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Theater group does drama for scientists

by Nobuko Tanaka

Kicking off the 2010-11 season at the Komaba Agora Theater in Tokyo’s central Meguro Ward, a student troupe from the University of Hull in northeast England will present “Kagaku Suru Kokoro,” an early masterpiece by leading Japanese contemporary playwright Oriza Hirata, in its English-language translation, titled “The Scientifically Minded,” with Japanese subtitles.

The play’s director, Tim Keenan, is a drama professor at Hull who lived in Japan in the early 1990s and specializes in modern Japanese plays. He became good friends with Hirata after a seeing a performance of Hirata’s most famous play, “Tokyo Notes,” in Dublin in 2002. The play, inspired by Yasujiro Ozu’s legendary 1953 film “Tokyo Story,” was about the lives of ordinary families in changing times.

That connection bore fruit in 2008 when Hirata staged his play “Tokyo Notes” in Hull, in English-subtitled Japanese, performed by his Tokyo-based Seinendan theater company. This time the baton of this international collaboration is passed to students from Hull who will take the roles of Japanese characters of their own generation — specifically depicting the daily lives and interactions of a group of elite research students who are working on a project to evolve monkeys into humans while at the same time wrestling with the meaning of life themselves.

“The Scientifically Minded” runs from April 1-4 at the Komaba Agora Theater, a 3-minute walk from Komaba Todaimae Station on the Keio Inokashira Line. For more details, call the theater at (03) 3469-9107 or visit www.komaba-agora.com