【REPORT by English】“What do we actually want to create in the public theatres from now on?” @Shizuoka SPAC


【REPORT by English】“What do we actually want to create in the public theatres from now on?” @Shizuoka SPAC


“What do we actually want to create in the public theatres from now on?”

Satoshi Miyagi (General Artistic Director of SPAC, Director)
Makoto Nakashima (Artistic Director of BIRD Theatre Company TOTTORI, Director)
Daniel Jeanneteau (Artistic Director of Studio-Théâtre de Vitry, Director)
Yoshiji Yokoyama (Dramaturg, SPAC)
Akihito Hirano (Interpreter)

Number of participants: 32

[Presentation of ON-PAM]
ON-PAM had made it possible for the producers and organizers to connect with each other on the same level. Without being so much attached to one’s position or where one belongs, we can discuss as the professionals. It is wonderful that we can talk together with sincerity, finding something in common from each other’s problems.


[About the theme of this symposium]
The theme of this year’s Festival is “Don’t read the atmosphere.” SPAC is the theatre with a strong emphasis on creation. In this symposium, I wanted to embed the theme “To create a work”. Recently, I feel that our conversations often incline to topics such as creation in collaboration with public theatres, or the public money for creation. Increasingly, we are facing to ask ourselves, “What do we do for the society?”


Twenty years ago, the situation was much more clear. “What we want to do is this, so we want the theatre, and we want the grants.” It was evident to all that what the state or local governments aimed to achieve and that of the artists were not always the same.


Nowadays, already at the planning of a project, we never leave out the point, “what kind of impact the project can have to the public.” What role does the work take to the society? We ask this question to ourselves from the early beginning. It should have its own good; however, it may also have an opposite side, to keep thinking about what the state or local governments would want.


“Mefisto For Ever” is the exemplary performance. Commissioned by the Nazi regime, he accepted to be the Artistic Director of the National Theatre. Initially, he hoped to use the position to save his friends, and he meant to resist against the regime from inside, but at last, he couldn’t escape from being the voice of the regime.
Perhaps, not at this extreme; yet, even today, don’t we gauge what the state or local government wants?
What did we really want to do and what do we really want to do now, while using the public system? I would like to hear their opinions, distinguishing oneself with the subject as “I”.


Why did I want to put “Mefisto For Ever” on the stage? It has something to do with the difference between creating the performance for private reasons and creating it in the public theatres.
As a creator myself, I have to say that I don’t start thinking about what the public administration wants, in order to create a performance in public theatres, or because I have the budget from the public sector.

Everything would start from what I want to do. Then, I study what reasons I can present to the counterpart so that it will become inevitable to support us financially. In other words, those who have the money are looking for a reason to spend. I rather think of this way, that we provide that reason.


A creator has an urge to create, before anything else. Yet, while risking one’s life to create, one starts to feel hopeless. The more he pursues his urge to create, more overwhelming the doubts and emptiness appear. In extreme, who can see what he envisions to realize is only himself, isn’t it?


The theatre involves many people in its activity. At the end, I am asking others to assist my self-satisfaction, which no one really understands.
This sentiment, the desire of achieving something other than this emptiness, becomes the motivation of “making myself useful to others”. Furthermore, I want to convince myself that I am being useful to someone else. This is the most terrifying point.
The director always desires to be of service of someone. There is nothing more terrifying than his work being useful. Looking back at the past, all the cases where they had a part in the evil, were caused by their desire to be useful for someone.


The sponsors hate to receive criticism. When they hear the voice, “why did they spend our taxes for such a thing?”, they back out. The jury may not have a problem to evaluate the necessity and choose the project to support; however, the sponsors prefer to avoid the unpleasant situation. Especially, recently, I feel that they tend to.


When I say it’s more important to have the freedom of expression than the matter of “anti-Japan”, it may sound like the logic of (established) high art, spoiled by only a small number of people. Isn’t it accessible only for those who appreciate it? The majority of so-called “arts” is considered as important by less than 10% of the population. For the other 90%, it’s something that they might have only heard of. For example, even Beethoven doesn’t have 10% of population as listeners. We learned that he is respectable. That’s all. Only those who appreciate the “established arts” are saying that the freedom of expression is important, aren’t they?


