Dana Neufer had never lived anywhere other than the Midwest of America until she came to Japan. Her husband’s employment with General Motors brought the family here in 1988, when their daughter Erin was still very small. Dana went into a hospital in western Tokyo to have her second child, Jeffrey. “That was in January when the skies were very clear. Each morning from the hospital I had a glorious view of Mount Fuji. I took that to be a good omen,” she said.
Building on that omen, other elements have helped make the Japan years good ones. Most important perhaps are Dana’s own efforts in taking part in many local associations. For her, such involvement is often, she says, “a labor of love.”
She graduated in 1978 from Franklin College with a degree in journalism, and minor degrees in French and business. “I always had a love of travel,” she said. “I took business studies, as I thought maybe I would be a foreign corespondent, which would involve traveling as well.” At first she worked as the public relations/marketing communications coordinator for Resort Condominiums International. After two years she became associate editor for Endless Vacation, a consumer magazine that serves the resort condominium industry.
“I wrote destination-specific and other informational travel articles,” Dana said. As advertising manager, she stayed with the magazine until Erin was born. “When we are young we have grand goals for ourselves,” she went on. “When I married, I wondered if I could be a freelance writer. Then I took on the role of mother.” As well as being citizen-conscious, Dana is very child-oriented, and appreciative of living in a “child-friendly place.”
One of her early alliances in Japan in 1988 was with the Tokyo Union Church. She has served steadily on the board of its Women’s Society, for a term having been its second vice president. Until recently she was an elder on the church’s council for its preschool program. Since 1988, also, she has been a member of the women’s group of the Tokyo American Club. Twice as cochairwoman she helped lead the club’s fun-filled Casino Night. This year she has added work for the scholarship committee of the College Women’s Association of Japan.
She sings. “I have always been in various groups,” she said. “In university I sang with the madrigals group. Music plays a big part in my life.” Here she has sung in the volunteer chorus of the Japan Oratorio Society.
For five years Dana led a Girl Scout troop at the American School in Japan. “It was a joy to see the children growing, and to form deep friendships through scouting.” She was secretary to the executive committee of a pack of Boy Scouts. “Somehow,” she said, “I was always able to juggle time schedules.” Much of her skill in juggling lies in her combining her children’s interests with her own volunteering.
Dana has ensured that her children’s interests include the theatrical. “Theater in Tokyo gives a richness and a depth to our community here,” she said. She is a board member of Tokyo International Players, especially charged with coordinating the front-of-house activities for all of TIP’s shows. She is now in rehearsal for her third appearance on stage with TIP. “Both my children were in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,’ she said. “My husband took care of the set design and construction for that, and now he is in the current show. Theater is getting to be a family hobby.”
Tokyo International Players, which has been in existence since 1896, is aiming to make its productions more accessible to schools. It is giving backstage tours, and play directors are giving talks. TIP is ending its current session with “Inherit the Wind,” a play that Dana expects to be particularly interesting to students. Dramatizing real conflict between evolution and creation, this play calls upon “romance, passion, religion, intellect.” It bears “a timeless message: freedom of thought should be preserved at all costs.” This end-of-season production has the benefit of Malcolm Duff’s professional direction. In the performance, Dana plays Mrs. Goodfellow, one in a cast of 25 actors. She said: “In rehearsal there’s a feeling of excitement. I enjoy working with the kind of keen people we have in TIP. I feel I have reached a high.”