because there are copyrights and usage fees, so it costs money to use existing materials. I think it turned out to be a good thing that everything was handmade.

– How do you feel about your involvement with the local community?

Mr. Kogure: I think having a fixed base and a rehearsal space is very important. The Social Welfare Council of Sakae Ward, Yokohama City, provides us with a rehearsal space, and we also invite people with disabilities to our performances, so we are grateful for their kindness. In addition, we use Sakae Public Hall every year, and it seems that 2009 seats were filled for this year's performance. If you include the child on your lap, there should be more. The reason we're able to attract so many people is because we always use the same rehearsal space and the same hut, which gives us strength.
In fact, we never call ourselves a ``children's theater group.'' Yet, the reason it looks like a children's theater company is because parents and children participate. Some parents also appear on stage, and the whole family participates in various roles such as costumes and props, so it has become natural for children to be involved in the production of plays.

Costume storyboard
Costume storyboard

−− Being able to participate as a parent and child is a valuable experience.

Mr. Kogure: That's right. People are starting to talk about it at home, and their families are starting to talk about how wonderful that scene in the play was, and how it could be done better.

Mr. Sato: I have been participating for 7 years since the 6th grade of elementary school, took a break for 8 years, and returned this year for the first time in a while. Poka Poka is a place where moms and dads can hang out together, and it's a place where the whole family comes together as one. My mother also worked in sound and as an actor. We create not only the people on stage, but also the props, props, costumes, and lighting.

--I think that's part of what makes citizen musicals so interesting.

Mr. Kogure: It's called subconscious mind and latent ability. At Poka Poka, we want people to discover that they can do something like this. I never thought in the slightest that I could write a script. During the third performance, the director asked me to write a script, and at first I wrote something outrageous, but with the blessings of those around me, I was able to see it through to the end.
Even for the props, a team called ``Dogu'' is formed by the fathers. On Saturdays and Sundays, they gather in the gymnasium to make props, and their families also gather there. Even people who have never used props can find it fun. It is important to have good taste in production, and the mothers demonstrate this as well. My mom sewed up the wonderful costume designs created by the members, and the two-dimensional script I created became more and more three-dimensional thanks to everyone. It's not just the members who appear on stage; there are about 100 staff involved on the day of the performance.

A scene from “Alice” ~From Alice in Wonderland~
A scene from “Alice” ~From Alice in Wonderland~

−− Please give a message to those who are interested in citizen musicals and Poka Poka.

Mr. Kogure: Expressing yourself and having your own place in a different space like a stage is full of discovery and growth. I think Kanagawa Prefecture has many local theater companies that are close to the area and easy to join. You can make friends, discover a different version of yourself, and learn how wonderful it is to express yourself out loud.
If you show that you really worked hard, people will tell you that you did a great job. That joy is the privilege of those who take to the stage.

Mr. Sato: Poka Poka is like a big family. Mothers scold other children, older sisters scold small children, take care of them, and do not leave them alone. It's a place where you can make friends and family.

The lively dressing room with so many children was like a big family. On stage, the story was an original adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, decorated with gorgeous costumes and magnificent props. The stage was so elaborate that it was hard to believe that it was all handmade, and the smiling faces of all the performers were impressive.

→In the second part, we will introduce interviews with the Kohoku Ward Citizens' Musical in Yokohama's Kohoku Ward and Yasaka High School ARTLiVE in Sagamihara City.

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