How German Theatre responded to Fukushima

Question: When you walk into a supermarket to grab some groceries for dinner, what’s the most important information for you? Price, obviously; brand, expiration date, amount of artificial sweetener, possibly; but how about the number of “becquerels” contained in that product? My guess is that maybe becquerel is the last word that pops into your mind when you run errands. But after the March 11, 2011, triple catastrophe of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a 21.1m-high tsunami, and the following nuclear meltdown that discharged massive amounts of cesium 137 (equal to that of 168.5 Hiroshima atomic bombs), adding the results of a becquerel scan on packages of meat, mushrooms, rice, tea, or anything suspicious of radioactive contamination has become eerily prevalent in Japan.
The Japanese prime minister has described the catastrophe as the “biggest crisis since World War II,” and as is the case with all devastating disasters, it affected the day-to-day life of all citizens. And the crisis is still ongoing. This is why I felt both empowered and astounded to hear that one of Germany’s most prestigious theatre journals, Theater der Zeit, published an entire issue on the Fukushima incident last October, entitled In den Ruinen der Zukunft [In the ruins of the future]. Certainly, TdZ calls itself a “Journal for Theatre and Politics,” inheriting the politically engaged theatre tradition of the former GDR, but it otherwise is a theatre journal pure and simple, not any kind of political or environmental publication. Moreover, Berlin is 8.944 kilometers away from Tokyo, and it is not difficult to close your eyes, cover your ears, and ignore everything that has happened on those little Far East islands. Yet, the Germans didn’t. Which makes me want to hug every single person in this country and thank you for the sincerity with which you responded to the disaster. Continue reading How German Theatre responded to Fukushima

Questions from an Ausländer

I have nothing to say, and I am saying it. And that’s not poetry, just blatant fact. Here I am, in Berlin, a Japanese theatre journalist with some knowledge of theatre but no in-depth anything of German culture, and I’m supposed to be contributing to the TT-Blog. Don’t get me wrong: The last thing I want to do is grumble, because I am simply overjoyed by the broad-mindedness of the German-speaking blogging team who could accept a Tokyo journalist to join them. Yet, I honestly am also a little afraid, because when I look around there are, unlike in London where I live now, exclusively white faces around me, and I know that some people – no, not you, but some – do yammer “Ausländer raus!” as in the late Christoph Schlingensief’s ironic theatre project.
John Cage might say “Silence” in these circumstances. But the difference between the great composer and I is that I can’t shut up, but rather continue shooting foolish questions: Why is German theatre so politically engaged? Why is Regietheater still so strong in this more fluid modern age? Why are most directors men, and white? And why do many end up directing operas? Is that the ultimate success for directors, or is that already an old-school perspective? And, yes, this is a big one, has most of German theatre become totally post-dramatic, abandoning the power of storytelling? You see, I am full of these horribly biased questioned, and am the least qualified person to provide an insider’s view to this festival. Continue reading Questions from an Ausländer