An International Workshop “ACTING OUT”- Performative Readings –
From left: Torquil Duthie (Associate Professor UCLA), Ms. Yoko Tawada, Miho Matsunaga (Professor Waseda University)
From March 14–16, 2016, Waseda University and UCLA co-hosted a workshop and performance called “ACTING OUT” featuring internationally renowned author Yōko Tawada and Waseda University Professor Miho Matsunaga. Sponsored by the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities and the Global Japanese Studies Program of Waseda University, the events involved graduate students and faculty from both institutions who, collectively, had been born and raised in no fewer than eight different countries.
Participants arrived at the workshop on March 14 having selected texts they wanted to include in the performance. They then worked together for the next two days to identify common themes and think about how to order and present the works. After a single rehearsal on March 16, they staged their performance outdoors from 7 to 9 PM at UCLA’s Fowler Museum Amphitheater.
The performance opened with greetings from Ms. Tawada, Prof. Emmerich, and Prof Matsunaga. Ms. Tawada began by introducing herself as Prof. Emmerich, who then translated her introduction into English so that he ended up introducing himself by way of translation. Prof. Matsunaga soon joined in, speaking in German that Ms. Tawada translated into Japanese, and Prof. Emmerich translated into English. More languages, from Spanish to Thai, joined the mix as other participants began walking onto the stage, creating a space of wonderfully confusing linguistic plurality.
During the main body of the performance, participants read aloud and corporeally expressed selections from literary texts, primarily from modern and premodern Japanese literature. However, confusion occurred here as well. As they presented Nakahara Chūya’s “Sākasu” (“Circus”); Judith Hermann’s Nichts als Gespenster [Nothing But Ghosts] and Prof. Matsunaga’s translated of this novel into Japanese Yūrei korekutā; Hannya shingyō (The Heart Sutra); Kondō Yōko’s Cartoon Sensō to hitori no onna (One Woman and the War, orig. Sakaguchi Ango); and all sorts of other texts, the notion of “literature” itself seemed to grow.
The presentations were not limited to English, Tokyo Japanese, and German, but also included Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Japanese dialects, and Korean, and as the languages used by the participants kept changing, the performance created a mood unlike anything the audience had experienced before.
The performance was blessed with beautiful California weather. A large screen was set up in the amphitheater, and members of the audience sat not only on the chairs that had been set up but also on stone benches and on the grass. As the sun went down, the scent of the flowering trees spread through the darkness, adding another delightful touch to a performance that stimulated all five senses.