Tuesday 16 June 2015

Medea' s Dramaturgy: Butoh @ Edfringe 2015

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Yokko: I had the idea of telling the story of Medea using Butoh, a Japanese contemporary dance form. Initially, I wanted to create a two-person show, but I also wanted to create a new solo show. I decided to test the show concept through solo performance. 

My instincts told me that Greek tragedy and Butoh would complement each other because both examine humanity's inner darkness. Medea is one of the biggest tragic heroines in theatre history, and I have been interested in her story for a long time. 

Additionally, I wanted to use the Japanese Noh theatre which often tells the story of a spirit/ghost: when on stage, and tell their life story to the audience. By using Butoh, I can let her spirit speak on stage and give a perspective not shown in the original version.

To create the show, I began by reading three different translations of Euripides' Medea and researching mythology and Noh theatre. I choreographed half of the show last March with co-choreographer, Jordan Rosin. I also worked with costume Designer Deepshikha Chatterjee to develop a costume that supported my vision for the performance. I then performed fifteen minutes of the Butoh as R&D. 

After completing the first draft of the script, I consulted a script advisor to help me develop my writing. Playwight Sean Michael Welch took over the writing completely from that point, becoming the writer of Butoh Medea. Then I brought a director on board to collaborate with the rest of the team and we premiered in New York City October 2014.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
We received four awards last year at the United Solo Festival, and were encouraged to bring our work to Europe by those familiar with European theatre. Because the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest theatre festival in the world, we decided to make our European premiere there with the hope of developing contacts with other venues in the UK and the rest of Europe.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They will experience Medea's psychological journey. Butoh Medea invites the audience to be with the spirit of Medea, and experience her perspective of the events in Euripides' play.

Why the story of Medea? I touched on this a bit in an earlier question, but the story I want to tell is not just Euripides' Medea, but the inner spirit of Medea. The story we all know portrays her as a baby killer, a murderer and evil. 

We wanted to make her human as much as possible. We as a society judge people based on what they do. All criminals, murderers, abusers are judged but their story is often neglected. There is a situation or cause that pushed them to do it.

Every single person has life stories; every single one of us made mistakes. It is a human story that we are telling through Medea.

What do you mean by Butoh - and how did you get involved in it?Butoh is a comtemporary Japanese dance form started in 1950s Japan first called Ankoku Butoh, then in the late 1980s it began to spread around the world with the name shortened to Butoh. I have trained and practiced Butoh for 4 to 5 years. I have also taught Butoh for the past 2 years as well as physical theatre, including Japanese classical dance, martial arts, voice and movement. 

I knew what Butoh was, but I was not initially interested because I wanted to study Acting, not dance or experimental theatre. That changed in 2011 when I was cast in the show, "Butoh Electra" and had to learn Butoh for the production. In 2012, I was cast in the same show again. This time, I wanted to understand more about Butoh's essence so that I can use it more effectively to create my character, Clytemnestra. 

My intention was purely for my character and the show I was in, but Butoh pulled me in. I started practice Butoh exclusively. That is the moment that I knew I fell in love with Butoh. I was still in love with acting and did not want to say good-bye to either, so I combined both in my work. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
The first stage of research was addressing why I needed to do this show at that specific moment in time. Then, as I do not agree with Medea's choice of killing kids, had to overcome that judgement of my character. I needed to understand her mind. 

At the same time, my writer Sean Michael Welch researched the myth and its various translations. We discussed how our Medea is difference from other Medeas.

There are several versions of the story of Medea. One of those says that Medea did not kill her six children. She killed the king and his princes, but not her own kids. As consequence, her children were killed, but two of them survived. Euripides adapted this myth to make Medea kills her children(two not six, probably for theatrical practicality), because that is more shocking. In Greek society, men had all the power over women. 

If a man says he wants to divorce his wife, women must follow without any complaints. Men can kill their children if he wants to for political reasons. Men can do anything for their career - he can divorce, he can kill his family - that is acceptable in that society. It is actually the same in Japan, especially in war time (14-15th century). 

Euripides wanted to challenge the society by a female taking this typically male action. That was a huge shock to the audience, then and now. Medea is well known as a horrific mother over centuries. I asked myself why we (as a society across many cultures) are attracted to Medea and put this story on stage.

Sean and I are both did not want to make the play about gender or feminism. Also we both believed this was not a premeditated murder. We wanted to make this character human and able to relate to everyone. It is not male, or female, it is a human. That is Butoh - a dance of a life. 

Butoh is a dance of life/soul/being. We dance a life of flower or tree or insect or animals-- anything has life -- we dance. Butoh reminds us to be human,  or Butoh guides us to feel human.Many people who comes to Butoh class needing to not only practice the craft, but to release something internal. We humans have both a light side and a dark side - yin and yang. We all have Medea in us to some degree. Fear, anger, frustration, envy, all these emotions are present in all of us. We don't act on them because we know the consequences, but we know the feeling of being betrayed, cheated, repressed, held back, and failing.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
-American Acting, particularly Realism (my teachers at Actors Studio Drama School)
-Butoh (Vangeline, Yumiko Yoshioka, Diego Pinon)
-Linklater voice technique
-Merry Comway movement
-Physical Theatre (many different techniques)
-Japanese Classical Dance (Nihon Buyoh: Wakayagi)

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Here is the time line of the process.

February 2014: I decided to make Butoh Medea as a solo show.
March 2014: the research started. I choreographed a 15-minute Butoh piece, "Prelude to Butoh Medea" worked with co-choreographer Jordan Rosin and costume designer, Deepsikha Chattergee. I created the concept and research file and started talking with writer Sean Michael Welch.
April 2014: I workishopped "Prelude to Butoh Medea" and wrote the first draft of the script, but it was not quite right (English is not my first language). Sean officially joined as a writer.
May 2014: I presented "Prelude to Butoh Medea" and started talking with lighting designer Derek Van Heel. Sean finished his first draft.
June 2014: Director Brian Rhinehart joined the project. The script is done. Brian staged the show, and adapted the script to suit the more physical way I work.
July 2014: I worked on the sound design.
August 2014: Rehearsals began. The a workshop was presented to an audience at the end of August.
September 2014: Rehearsal.
October 2014: Butoh Medea premieres at United Solo Festival at Theatre Row, New York City.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
We invite the audience inside Medea's mind and spirit. They will travel with her on her psychological journey.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
I do not think so. I hope I haven't spoiled any of the show's surprises.

Paradise Green, The Vault, 11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD
8-9 August (previews), 
10-15, 17-22, 24-30 August 2015
at 7:15 pm

1 comment :

  1. I highly recommend this piece! Yokko has a beautiful command of the Art form Butoh, incredible passion, and this show will entertain and move you