Among all of Japan’s many theater companies, the innovative Osaka- based Ishinha (Reformers), founded in 1970 by its current director Yukichi Matsumoto, has stood out consistently. While most companies eye their bottom line, pack their schedules with different productions and move to Tokyo to maximize the number of bums on seats, Matsumoto, now 63, only stages one or two new works a year. And whereas many dramatists are nervous about venturing overseas, Matsumoto and Ishinha have been globe-trotting for over a decade, both as sought-after guests at international festivals (Ishinha will be at the biggest of them all, Edinburgh International Festival, in August 2011) and on many foreign tours.
But what really sets Ishinha apart is that the company members often select a non-artistic outdoor space at which to perform — then, with just a few specialists helping out, they build themselves a theater. Among Ishinha’s previous do-it-yourself venues have been a stage built over Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, another in a derelict rail yard in Shiodome, Tokyo, and one in an abandoned ferry terminal in Osaka.