Japan Society Proudly Presents ASHITA NO MA-JOE: ROCKY MACBETH this May

Japan Society Proudly Presents ASHITA NO MA-JOE: ROCKY MACBETH this May

Japan Society is proud to present Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth by the Theater Company Kaimaku Pennant Race (KPR). Director Yu Murai, founder of KPR, cleverly retells Macbeth through the 1960s mega-hit manga Ashita no Joe, centering on the rise and fall of a troubled teenager turned high-ranking professional boxer, echoing the struggles of the Scottish king in the Shakespeare classic. Interlaced with reimaginings of famous scenes from both works, this production promises to surprise Shakespeare and manga lovers alike. Murai uses the mythos surrounding the boxer Joe to create an innovative, playful theatrical production in which two worlds fraught with angst and ambition collide. This production, a North American premiere, will have five performances at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street), playing May 15 - 18.

In a uniquely configured design, Japan Society and KPR have created a boxing ring for the performance, around which audience members will be seated behind ropes on the stage of the auditorium. The surface of the ring opens and closes like the lid of a box, suggesting a door between Macbeth's human world and the world from which the witches and the ghost of Banquo arrive. This surface also acts as a screen for video designer Kazuki Watanabe's visual effects and subtitles. Throughout the piece, as the ghosts of Macbeth's vanquished foes haunt the protagonist, their eerie visages appear pressed against the ring's stretchy fabric, evoking the image of bodies lurking just beneath the surface. As in most KPR productions, the company members are clad in white spandex bodysuits, allowing the actors to portray any character from Shakespeare's cannon with minimal accoutrements. Yu Murai's version of Macbeth, Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth, includes in the title a pun on the Japanese word for witches, or majo, and the iconic graphic novel, Ashita no Joe.

Known for their off-the-wall revues inspired by Western masterpieces, the Tokyo-based theater company Kaimaku Pennant Race (KPR) has performed in Romania, Thailand, South Korea, China, France and the United States, among other countries. Audiences around the world have embraced the theater company, describing their work as "a real artistic experience" (La Provence, France). In 2009, the company performed Romeo and Toilet in the New York International Fringe Festival, earning "Four Stars" from Time Out New York for its "fantastic combination of ingenious movement, surreal story lines and dynamic, startlingly disciplined performers." Director Yu Murai reinterprets a wide variety of classical plays using extreme physicality and over-the-top humor. The company's performances invite audiences to enter surreal, high-octane worlds, created through aesthetics and tropes borrowed from Japanese pop culture like anime, manga and video games. Today, the troupe is one of the most promising young theater companies in Japan blending high-art and entertainment. Their remarkable sets have also caused quite a stir, with one of their most notable set designs being a large toilet created from 10,000 toilet paper rolls for Romeo and Toilet. The company's Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth premiered at the Honda Gekijo in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo in February 2017.

Yu Murai is a playwright and director, who founded Kaimaku Pennant Race in 2006. Known for his bold stage designs and sharp, witty dramas, he is able to convey his original and singular point of view through his meticulous and highly choreographed directing style. Most recently, he has started conducting workshop, lectures and readings to expose young actors to his quirky and rich methodologies. Of his plays, Theatrorama (France) wrote, "If you see [his] shocking work, you cannot return to earth ever again." Awards he has received include: Encouragement Award at the Toga Theater Competition, given by the Japan Performing Arts Foundation (2013); Setagaya-ku Arts Award in Performing Arts category (2014); Director Award at the 7th Sengawa Theater Competition (2016), among others.

Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth is written and directed by Yu Murai, and performed by Takuro Takasaki, G.K. Masayuki and Kazuma Takeo. Video design and operation is by Kazuki Watanabe.

Japan Society's 2018-2019 Performing Arts Season features works by visionary artists in dance, music and theater. The current season commenced in September with the traditional concert Hauta Shamisen: Love Songs from the Edo Period by shamisen master Hidetaro Honjoh (September 14); and continued with the contemporary music concert Hidejiro x ICE: Shamisen Evolution, in which young shamisen standout Hidejiro Honjoh performed three world premiere pieces by Vijar Iyer, Nathan Davis, Yu Kuwabara and more (October 5); and the contemporary music and flower arranging event Unusual Pairings: Akiko Yano + Seiho, featuring renowned pianist and singer/songwriter Akiko Yano and electronic sound artist and ikebana enthusiast Seiho (November 10); and the Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia, including Akira Kasai's Pollen Revolution performed by Mitsutake Kasai, Kuan-Hsiang Liu's Kids and Goblin Party's Silver Knife, brought groundbreaking artists from Japan, Taiwan and Korea to New York (January 4 & 5). The season continued with an installment from the Play Reading Series: Contemporary Japanese Plays in English Translation, this year delivering 100 Years Stray by SaringROCK, translated by Aya Ogawa (February 4); and the traditional puppet theater presentation Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Puppet Theater led by master and director Koryu Nishikawa V featuring fantastic female characters from classical literature, and a new work from Nishikawa based on a story from The Tale of Genji (February 28 - March 2). The season also featured Japanese choreographer/dancer and founder of the internationally known dance company Leni-Basso, Akiko Kitamura, who returned to the Society's stage with a multimedia dance piece about Cambodia's past entitled Cross Transit (March 22-23). Coming up April 12 - 13, Japan Society presents You Took a Part of Me, a dance production with choreography by "punk ballerina" Karole Armitage, performed by her company Armitage Gone! Dance. This presentation of Ashita no Ma-Joe: Rocky Macbeth by Yu Marai concludes Japan Society's current 2018-2019 Performing Arts Season.

Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has presented nearly 700 productions of Japan's finest performing arts to an extensive American audience. Programs range from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki to cutting-Edge Theater, dance and music. The Program also commissions new works to non-Japanese artists, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and distributes educational programs. The Performing Arts' season lineup is programmed by the Society's Artistic Director Yoko Shioya, who is the recipient of the 2019 Bessies Presenter Award for Outstanding Curating.

Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and groundbreaking contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.

Tickets & Information:

Performances are Wednesday, May 15* and Thursday, May 16 at 7:30pm; Friday, May 17 at 8:30pm; and Saturday, May 18 at 2:30pm and 8:30pm.

Tickets are $28 / $20 Japan Society members.

* followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception

Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 212-715-1258 or in person at Japan Society (M-F 11:00am - 6:00pm and Sat-Sun 11:00am - 5:00pm). Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit http://www.japansociety.org

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