Satoko Ichihara / Giacomo Puccini
"Madama Butterfly"


Presenting a perverse reading inverting the asymmetrical desires of Madama Butterfly’s stereotypes of Japan/women as seen from the West/men.

130 years ago, French writer Pierre Loti was stationed at Nagasaki Port and serialized his affair with a Japanese woman in the essays “Madame Chrysanthème,” published in Le Figaro. 10 years later, American writer John Luther Long published the short story Madame Butterfly; 1904 then saw the premier of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, based on Long’s work. Still popular 120 years later, the essence of this opera remains tied to the orientalist gaze cast upon Japanese women.
Playwright and director Satoko Ichihara, who boldly and elaborately depicts unease around human life and sexuality, has decided to take on this story ̶ born of the overwhelming disequilibrium between West and East, men and women ̶ as the text for a group reading in this year of 2020. A 15 year old geisha is given in “marriage” to an American soldier; she waits for his return for three years, ultimately committing suicide upon discovering that he has gone back to his real wife. How might we, today, transcend matters of good and evil to laugh off this irredeemable melodrama?

Reading Performance

Tokyo, 2020. An aphrodisiac splashes into our day- to-day routines, creating a ripple effect across the city ̶ someone reads aloud from a script in Reading Performances.

Reading a script aloud is theater’s most basic activity, accessible to all ̶ not only actors. There are, however, surprisingly few people who have actually read an entire play out loud from beginning to end. If one were to do so now, then ̶ somewhere in Tokyo as it awaits the Olympics ̶ where should one read and whose words should one choose?
We posed this question to two directors. In this series, which is titled Reading Performances, cold readings of the plays two directors have proposed will be held in specific locations by a variety of participants: no special preparations, no rehearsals, thrown together randomly, just reading aloud from the words in the script. Written
in the past, how will these words be transformed in the here and now by passing through the bodies of those who live in Tokyo in 2020? The times and places selected for these modest readings will figure as aphrodisiacs, creating ripple effects in the city’s day-to-day routines.


Satoko Ichihara
Playwright, director and novelist. Born 1988 in Osaka, raised in Fukuoka Japan.Studied theater at J.F. Oberlin University. Ichihara Satoko has led the theater company Q since 2011. She writes and directs plays that deal with human behavior, the physiology of the body, and the unease surrounding these themes, using her unique sense of language and physical sensitivity. 2011, Receives the Aichi Arts Foundation Drama Award with the play Insects. 2017, Nominated for finalist of 61st Kishida Kunio Playwriting Prize for “Favonia’s Fruitless Fable”. In 2019, she published her first collection of stories, Mamito no tenshi (Mamito’s Angel). Her latest work The Bacchae – Holstein Milk Cows, based on a Greek tragedy, premiered at Aichi Triennale 2019. The piece travels to Theater der Welt in 2020. She is a Junior Fellow of The Saison Foundation.

Photo: Mizuki SATO


February 29th [Sat] / 14:00
March 5th [Thu] / 13:00
March 6th [Fri] / 16:00
March 8th [Sun] / 12:00

Performance times

approx. 120 min.


Each performance is limited to 20 people (exceptions for special cases aside, everyone present will be given part of the play to read)


Keio University Mita Campus,
Ex Noguchi Room

2-15-45 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8345

How to Participate

Booking essential. Show general admission pass on entry.
Buy Pass




Concept, Direction and Text|Satoko Ichihara
Text from Opera Madama Butterfly
Co-organized by Keio University Art Center