I think, that artists and producers at theatres need to create something interesting or attractive to more than 50% of people. If people say that the arts are traditionally for the privileged, I cannot deny. Even if the current arts disappear, most people won’t have any troubles.


Artists also crave to create “theatre for life”. Nazis and Communist Party of Germany had been in the similar situation, seduced by the idea of liberating the arts from the monopoly of tiny percentage of people. Possibly, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association might have been similar as well. The artists desires to create something essential to life, but the output turns out to be the glorification of fascism. Here is another risk.


The value of “beauty” is almost inexplicable to the public regime. “Theatres founded by the public” and “Theatres with public nature” are not necessarily the same. The BIRD Theatre TOTTORI, as a private theatre company, had converted an abolished school into a theatre open to public, and consequently, the public administration had started to support us.


In the flyers of “An Angel Comes to Babylon” that we performed at the World Theatre Festival Shizuoka under Mt. Fuji, we wrote, “can we, who are dominated by the system and economy, reconstruct our life with the beauty?” because neither the title nor the name of artist might have meant anything to those who may see the flyer. We intended to reach those who have doubts about the shape of the current society. While designing the flyer, we thought, “can’t we possibly have a conversation with them through theatre?”


The Tottori Prefecture has the least population in Japan. Even Tottori City is with a population of only 190,000 people. I would like to present “theatre” as something meaningful for their lives.
Individual desire is fundamental for creation. The public is often regarded as a service towards the mass without any communication. However, on the opposite, there is the society; and the society has its demands towards the individuals, which may often function repressively.


Moreover, there are things that we must do. For the society, for the group, for the lives of colleagues, for the families. There are various layers in what we must do. How can we find all the what-we-must-do?
Let’s try to “read half of the situation”. Keeping on asking ourselves, “what do we have to do in the current society?” we should continue to repeat what we can do.


Today, the theatre is run by twenty members. We had renovated the gymnasium of an ex-elementary school. “BIRD Theatre Festival TOTTORI” is held in September, and it’s operated with the support of local people. Every year, we receive donations of about 3,000,000 JPY. In the theatre, there is also a small gallery, as well as café. We use the ex-playroom of a kindergarten as foyer.


There are 200 seats, and the stage size is 12m x 12m. For Christmas seasons every year, we tend to program a performance for children intentionally. It may be followed by post-performance talks, or there are times that we invite children on stage after the performance. We also have a program for children called “School for little birds”, which uses theatre as a principle. It is aimed to produce creative and innovative citizens of 21st century.


“BIRD Theatre Festival TOTTORI” marks its 8th year this year. The top class performances from Japan and abroad are programmed; and at the same time, we also program the contemporary dance performance by the local group, or performances by the local high school students. Or, the history of the town may be introduced theatrically, walking down the street of the town.


We ask to open various stores in the vacant houses or shop spaces, like a flea market as a whole. It is our mission to bring more excitement to the town as a whole. If we talk only about the theatre, we can host only 3000 people for the whole festival period, but by collaborating with the town, it is attracting about 10,000 people.


Requested by the education committee, we run a training program for new teachers, using theatre. Also for a campaign to encourage and to promote emigration, commissioned by the Tottori prefecture, we have performed at Arts Chiyoda 3331 for the generations in the child-raising period.
The BIRD Theatre TOTTORI began its story in 2006, and in the fiscal year 2015, the theatre received the budget for its full renovation. The building used exclusively by a private NPO will be renovated with the public money. Doesn’t this mean that the public nature of the BIRD Theatre TOTTORI is recognized, does it? We play a role of a think tank. We advocate for the better cultural policy with practice.


What can theatre do?
– To share the experiences and emotions of the distant times or places.
– To communicate with others who build up the society together.
– To relativize the present.
– To send out the messages as a theatre.


Prof. Hirofumi Uzawa, Tottori-born economist, has proposed the “Social Common Capital”, comprised of the following three categories:
1.Natural capital
2.Social infrastructure
3.Institutional capital (hospitals, educational institutions, judicial and police systems, public administrative services, financial and monetary institutions, and cultural capital)
It may be effective if the theatre becomes the institutional capital.


