"Theater artists in Japan, centered around those living in the Tohoku region that was devastated by the great earthquake and nuclear accident, extend our hand to theater artists around the world to rebuild Tohoku and Japanese society, restoring the conditions that surround the art of theater, such as environments for creative activity, theater buildings, companies, rehearsal spaces, education and audiences. We seek to work with our international peers to demonstrate the potential of human beings and the theater to overcome adversity as well as the primordial power of expression on stage."
—Yoji Sakate, President of Japan Playwrights Association
Shortly after the devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan, actor James Yaegashi, whose family is from a nearby area, called friends in the New York theatre to say, "We as a theatre community have to do something to help our fellow artists on the other side of the world."
Six months later, a friendly consortium of over a dozen organizations came together to lead a remarkable nationwide event.
On Sunday, March 11, 2012, the first anniversary of the earthquake, nearly 70 organizations across the world participated in SHINSAI: THEATERS FOR JAPAN. Shinsai [SHEEN-sigh] means great quake in Japanese.
A menu of 10 minute plays and songs was commissioned from major American and Japanese artists, who donated their work for this one-day only event. Using the model of 365 Days/365 Plays, each theater nationwide crafted their own event, drawing from the commissioned plays and from work generated by their own resident artists. Audiences everywhere on this day donated relief funds to the Japan Playwrights Association to disburse to the Japanese theater community affected by the disaster.
In New York City, all the plays and songs were presented in the Great Hall at Cooper Union on March 11, 2012, by the initial consortium.
Contributing artists included: Edward Albee, Philip Kan Gotanda, Richard Greenberg, John Guare, Oriza Hirata, Naomi Iizuka, Shoji Kokami, Tony Kushner, Toshiki Okada, Yoji Sakate, Kumiko Shinohara, Toshiro Suzue, Suzan-Lori Parks, Doug Wright, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman.
On March 12, 2012, SHINSAI:The Conversation was hosted by the Japan Society and moderated by Anne Cattaneo. This panel discussion explored the larger context of SHINSAI. A transcript of this event can be found here (PDF).
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