The studio as an experimental workshop

Ninagawa studio as the place for experimental workshop for Ninagawa Yukio started 1984. It changes its name and members from time to time. Though it makes itself flexible company, it shows its strength on the point of making theatre. Ninagawa himself calls it ‘Company’ which has the name as is once. The interview with Ninagawa this time is about the studio which becomes the origin and leads this project.



――The first studio ‘ GEKISHA NINAGAWA STUDIO’ is set by calling young actors who played ‘TANGO AT THE END OF WINTER’(Premiere production in ’84), isn’t it? ‘TANGO AT THE END OF WINTER’ is now performed after 2o years long.
There used to become many young actors who wish to learn theatre around myself. The start was a class for them using the rent space in Kichijoji, then Idabashi, Jinbocho…. It moved a round. The rehearsal for ‘TANGO AT THE END OF THE WINTER’ was done in the rehearsal room of BENISAN, at that time. The BENISAN PIT was not there, then. But WATARI YUKIZO, the president of BENISAN came to see the rehearsal. He often came to see us, and used to give me cracked ice or some ricolece when I got angry. (smile) Then he told ‘You are the real one, so I would like to support you’ to me. He set the space for the office and the rehearsal room for me on the top of the building. It used to be like a common room for the lady employee. He reformed its place getting out the tatami mat and bath room. He rent the space with a very low price without deposit or caution money. There, the activity of GEKISHA NINAGAWA STUDIO has started. Then BENISAN PIT was born. We used the Pit from the very first moment. (The first performance of GEKISHA NINAGAWA STUDIO was performed in BENISAN PIT). I do not remember how we call the company member now…. I remember having called some actors who were good in TANGO AT THE END OF THE WINTER. I think that I auditioned the rest.

――The young actors who came together were new comrades for Ninagawa?

I do not use the word comrades. Since my company SAKURASHA was disbanded(’74), I have started to work mainly in the commercial theatre. But I hoped to have the body to do the studio theatre − I mean, the experimental theatre as is in the ’60-70s- with the young actors in some where , some times.

――Is it better to have the body , not one person calling the people if need be?
The place is needed for the unknown young men to see the light of day. I also want to have the place for myself to do experimental work setting myself free from the work outside which had some sort of limitation for me. In fact, we acted on our own responsibility, not taking account of the financial efficiency or the star system. There was no ticket quota. We allot the profit when we get one.

Immediate- democracy. (laugh) It was radical experimental place. There once the time when the acting area was the one-fourth of the theatre, the auditorium was the one-fourth of the theatre. We do not think at profit. We used to experiment towards future. The direction letting the actors coming up from the trap (‘Walukule’’06 Bunkamura) was firstly done in the studio.

――Many young people were brought up from there.

Actors like KATSUMURA MASANOBU, MATSUSHIGE YUTAKA, Directors like SUZUKI YUKI were born. Staffs like HARADA TAMOTSU, INOUE MASAHIRO, NAKAGOSHI TSUKASA, INOUE TAKAAKI, AKSASHI SHINNICHI. I did experiment and create frantically with them. Harada said that he would not let anyone do the studio performance even when his job is too busy. He said that he would not let the place for experiment go. ‘If you want the place for it , create your own company.’(laugh) That is how the young people has grown up, and I believe my judgement was not warped.

――Now your technical staffs are in their prime, the combination with Ninagawa seems to be very fine.

They could lead the work without trifle meetings. They do not separate each other as set is set or light is light. All the creativity from the staff are woven together in to one theatre. You cannot see even if you have good set without good light. All entwine each other and rolling up to it. As we do it, all of us feel wanting to another place.

――The name of the studio have changed in every few years like GEKISHA NINAGAWA STUDIO or NINAGAWA COMPANY or NIANGAWA STUDIO. Is there any reason for it?
When we start not sharing the experimental spirit or other things, when we feel the atmosphere that people hold a post and become stabilized as if they are in employment, we disband ourselves and bring the fresh air. There are the times when we disband someone out, that is from asking them what to choose. For example , if you got the other job when you have Ninagawa’s project, which would you choose. If you choose other job, you would not have the meaning to be here. I do not say that you have to choose my project. Human-beings will make the judgement on your choice every single second, that is the way to live for . The choice you made determined yourself. But I do think that you should see the light of day whenever you get bigger chance. You often have the times of crrosroad when you choose something in front of you. Though it is better to have both….




