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Any time you go to a theater in Japan you are sure to be handed several colorful flyers for other shows — and among them you will almost certainly find the face of Tetsuya Chiba. At 46, and the father of three boys, Chiba is one of the country’s most popular and best-known stage actors, known as much for his performances in samurai spectaculars as he is for serious or experimental small-scale productions.

In 2006, Chiba expanded his repertoire even further when he debuted as a director, working with Theatre Project Tokyo (TPT) to stage Scottish playwright John Byrne’s 1978 semi-autobiographical tale, “The Slab Boys,” a work about the dead-end lives of a group of youths from poor families. He then directed three more plays for TPT, including English playwright Simon Stephen’s “On the Shore of the Wide World,” a depiction of the hopes and thwarted dreams of an ordinary north of England working-class family that last year garnered him a prestigious Yomiuri Theater Award.

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