Japan Society's THE ROOM NOBODY KNOWS Set for Under the Radar Festival, 1/8-12
As part of its current 60th Anniversary Performing Arts Season, Japan Society proudly presents The Room Nobody Knows, written and directed by Kuro Tanino, in a production from his company Niwa Gekidan Penino. This production plays 5 performances only, January 8 - 12 at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street), as part of The Public Theater's 2014 Under the Radar Festival.
Sprung from the mind of Japan's acclaimed young theater artist (and former psychiatrist) Kuro Tanino, The Room Nobody Knows lures viewers into the strange and darkly comic world of two brothers sharing a small apartment in greater metropolitan Tokyo. Set on the day of the older brother's birthday, this play probes fractured psyches and anxiety-inducing secrets, which manifest in very unexpected ways, from libidinously-shaped décor to the appearance of two bizarre-looking creatures borne from the younger brother's imagination.
In the signature hyper-visual style of Tanino's company Niwa Gekidan Penino, The Room Nobody Knows features an elaborate, surreal, two-story set - depicting an apartment of curious proportions - a disorienting, colorful environment that hints at what might be deep inside the minds of the characters as their dreams, doubts and desires spring vividly to life.
"While this visual theater could have been born from any experimental theater scene in a contemporary urban city, I would like to emphasize that The Room Nobody Knows implies a true slice of contemporary Japan, where young adults' social ineptitude has been a longtime problematic phenomena," says Yoko Shioya, Japan Society's Artistic Director, "Then, I wonder, 'When one of those young adults is fixated only on his or her personal matters - personal space, siblings, his or her own body, desires, etc. - what would his or her "room" be like?'" She continues, "Kuro Tanino's theatrical imagination and experience as a psychiatrist enables him to examine this question in a funny and bizarre way."
Tokyo Stages remarks, "Kuro Tanino's troupe is a one-man psychological trip into the underbelly of our desires." The company features actors Ichigo Iida, Momoi Shimada, Taeko Seguchi, and Ikuma Yamada, Set Designer Michiko Inada, Lighting Designer Masayuki Abe (LICKT-ER), and Sound Designer Yoshihiro Nakamura. Translation is by Ami Shiekierczak Oki. Performed in Japanese, with English subtitles.
Playwright and director Kuro Tanino was born in Toyama Prefecture in 1976. He brings with a keen interest in visual art to Niwa Gekidan Penino, the theater company he formed in 2000 while a student at Showa University Medical School. Tanino became a licensed psychiatrist in 2003, and until recently, was a practicing psychiatrist. Honors for his work in theater include being nominated as a finalist for Japan's most prestigious theater award, the Kishida Kunio Drama Award, for his plays Fortification of Smiles (Egao no Toride) (2007) and Starry Shadow Jr. (Hoshikage no Jr.) (2008). In addition to work with Niwa Gekidan Penino, Tanino directed Henrik Johan Ibsen's Vildanden (2007) and wrote and directed Chekhov!? (2011) commissioned and presented by the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, a large theater complex owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan government, for the 150th anniversary of Chekhov's birth. He was assistant director of Dewey Dell's Marzo (2013) performed at the steirischer herbst Festival (Austria) and Next Festival (Belgium).
As a company, Niwa Gekidan Penino, whose works are all written and directed by Kuro Tanino, endeavors to present freewheeling forms of expression, often utilizing small, carefully designed, non-conventional spaces, aimed at transcending the existing framework of drama. The company Niwa Gekidan Penino (niwa means garden and gekidan means theater company in Japanese) has performed throughout Japan, and been invited to perform at internationally recognized festivals and venues such as Hebbel am Ufer Berlin (Germany), Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Switzerland), Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen (Netherlands), Next Festival (Belgium) and Kulturschiene (Germany). In 2012, Niwa Gekidan Penino co-produced Fabrice Melquiot's Bouli Miro together with the French Institute in Tokyo and OWL SPOT (Tokyo) and in 2013 they presented Box In The Big Trunk at Morishita Studio in Tokyo and at KYOTO EXPERIMENT.
The Room Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai Anata no Heya) premiered in Tokyo in February 2012, when it was performed in the Niwa Gekidan Penino studio, named Atelier Hakobune (meaning studio ark), a typically small, ordinary residential apartment in Tokyo where Kuro Tanino lived during his student years and where the majority of the company's plays have been produced and presented. Atelier Hakobune is just large enough to fit an audience of about 30 people. The Room Nobody Knows represents a leap in imagery and absurdity from Tanino's breakthrough work, the 2008 production Frustrating Picture Book for Adults (Iraira suru Otona no Ehon) which toured to Europe in 2009 and 2011, making stops in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Belgium. These two plays, inspired by Tanino's experience as a psychologist, share the same two-story stage set and a few characters. Since its premiere in Toyko, The Room Nobody Knows has been presented in Osaka (Japan), and at the Helsinki Festival (Finland) and Südpol: Musik Tanz Theater (Lucerne, Switzerland).
As part of Japan Society Performing Arts Program's 60th Anniversary Season, the Society produces a five-city tour of Niwa Gekidan Penino theater company's The Room Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai Anata no Heya) as part of its ongoing commitment to introduce contemporary Japanese theater to North American audiences. This tour begins at Japan Society with this presentation as part of the 2014 Under the Radar Festival, followed by: Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN; January 16-18); Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH; January 23-26); FringeArts (Philadelphia, PA; January 30-February 1) and On the Boards (Seattle, WA; February 6-9). This tour marks the theater company's North American debut.
Japan Society Artistic Director Yoko Shioya comments, "We are thrilled to once again be part of Under the Radar, with whom we collaborated in 2012 on Hideki Noda's THE BEE and Toshiki Okada's chelfitsch Theater Company's Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech, and to be introducing Niwa Gekidan Penino to U.S. audiences through the five-city tour this winter."