[Studio and Gold Theatre]


――Recently Ninagawa Studio has changed the system from the company into the training place. It has not done the performance as the studio. You have started the GOLD THEATRE as the company activity with the people over 55, and created the theatre for them. Activity of the studio seems to shift in to the one of GOLD THEATRE. How do you define two of them in the sense of the different activity from the commercial theatre?
If you define them simply, GOLD is for the old and STUDIO is for the young ones who are not out in the world, both are to bring them up. The reason why the studio performance has not done is that I have recently done several plays that requires the young actors like COMEDY OF ERRORS continuously and that I do not have the urgency to do the studio performance. At the same time, the etude that young actors gave us did not touch me off. I once used to start the studio performance only because I saw the interesting etude from them. In fact, we were getting ready to do the performance last year, there was no etudes that draws me in. So we gave it up. The body has changed from the one used to be that the people would not make the etudes from the morning to the night. Has it become degraded, I wonder. They would not keep them learning once they started to become a little known. But it is from my point of view, so that the person who were thought as is by me might have objection.

――Though there is no performance as the studio, I found it is interesting that the young actors from studio coming up in the performance of the GOLD THEATRE. Some of them actually performed in the GOLD THEATRE performance or the others did the understudy.
I think that both of them receive the impetus from each other when young and old do the play together. They spark and undergo the influence each other and come to find their individuality. They would envy the youth. For example, young actors could stand on the edge of the water tank whereas the old actors could not stand on it. You will find the privilege. Something being contrary each other could work together on an equal footing under the same situation and the same condition in one place. You would not find the place like this so easily.

――Ninagawa’s word is quoted in the script of the GOLD THEATRE performance. ‘ The physical body that tells intense about your birth, your class, your life to the audience’ That is what you ask to the old people in the GOLD THEATRE and the young people in the STUDIO, isn’t it.
As I respect their individuality, I would like to give the actor birth who could play universal acting.




[The time of Internet]


――In the rehearsal room of TANGO AT THE END OF WINTER, you told them that the young phantoms dancing TANGO alone at the very end of the scene used to be the comrades who lost with the fights in ’60-70. But you said that you could see them as ‘the phantoms who shut themselves in the internet’ in the play of the present day 2006. ‘They might desperate for the link with people.’ Ninagawa san gave us the permission to start this site. How do you recognize this project to send the scene of creation?
I find it is interesting. I do not have much time to learn so that I may stay being analog. I will leave them to the generation of digital (laugh). But you could find the quality of digital by staying to be analog. People would search what you like to know through net for you. You could see how the world is going now through it. Though I could not practice it, Internet is something useful for you.

――You do make use of the mobile mail.
Just receiving to read. I cannot send them. (laugh) Mobile mail is useful. There are things that you cannot tell through your mouth. I do understand the feelings of people who could only talk straight over the mobile phone. So you would fall into the world of net if you leave it as is. You have to get over the trouble of the communication between people. That is why I could keep on trying throwing out my sense of shyness. There are the things that you cannot get unless you throw yourself to touch something vivid.

――There is no media that I could do what I would like to. Then I will open the site and try on it! That is why I challenge this site. But I would not like to make this site closing up to the outside world.
That is really cool. You have to write it. When you get 70 years old, you will be able to do your work freely like me (laugh).

――I would like to keep interviewing with Ninagawa san and your staffs forever. Please keep eye on us.Last question, will you keep on the activity of the studio?
It is the place that we could use anytime when we want to learn. People from BENISAN take care of us every each time. They set the air conditioner for us, and so on. So I would like to keep there even if I became alone. That place, myself, and one actor - then we could create the theatre.




◇This article is edited from the interview in May 2006, and November 2006.