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Japan Society Adds 5 Performances of In-Person Virtual Reality Theater Event THE DARK MASTER

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This immersive and humorously dark experimental theater piece engages the audience with sights, sounds and smells. 

Japan Society Adds 5 Performances of In-Person Virtual Reality Theater Event THE DARK MASTER

Due to demand, Japan Society has announced 5 additional performances in the upcoming run of Kuro Tanino's The Dark Master. Originally slated for 16 performances, this in-person virtual reality theater event, performed for just 10 audience members at a time, will now play 21 performances from Wednesday, June 23 through Monday, June 28. Inspired by an indie manga, this immersive and humorously dark experimental theater piece engages the audience with sights, sounds and smells. Through Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, headphones, and live on-stage cooking, the piece positions each audience member in "first person perspective" as the play's protagonist, an unassuming patron of a Japanese diner. Performed by Tanino's experimental theater company Niwa Gekidan Penino, the story depicts the strange, symbiotic relationship that develops between the customer and the restaurant's owner-chef simply called the "Master." Borrowing the dramaturgy of first-person video games, the audience experiences first-hand how the Master's all-consuming persona highjacks the identity of his victims in a novel production that collapses the border between reality and illusion.

This in-person theater event, performed for just 10 audience members at a time, takes place June 23 through June 28 at Japan Society's auditorium (333 East 47th Street). Prior to its arrival at Japan Society, The Dark Master will play June 18 - 20 at Performance Space for the 21st Century (PS21) in Chatham, NY as part of a tour produced & organized by Japan Society. Originally performed in Japanese and then dubbed in English for this accompanying audio. Running time: 45 minutes. This program is for audiences 18 years and older due to mature content (depiction of sex act and suggested nudity).

As you, the viewer, walk through the doors of this imaginary eatery, the Master invites you to take over as chef and proprietor of the restaurant. From his hiding place in an upper story, the Master monitors your every movement via hundreds of cameras concealed in the diner and trains you in the art of cooking Japanese comfort foods with detailed instructions that he delivers through a tiny wireless earpiece. In this immersive theater event, the auditory experience is delivered via headphones, and an accompanying olfactory experience is served up by the actual dishes being prepared in real-time by stagehands. As you begin to gain confidence in your culinary skills, the restaurant attracts a large clientele of regulars. However, beneath the glitz and often comic surface of this rustic, local eatery, the Master's incessant directions slowly begin to warp your sense of autonomy. These intimations "lead us down paths which are both sensual and disturbing, burlesque and demonic," notes the Festival d'Automne à Paris.

Kuro Tanino, who graduated from medical school and practiced psychiatry for several years, has established a reputation for creating unique theater works that depict hidden human emotions through a surrealistic story using cynical humor. He first created The Dark Master in 2003; and, in 2016, he completely changed the set design and ending of the story for performances in Tokyo and Sendai. In 2018, the production toured to the Festival d'Automne à Paris, and the following year to OzAsia Festival in Adelaide, Australia. Since then he has developed a few different versions, with an ambition to make each version distinct by incorporating issues unique to the presenting cities and regions. In this new adaptation born out of the global pandemic, Tanino uses VR headsets for a limited audience of 10 people per viewing. In lieu of an actual earpiece, each audience member is provided a pair of headphones to listen to the Master's every command, inducing feelings of both sensory immersion and isolation. Plastic "one-way mirrors" also separate audience members from one another while they're seated along an extended table, mimicking the counter in the diner where even the aromas of delectable dishes as they're being prepared are part of the experience.

"Niwa Gekidan Penino generated significant buzz in their 2014 U.S. debut at Japan Society, with The Room Nobody Knows. With this new presentation, I hope to further their status and reputation in this country," shares Artistic Director Yoko Shioya. "We are extremely happy to welcome audiences back into our building for Kuro's innovative and immersive in-person VR performance. From its intimate scale to the sensorial nature of the piece - along with its haunting and thrilling plot - this one-of-a-kind theater event seems tailor made for our return to live, onsite theater."

Schedule, Tickets & Information:

Wednesday, June 23 at 6:30PM & 8:30PM EDT,

Thursday, June 24 at 5:00PM, 7:00PM & 9:30PM EDT,

Friday & Saturday, June 25 & 26 at 2:30PM, 4:30PM, 7:00PM & 9:00PM EDT

Sunday, June 27 at 12:30PM, 2:30PM, 5:00PM & 7:00PM EDT

Monday, June 28 at 2:30PM, 4:30PM, 7:00PM & 9:00PM EDT

Please note: performances begin promptly, no late admittance. Running time: 45 minutes. This program is for audiences 18 years and older due to mature content (depiction of sex act and suggested nudity).

Tickets are $25 / $20 Japan Society members.

Tickets for the newly added performances: Sunday, June 27 at 7:00PM as well as all performances on Monday, June 28, go on sale at 12:00PM NOON on Monday, June 14.

Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.japansociety.org/performingarts or by calling the Box Office at 212-715-1258 (M-F 10:00AM - 6:00PM). 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 https://www.japansociety.org/.


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