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2019 Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase Performance & Workshop Event held

On November 14 (Thurs.) and 15 (Fri.), 2019, the “Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase Performance & Workshop” was held at Waseda University’s Ono Memorial Hall. The event takes place annually in November, this time marking its 10th iteration. As in years past, a truly great number of people attended, filling the venue practically to capacity. The attendees enjoyed a new collaboration melding words with music.

Performance: A Strange Clockwork Hamlet

This year, Tawada and Takase added another layer of deconstruction to German playwright Heiner Müller’s masterwork Hamletmachine (an avant-garde drama based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Titled A Strange Clockwork Hamlet, this performance revealed to the audience an entirely new spin on Hamlet through clever wordplay and improvised piano playing.

The performance, structured in five chapters, expressed—with a powerful message—numerous key concepts, including social media, television, state funerals, women, mothers, and blood and death to depict a vision of contemporary Japan.

During the after-talk, Tawada explained, “Heiner Müller was the subject of my master’s thesis at university. With this work, I wrote the text in dialog with his sadly departed spirit. This talk also provided an opportunity to ask Tawada about her recollections of times spent with Müller.
Meanwhile, Takase said, “In this performance, I combined a few jazz numbers and classical pieces, but it was almost all improvisation. You could hear the power of Ms. Tawada’s words, and it was a joy to perform in way that that responded to those words.”

Workshop: “Words and Music” Vol. 10

The workshop participants, having read Hamlet and Hamletmachine, were tasked ahead of time with imagining dialog for modern-day Hamlets and Ophelias. On the day, eight undergraduate and graduate students studying at Waseda University presented the texts that they had devised. The pre-assigned task was the same for all eight, but the additions of improvised musical accompaniment and dramatic performance helped to produce a profoundly individual story told by each. During this year’s workshop, a point was made to refrain from using microphones, and the participants challenged themselves to speak only with their own voices. The performances were done with a renewed emphasis on the acts of giving voice to words and communicating with others.

The participants received high praise and advice from both Tawada and Takase about their texts and their readings thereof. There was also a special presentation of portions of the performance that took place on the 14th.

During the after-talk for the workshop, the participants shared, among other things, what they had felt and new discoveries that they had made while engaged in their live-reading performances.

There was also time allotted for questions to be asked of the students who performed and of Tawada and Takase; this ended up being a truly meaningful opportunity for the performers and members of the audience to search for new possibilities in the use of words and music.


The organizers of the event would like to express their deepest gratitude to Ms. Tawada and Ms. Takase for their performances, as well as to the everyone who attended the event.
Next year, there will be a performance on November 16 (Mon.) and a workshop on the 17th (Tue.). More details about next year’s event will be posted on the Waseda Culture website as soon as plans are finalized.

Event Overview

Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase Performance & Workshop

Performance: A Strange Clockwork Hamlet
November 14, 2019 (Thur.) 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm)
Workshop: “Words and Music” Vol. 10
November 15, 2019 (Fri.) 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm (doors open at 4:00 pm)

Yoko Tawada (author), winner of the 2018 US National Book Award for Translated Literature
Aki Takase (jazz pianist), winner of the 2018 Jazzpreis Berlin

Venue: Ono Memorial Hall, Waseda University
Entry fee: Free (No reservation required)
Sponsored by:
Cultural Planning Section, Cultural Affairs Division, Waseda University
Global Japanese Studies Model Unit, Top Global University Project
The Office of Professor Miho Matsunaga, Creative Writing and Criticism Theoretical Configuration, School of Culture, Media and Society

Contact Information

The Office of Professor Miho Matsunaga    03-5286-3637
Waseda University Cultural Planning Section          03-5272-4783 (Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm)

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