IMG_5733 (Asian Arts Theatre (Moon So Young)) copy
Sung Hee Wi and Aoi Nozu in Toshiki Okada’s GOD BLESS BASEBALL | Photo by Asian Arts Theatre (Moon So Young)

 

NEW YORK CITY |   Toshiki Okada, Japan Society’s golden boy, is back.  He’s written and directed a new work GOD BLESS BASEBALL which made a North American premiere at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street).  There are only 4 performances, so go see it.

It runs Thursday, January 14 at 8:00pm; Friday, January 15 at 7:30pm; Saturday, January 16 at 7:30pm; Sunday, January 17 at 2:30pm. The New York engagement is part of the The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. It’s performed in Japanese and Korean with English titles.

God Bless Baseball marks the third time for Japan Society to present Toshiki Okada’s work,” said Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director of Japan Society, in a prepared statement. “When Toshiki decided that the theme for his new work would be the United States, and its subject matter, baseball, he expressed his hope to have this piece presented in America and asked if Japan Society would once again function as the organizer for a group of U.S. presenters for commissioning and touring support. Thrilled by this request, my immediate answer was, ‘Yes, absolutely!’ because this piece not only addresses U.S.-Japan relations, but also provides an opportunity to look at these issues in a global context, which is a core mission of the Society.”

Following the New York engagement, God Bless Baseball will leap into a U.S. tour at FringeArts, Philadelphia (January 21-23); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (January 28-30); The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University (February 4-7); The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland (February 12-13).

According to the press notes, this new play “addresses the current social and political climates of Japan and South Korea, where baseball is deeply rooted in popular culture. Through an episodic narrative and incorporating Okada’s distinctive style of hyper-colloquial speech and subtly choreographed commonplace gestures, God Bless Baseball unearths images, conflicts and personal and national memories related to the sport, while offering a humorous yet cynical allegory depicted by the naïve adoration that two brothers (personifications of Korea and Japan) have for their parent (America).”

In his director notes, Okada says, “I wanted to offer the opportunity to contemplate on the current relationship between South Korea and Japan and envisage its possible future. To that extent, I chose America as the theme of the play, as both countries have been hugely influenced by the United States.”

ABOUT TOSHIKI OKADA
Playwright / Director Toshiki Okada was born in Yokohama in 1973. He has earned international recognition and acclaim for his own independent work, as well as that of his theater company chelfitsch, which he founded in 1997.

Since 1997, he has written and directed all of the company’s productions, practicing a distinctive methodology for creating plays, featuring hyper-colloquial Japanese and unique choreography. In 2005, his play Five Days in March won the prestigious 49th Kishida Kunio Drama Award. Okada participated in Toyota Choreography Award 2005 with Air Conditioner (Cooler), garnering much attention not only from theater professionals but also from the contemporary dance community.

In spring 2009, Japan Society produced the North American debut of chelfitsch theater company with Five Days in March and organized a seven-city tour. The success of the tour led Toshiki Okada to launch his remarkable career in the States, which includes the American production of his play Enjoy, directed by Dan Rothenberg, produced/presented by The Play Company in New York in 2010 (Critics’ Pick, The New York Times) and Five Days in March by Witness Relocation; a 2nd U.S. tour in spring 2012 of Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech (the New York presentation at Japan Society was presented as part of The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival); Zero Cost House, the collaborative work by Okada and Dan Rothenberg presented in fall 2012 at FringeArts, Philadelphia; and The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise, produced/presented by The Play Company at JACK in 2014.

His collection of novels The End of the Special Time We Were Allowed (debut 2007) was awarded the Kenzaburo Oe Prize. His stories and plays continue to be published in Japan, and translated into many languages for publication abroad. He was recently commissioned to direct his works in a repertory program at the Munich Kammerspiele, one of the foremost theaters in Germany, for three seasons starting in 2016.

ABOUT GOD BLESS BASEBALL
This latest work by Toshiki Okada was developed out of a commission to create a new work for the inaugural festival of South Korea’s large-scale national culture complex in Gwangju, the Asian Arts Theatre, in September 2015. Prior to receiving the commission, Okada had worked extensively and built artistic ties with counterparts in South Korea through activities including participation in Festival Bo:m, an art festival held annually in Seoul and other cities. The cast for this production was assembled through auditions held in both Japan and Korea, and comprises actors who are not part of Okada’s chelfitsch theater company.

In his process around this piece, Okada endeavored to reflect actual baseball-related memories of the actors, through creative collaboration and brainstorming. God Bless Baseball premiered at the Asian Culture Complex – Asian Arts Theatre in Gwangju, South Korea in September 2015, followed by its Japan premiere in November 2015 as part of Festival/Tokyo. Following the U.S. tour, the piece will travel to Taipei, Taiwan.

ABOUT JAPAN SOCIETY
Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

About THE PUBLIC THEATER’S UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL
Over the last 12 years, The Public’s Under the Radar Festival has presented over 194 companies from 40 countries. It has grown into a landmark of the New York City theater season and is a vital part of The Public’s mission, providing a high-visibility platform to support artists from diverse backgrounds who are redefining the act of making theater. Widely recognized as a premier launching pad for new and cutting-edge performance from the U.S. and abroad, UTR provides a snapshot of contemporary theater: richly distinct in terms of perspectives, aesthetics, and social practice, and pointing to the future of the art form.

TICKETS AND INFORMATION
God Bless Baseball plays at Japan Society as follows: Thursday, January 14 at 8:00pm; Friday, January 15 at 7:30pm; Saturday, January 16 at 7:30pm; Sunday, January 17 at 2:30pm. Performance runs approximately 100 minutes. Tickets: $35/$28 Japan Society members. MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception follows the performance on Thursday, January 14.

Tickets for performances and related events at Japan Society can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 212-715-1258 or in person at Japan Society (M-F 11:00am – 6:00pm and Sat-Sun 11:00am – 5:00pm). Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit http://www.japansociety.org.

 

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