Renowned playwright Toshiki Okada brings his latest work-in-translation to NYC
The Play Company’s much-anticipated production of Toshiki Okada’s Time’s Journey Through a Room shines a bright light on the work of the Japanese playwright and his Brooklyn-based translator, Aya Ogawa. The play – part ghost story, part love story – is one of over a dozen Okada pieces the two have adapted for English-speaking audiences.
Okada’s work was first performed outside of Japan in 2007. “For me now,” he says, “it seems very natural to imagine writing for people who have no familiarity with Japanese society, who don’t understand Japanese, or who’ve never been to Japan. But it wasn’t always like that.” Okada says he has been strongly influenced by the process of discussing his work with people outside his culture. “Through this experience, the image of the audience I imagine when creating plays has changed, without a doubt.”
Okada and translator Ogawa, herself an award-winning writer, have a straightforward process for working together, one Okada calls, “not particularly scrupulous.” On Ogawa’s first pass, she sends the playwright a list of questions related to the text, ranging from queries about word choice, to the subject of a line, to items that are not always apparent on the page. “After I complete a draft, I’ll send it to him and he combs through it and sends me questions, suggestions, and other remarks.” She translates and edits the play while Ogawa is rehearsing it with his own company, prior to the piece’s premiere.
Okada says, “Aya Ogawa has a great understanding of the feel of my words.” As she translated Time’s Journey Through a Room, Ogawa noted how it differed from Okada’s previous style. “This play marks a pretty big departure from the super-colloquial, run-on sentence, circuitous, meandering aesthetic Okada became really famous for.” In this play, she says, it is clear when actors are in character or not and when characters are speaking to each other or to the audience. “They have sentences that begin and end, and they have punctuation, which has not usually been the case with his scripts.” She calls Time’s Journey Through a Room a subtle, nuanced play, “deeply emotional with that depth being communicated through sparse and small exchanges.”
Following the May 12 performance of Time’s Journey Through a Room, Okada will speak with the Play Company audience about his work. “The sense of curiosity that American audiences have—particularly New York audiences—is completely different from Japanese audiences and also different from European audiences. Having such conversations with the audience is a precious opportunity to encounter perspectives other than my own.”
Time’s Journey Through a Room
By Toshiki Okada
Translated by Aya Ogawa
Directed by Dan Rothenberg
A production of The Play Company
performances take place May 10 through June 10, 2018 in New York City
at A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 W 53rd St (at 10th Avenue).
- Following the May 12 performance, Toshiki Okada will appear in person to speak about his work.
- On May 13, Toshiki Okada will lead a workshop for actors, choreographers, dancers and physical theater artists at the Japan Society in New York City.