Janet Thompson says that Tokyo International Players has such a sparkling reputation that people, not only those directly associated with TIP, always love to help. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “We needed secondhand furniture for ‘Lend Me a Tenor,’ and the company Kensington in Shirogane willingly supplied it. It is so helpful, and we do appreciate it.”
Since coming with her husband, David, to Tokyo five years ago, Janet has allied herself with many community activities and good causes. Professionally, he and she set up their own company here, he as financial planner, she as company accountant. As singers and actors, both joined TIP. As well as performing in and directing different productions, both have concerned themselves with the working of the organization. He is vice president, and she is a member of the board.
Janet, from Sheffield, is a small person who has an exceptional voice. Strong though it is, she calls it “a fragile instrument” that needs to be cared for. Although she was the child of unmusical parents, she began to sing and to take singing lessons in her early teens. She went on to train for opera. At the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, she played the lead roles in many Gilbert and Sullivan performances, and character roles in a range of operas.
After graduation, she began teaching music. She also began studying accountancy. She met David when they were both associated with the Oast Theater of Tunbridge, Kent.
Janet said, “As well as singing, I do enjoy acting very much. And I do love directing. I think that is because as an actress you can play only your own part. As a director you get to play everybody’s part.”
In England Janet won an award for her directing debut at the Tunbridge Wells One-Act Play festival. She went on to direct several world premieres. She said: “One of them, having been specially sponsored as a new play, was included in the British Telecom Biennial Drama Festival. Every two years British Telecom sponsors a new play, which is performed by all the Little Theater Guild members, over 500 of them, all over the U.K.”
In Tokyo, for two years Janet directed the choir of St. Alban’s Church in Shiba-Koen, for which she still sings. She sings also in the British Embassy choir, which arranges evening recitals in the embassy in order to raise funds for charities.
Janet and David, charity-minded and community-oriented, set up their own entertainment group, which they call Spaghetti Opera. This energetic group, which has enrolled some of the outstanding talent present in Tokyo, organizes social events with songs. It applies the proceeds it generates to charities. Last May, Spaghetti Opera performed in the Tokyo Bay Hilton Hotel to such effect that similar large-scale productions are planned.
Janet is cochair of a special-interest group, Friends of Music, of the College Women’s Association of Japan. This group gives regular recitals, usually in members’ homes.
As well as her singing, “that bubbles up from the joy within,” and her acting, directing and arranging, Janet gives time and effort to other activities designed to help people in need. She produces knitted items that she puts on sale for charity. She and her husband join in with the Franciscans’ enterprise in making rice balls and distributing them to the homeless in Tokyo.
Tokyo International Players is a volunteer English-language theatrical group made up of members of the local international community. At 103 years of age, TIP is Asia’s oldest community theater organization.
In advance of Christmas, TIP will be presenting a special show for children and their parents at the Tokyo American Club. “David wrote the play for this, and I am directing,” Janet said. Before that she is directing TIP’s October production, the Ken Ludwig comedy “Lend Me a Tenor,” also at the Tokyo American Club.
Janet, who places great store on laughter in life, enthuses over this production, its cast and crew and all the backstage helpers who pull together to ensure success. “The rehearsals have been so funny,” she said. “The gags are not only verbal but also visual. The cast is very committed and talented. They are all very different from each other — I wanted that. The play is fast-paced, with a story built around mistaken identities. It is a hilarious comedy of confusion.”