On March 11, 2012, regional theater companies across the country presented Shinsai: Theaters for Japan, a series of benefit performances to raise funds for Japanese theater artists devastated by last year’s great earthquake (Shinsai).
New York City’s leading theatre companies, including Atlantic Theater Company, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Workshop, The Play Company, Playwrights Horizons and The Public Theater, joined forces to present performances at 3pm and 8pm at the Great Hall at Cooper Union, Seventh Street at Third Avenue in New York.
Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) helmed a stellar lineup of artists. The cast of the 3pm performance featured Michi Barall, Cindy Cheung, Lisa Emery, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Kim, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Paolo Montalban, Olivia Oguma, Jay O. Sanders, Thom Sesma, Jon Norman Schneider, Sab Shimono, Richard Thomas, Jade Wu, James Yaegashi and Stacey Yen.
The ensemble of actors performed a series of ten minute plays and musical numbers by award-winning American and Japanese writers and composers including The Remaining by Shoki Kokami; A Few Stout Individuals by John Guare; Sayonara II by Oriza Hirata; Wind from the Northwest by Kumiko Shinohara; and Dropping by the House by Yoji Sakate. Playwrights Philip Kan Gotanda (Child is Father to Man), Richard Greenberg (Where Were We) and Suzan-Lori-Parks (The Length of this Play Has the Half Life of Uranium, a “forever play” for Japan on 3.11), contributed original work to the benefit which featured a segment from the 1976 musical Pacific Overtures revised especially for the occasion by its creators librettist John Weidman and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
With musical direction by Paul Gemignani, scenic design by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams, lighting design by Donald Holder and sound design by Scott Lehrer.
All proceeds from the performances that day around the country, will be sent from the Dramatists Guild Fund to the Japan Playwrights Association, who will in turn distribute the monies to those members of Japan’s theatre community who were stricken by the earthquake.
Shinsai (SHEEN-sigh) means great quake in Japanese. The genesis of the event began shortly after the disaster when actor James Yaegashi, whose family is from a nearby area, called friends in 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.” This galvanized the various theatre professionals to whom Yaegashi reached out who in turn joined forces with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Cooper Union, Dramatists Guild Fund, Japan Playwrights Association, Japan Society, The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center and Theatre Communications Group to present this nation-wide effort. The Dramatists Guild Fund is the fiscal sponsor for Shinsai: Theaters for Japan, collecting donations on behalf of Japan Playwrights Association (JPA) through June 1, 2012 to help restore the conditions that surround the Japanese theater. Click here to donate now.
Click below for a slideshow of the 3pm performance.
Other articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: In Rehearsal with Director Bartlett Sher and the cast of Shinsai: Theaters for Japan
Thom Sesma, Patti LuPone, Cindy Cheung, Jennifer Lim, Sab Shimono, James Yaegashi and more set for Shinsai: Theaters for Japan Benefit on March 11 at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York
Photos: BD Wong in Rehearsal for “Passing It On: An Evening of Mentorship to Benefit Rosie’s Theater Kids”
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist.
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