The social common capital can’t be ruled by the market or bureaucrats. It should be maintained by experts with their professional perspectives.
We should not talk about the role of theatre in the society, mythologizing the period when there were only few medias (the times when existed only the theatre). It is out of date.


I’m a very introverted, shy artist. Drawing by myself, I felt the necessity of expressing the view of my own authentic esthetics with it. That’s why I became an artist. Then, why am I getting involved with theatre? “I have my faults, but changing my tune is not one of them.” (Quoting Beckett.) Not too many artists would have started their artistic activities to have an impact on the society. Yet, I suppose that we have to care about those artists, don’t we?


“Studio Theatre de Vitry”, where I work as Artistic Director, is not quite a conventional theatre. Founded 50 years ago as an independent theatre company, it has an extremely unique history. It’s located in a small city called Vitry near Paris; and the original building was simply a small house. In this small building, there are spaces for office, kitchen and theatre with only 4 staff members.


At the entrance, visitors may feel like entering someone’s house. Then, inside, they may find it larger than expected. The size of theatre is 20m x 9m. It used to be a warehouse of some company in the beginning of 20th century, and it was used more as a rehearsal space rather than theatre, because it was more like an atelier. In these 7 years, since I started working, I have improved the facilities as a theatre. A place of quietness and tranquility, which offers an amazing environment for creation.


It’s nothing like a public theatre that one imagines. The building is a rental property of some woman. As an exceptional case, even though we receive public resources, our artistic expression has remained free. Even the funder wishes for us to be free. It is a rare sort of public theatre. Being free doesn’t help us become rich financially, but if we received more, the less freedom we would receive. Among the French theatres, our theatre has its uniqueness of being used mainly as a place of creation, not as a space for performances. For someone shy like me, it’s nice to be able to settle down in such a quiet place.


We artists, in the society of this period, should always start off from the internal self. Where does the danger come from to us in this field? It would come from the temptation to create something that everyone could understand. When one refers to “everyone”, people are considered in the aggregate. Then, we start to think instead of others, which the commercial communication, the advertisements are doing. It’s seductive. Just like the dictatorial and political discourse. It is extremely dangerous to use the term mass, public, or people. Do you believe that they exist?


During the sensitive and difficult period I had, when I was younger, I could only relate myself to the world by drawing alone. That’s how I led myself into the world of arts. As my life starts to go on, I became to notice that my problem and that of the society are connected.
Rei Naito said that the reason she draws is not necessarily to express herself. Same for me as well. As an artist, I create my work as a human being, not as someone who is special and different from others.


In her art works, there is something “anonymous”. I am doing the same: as an artist myself, I have an awareness of the problems to be expressed, and it will emerge, from me as a media. The mind and expression, appeared from the self of individuals, should not remain personal. Rather, it should convergent into the public. As one who belongs to the community called humanity, if I become a media, I could give back to the society, couldn’t I?


I feel that I am extremely fortunate. First, that I have a career in the public theatres, even though I am a solitary person and essentially shy. For the second, that I am able to work in the condition where the community supports me and secures the independency, though I incorporate my personal problem consciousness and identities into the work.


Just to tell, the government of the city is communist-led. It has one of the last Communist strongholds. When I was appointed as Artistic Director of this theatre, the Mayor said, “We will not interfere in what you do. But I have a high expectation to you.” The Mayor has been keeping his word. He has often come to the theatre, and he has understandings. He had never put us under pressure nor intervened.


In France, a large part of the cultural budget is provided by the state or local government. There is a long history to this tradition. For those who had governed the country, the arts and artists had always been of high interest. In 80s and 90s, from the time of President Mitterand, the state starts to support the dissident artists as well. France is considered as a country where the artists can be free and independent; but I, who work in the field of theatre, find necessary to tackle this issue.


It is an issue originated from the system of grant and subsidies. To admit, it is very difficult to do something that may trigger a fire, to fall into an adversarial relationship between the funder. Artists tend to avoid getting marked. I sense the creeping of more self-control and self-censorship.


The way of governance in France has been changing. They are starting to pose the question, why they have to spend so much public money.At the same time, they are well aware that the cultural fields are yielding such enormous profits to the state, France. So to speak, the “culture” is not threatened in France. However, the new “creation”, sending out “messages” and “expression” are under the threat.