Maho Watanabe (Dramaturge)
The initial motive for creating “Tera” was NOT an interest in spirituality. Conceived from Festival/Tokyo’s “In the City Performance Series,” our aim was to create a new tour system for the piece to visit multiple cities. The director Yukari Sakata had felt the limitations of both traditional road shows (i.e. bringing ready-made works to other venues) and the recent trend of site-specific productions. She thus envisioned an ‘inefficient’ style of traveling – the performance could travel everywhere, but had to be destroyed and recreated every time it visits a new temple – taking into account the fact that there are 70,000+ Buddhist temples in Japan as potential venues. ‘A new creation cannot unfold before destroying the present one’ – in order to realize this concept, two versatile performers, actor Miho Inatsugu and musician Kyojun Tanaka, were chosen as the “wandering monks” to form this minimal troupe.
While gazing at that future, far in the distance, this work was created to be performed at Saiho-ji Temple in Nishi-Sugamo, Tokyo. In a 21st-century megalopolis where people, objects and information never cease to move at high velocities and in prodigious quantities, temples, accompanied by the dead resting in the graveyard, could be described as places destined to ‘stay still’. What anchors the ferociously revolving city to the ground are those static enclaves dotted around our living environment – the extraordinary sensation that dwells in the precincts of Saiho-ji Temple evokes such images. A temple with a somewhat Tokyo-like characteristic, not rooted in the local community, shaped this version of “Tera”.
One day, when our dream tour takes off, we will probably encounter a diversity of realities surrounding each temple and locality. For example, in communities where the population is aging, due to young people flowing out into cities, the number of parishioners who support temples is decreasing even more severely, and hence many priests have part-time jobs. On the other hand, there is a monk of my generation who is developing novel ideas to make full-time priesthood a feasible and exciting profession, precisely because it is a difficult time for temples. Whenever we are granted connection with a new temple, “Tera” will be dismantled, and reincarnated. Neither the work, the creators, nor the people around the temple can return to their previous states. However, cracks that lead to a breakthrough may only be found in unexpected gaps – ones that are never revealed unless you break down the structure. This team is ready to embark on a journey of repeated destruction and creation. — “I’m going away for a bit”.
Born in Saitama in 1992, Maho Watanabe is a translator and dramaturge who works in and around the realms of art, media and international cooperation. In 2014, during her year abroad in the West Bank as an Arabic Studies student, she joined the director Yukari Sakata in “Rashomon | Yabunonaka,” a theater co-production by Palestinian and Japanese artists featured in Festival/Tokyo. This marked her first involvement in performing arts, followed by numerous international collaboration projects, festivals and workshops.