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Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Festival of fools makes its Tokyo debut

Staff writer

In Europe, clown and mime performances have always been acknowledged as respected forms of entertainment, with some countries even establishing national circus schools. These types of entertainment have never enjoyed the same level of recognition in Japan, however, where clowning and mime have traditionally taken a back seat to most other genres of comic performance. Producer Keiichi Nishida's undertaking will hopefully change that by bringing an entire "festival of fools" to Tokyo for the first time.

Sumida International Fool Festival 2000 will be held April 20-30 at Theater X in Ryogoku and Hikifune Bunka Center (near Tobu and Keisei Hikifune stations), with the aim of providing quality street-type performances to adults and children. The festival will feature artists from both Japan and abroad whose common element is laughter.

Five performance groups have been invited from abroad: Duo Aringa, a piano and vocal duo from Italy, will perform a comedy musical; BP Zoom and Julian Chagrin will present their comedy sketches on stage; Masha Dimitri from Switzerland will perform a piece titled "Rehearsal Space," in which different artists share the same rehearsal space to practice their mime, music, dance, juggling and clowning; and England's Nola Rae will explore the character of the composer in her clown performance, "Mozart." Having Marcel Marceau as her master, she has incorporated into her mime not just elements of laughter, but other human emotions such as joy and anger as well.

Among others, Japan's contingent will include master of mime Han Arai performing with Shinya Tachikawa, and female Japanese clown troupe Gonin Bayashi will dance and sing under the direction of a Ukrainian director. This group, produced by Nishida, was formed last year and goes on to perform in the Ukraine in May.

Yoko Ohno of the festival's committee says that the aim of the festival is to let Japanese audiences know more about purely physical performance styles from around the world.

The festival will open April 20 with a comedy night special. A grande finale will be held on the 30th featuring kyogen and a lecture by Akira Shigeyama. In addition to the performances, there will also be a "Fool Congress" April 23 and 30, with panelists including the head of a circus school in France, a director from the Ukraine, an art consultant from Canada and professors from colleges in Japan. Workshops will be held every day by the artists, and a French circus movie, "Le Nain Rouge (The Red Dwarf)," will be shown on April 21 and 22. There will also be an exhibition on clown art in the foyer of Theater X during the festival, showing the work of Masaru Takasuga, the artist who designed the flier and poster for the festival.

For more information, contact the Sumida International Fool Festival Committee at (03) 3403-0561, fax (03) 3403-1583 or e-mail accircus@mail3. alpha-net.ne.jp. Tickets are available from the committee or at Ticket Pia, (03) 5237-9988 and Lawson Tickets, (03) 3569-9900.

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