Stage | Regional Voices: Okinawa

Okinawa cultural hall shows what the new normal will look like for theaters

The Okinawa Times

A theater in Okinawa Prefecture has visualized the future of social distancing with a photographic exercise: The 398-seat facility becomes “full” with only 60 seats taken by guests.

Garaman Hall, a public cultural hall in the central Okinawan village of Ginoza, created a composite image by combining 20 photographs of three people. The subjects were asked to change seats for each photo, maintaining about two meters of distance from each other. They “filled up” the theater by occupying only 15 percent of the seats.

The image, posted on social media in early May, went viral.

“We simulated a seated version of social distancing at the hall (with two meters between people). … Wondering whether concerts can still be organized in this environment,” said the message on the post.

Tomoya Ogoe, a senior official at the hall, said that the purpose of this project is to trigger debate on how facilities like theaters and cinemas can avoid the three Cs (closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with people) in the future.

Garaman Hall had been closed since April 7 in order to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. It reopened on May 21.

Ogoe said staff came up with an idea: “By re-enacting much-discussed social distancing at theaters, we could probably illustrate the current circumstances and challenges in a visually appealing way.”

Ogoe and a staff member at the facility, Emi Sakuma, as well as an official from a village office, appeared in the image.

As of June 9, the post had been retweeted more than 26,000 times on Twitter. Viewers left comments including “I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw it, but it is not such a funny future” and “The way they raised the problem is out of the box and interesting.”

Sakuma seemed surprised at the impact the project had online.

“I didn’t expect that it would come to the attention of so many people,” she said.

Ogoe is eager to “continue to find ways to offer information and promote arts in ways that only theaters can.”

This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published May 18.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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