Sometimes a gesture of gratitude comes in the form of a carte blanche. Akira Shirai, the departing artistic director of Kanagawa Arts Theatre (KAAT), decided to show thanks to his long-time collaborator, Shuji Onodera, by asking him to create a new work, and saying he could do whatever he wanted with whomever he chose.

As if that wasn’t enough creative freedom, Shirai, who will leave his post in March after five years of running the theater, also told the renowned mime artist and choreographer not to worry about the normal practice of casting celebrities to help sell tickets.

With such an astonishingly blank canvas to work on, Onodera, 54, decided to put together a multicultural cast and crew to try to re-create an international working experience, one that had a profound effect on him.