Project area:Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
It may be art and culture that can fill the gap
between the visible "recovery" and the conditions of people's hearts
Starting from a sense of futility,
but becoming convinced of their necessity
"Art Revival Connection Tohoku" (hereafter ARC>T), which was established by actors, dancers, and those involved in theatre production, was initiated as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Before imagining the establishment of this group was even possible, starting with leading director Suzuki, a great many performers felt their own powerlessness.
"Directly after the disaster, we couldn't do anything. It was hard enough just getting together and talking. None of us were thinking "let's make a work together, and show it to children", we didn't have the composure for that. So we thought, "let's at least take the first step by raising a flag". Moreover, we began our activities in order to provide for the needs of those who sought us out."
The "ARC>T" initiative started by holding poetry readings of work by Miyazawa Kenji in the evacuation centers, reading picture books, and entertaining children by performing picture-story shows or playing cup and ball games. "ARC>T"first set out upon the initiative to"begin by doing the things we can...", however the real meaning of their endevours became apparent one day to Suzuki.
"When I went to see a dance performance being held in the park by our members, the audience was laughing out loud. After the disaster, people were not able to express themselves in such a way. When I saw the laughing faces of 150 or so people, I felt there is power (in what we are trying to do)". It is perhaps only a few people who have an interest in theatre or dance who are able to smile in such circumstances. But if we are able to help even just 1 in 100 people, I think there is meaning in what we are doing."
Going on one, two, three months after the disaster, streets in the city of Sendai appear to have returned to how they were before the earthquake. Clearance of wreckage at the coast has also progressed. But in all of this, Suzuki has felt a sense of unease.
"I keenly sense the gap between"the visible recovery" and the state of our own hearts. The recovery of the streets has taken a strong momentum, and if you walk in the arcades people seem to have returned to normal. But if you talk a little, you will find that this isn't the case at all. I think the arts, culture and expression can offer the possibility to fill this gap between the surface and these deeper feelings. At the time of the recovery, we were saddened by things lost, but from now on as we head towards regeneration I want to try to"enjoy the things I have now". ARC>T may only have a limited presence, but we have to raise our voices and raise awareness as to how important culture is."
I want to convey the sense of living with culture to younger generations
After March 11, 2011, all 70 theatres within Miyagi Prefecture were closed. In June, the number of those which had reopened was limited to only 7 theatres. In these conditions, those involved in the theatre industry approached a major decision.
"Among those who used to be actors or dancers, there are only a few making a living only from theatre, but this is not the case with lighting and sound staff, who are dependent upon the theatre for their livelihood. Lighting and sound companies have been forced out of business, and it is impossible to read how long these severe conditions will continue, or when there will be a recovery. The world of "now" we imagined even just one month ago is completely different today. I can't let the talented people of Tohoku drain away. After establishing "ARC>T", even if we can't perform theatre, I want to continue doing what we can in this area."
The members of "ARC>T" who are paying visits to after school facilities, kindergartens, and nursing homes, are able to foster communication precisely because they are performers with a strength of expression. Supporting themselves with other employment, those involved in the activities of "ARC>T" are painfully aware of the significance and necessity of cultural engagement. But Suzuki, who has reaffirmed the role of arts and culture, also has another objective.
"There are many young actors in Tohoku as well. It is maybe imprudent to say this in these hard times, but I want to create conditions where young people like them don't have to work part-time in order to make a living. For example, I feel it is important to give young people the feeling that they can make a living while being involved in arts and culture, even if it is for 6 months or one year. This has not been possible in Tohoku up until now, but I want to create this opportunity. Even the disaster itself must be used to make new work in the future. But it was such a big event that I envisage it taking a number of years before this can be achieved.
Date of interview: June 29th, 2011 (Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture)