More than three years ago, theater director Sho Ryuzanji launched Paradise Ichiza, a professional company whose cast was comprised of veteran dramatists who had only ever before been involved off stage, as theater owners, lighting specialists, voice actors, directors or in academia. When Ryuzani, 61, assembled his Old Bunch, their average age was 80, and their oldest member, at 92, was director Ichiro Inui.

Paradise Ichiza was created because Ryuzanji realized there were hardly any theater companies in Japan for older people, despite the country’s fast and famed “graying.” But rather than searching for aging actors to fill that gap, his magic touch was to seek out old friends and acquaintances in the business who had seen so much but had never been on the bright side of the footlights.

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