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Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

An insider's view, open to the masses

Tokyo Performing Arts Market offers wealth of options


Special to The Japan Times

The performing-arts world in Tokyo seems to flourish in spring, with numerous (and similarly named) events taking place within the city. The Tokyo arts crowd is spoiled for choice with the Theater/Festival (formerly The Tokyo International Arts Festival), The Tokyo Performing Arts Festival and Tokyo Performing Arts Market being held almost simultaneously at venues dotted across the metropolis.

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From bored to sensual: Pappa TARAHUMARA is restaging their interpretation of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters" for the Tokyo Performing Arts Market.

TPAM differentiates itself from the other events by providing an opportunity to network and meet some of the people who help make Tokyo, in cultural terms, one of the world's most important and vibrant cities. Held from March 4 to 7, the market, now in its 13th year, is a hub at which experienced and emerging artists can meet with arts programmers and industry professionals at presentations, conferences and scheduled productions.

The emphasis of TPAM is "to establish the notion of the 'presenter' in Japan and Asia, where the idea has not really been clear," says Hiromi Maruoka, the event's director, in an e-mail interview. "Presenters are people who mediate between a work and audience. . . . I hope that TPAM becomes a platform where presenters play the leading part, exchanging information to connect works and audiences internationally, and create opportunities for the birth of new performing arts."

In addition to the market's professional function, the TPAM Showcase will present performances and studio showings around the Tokyo area from February 28 to Mar. 8. Included in the lineup are Pappa TARAHUMARA's critically acclaimed reworking of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," and likely gems such as dancer Chikanari Shukuka's multimedia production "Breath" and "Opus No. 6 — Living II," the latest work from avant-garde performance company OM-2. If that all sounds too modern for you, then consider that there will be Buddhist ritual chants, koto and taiko (Japanese drum) concerts.

The specially selected International Showcase includes appetizing productions by a number of domestic artists, including Chiba City's award- winning Sanjoukai Theater Company; Natsuko Tezuka, who is known for her explosive dance routines; and musicians Kazuki Tomokawa and Kan Mikami (who also acted in director Nagisa Oshima's 1983 film "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence"). For the showcase, South Korean theater group Tuida will present the Korean fairy tale "The Tale of Haruk," which features traditional Korean puppets made of paper, unique native masks and percussion instruments made from recycled materials.

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You're a star: U.K. performance group Rotozaza's "Etiquette" is staged by any two people who follow instructions given to them over headphones.

The most enthusiastic theater fans shouldn't miss the hotly tipped English performance group Rotozaza, whose "Etiquette" is a work generated by audience participation. For half an hour, two people in the TPAM cafe in Yebisu Garden Hall follow the instructions of headphones that they wear, which tell them what to say to each other and how to use props provided for them.

Given such a host of choices, it's clear that TPAM isn't your ordinary run-of-the- mill arts event.

Selected performances in the International Showcase by Japanese singers and theater companies will have English surtitles. For more information, registration details and a full schedule of events, visit www.tpam.or.jp

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