The words of critic Susan Sontag are increasingly read across the world. Read aloud in its first Japanese translation, Theater Commons Tokyo presents Sontag’s Alice in Bed, based on the true story of Alice James (1848-1892). Though equally as brilliant as her celebrated brothers, philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, Alice suffered a mental breakdown at a young age and was bedridden for most of her life. Adapted from her diary, which was published 40 years after her death, Alice in Bed depicts the wanderings of Alice’s soul, her conflicts with her father and brothers, and more.
Filmmaker and essayist Yuko Nakamura focuses her meditations and creative work on the topic of femininity. She was involved in the play’s translation, bringing to Tokyo the voices of Alice and the real and fictional women summoned to her bedside: poet Emily Dickinson, feminist activist Margret Fuller, witches, fairies, dead mothers. There is absurdity and pain in living as a female. By linking these emotions in the meeting of women who fought oppression across the eras, the play effects a liberation of Alice’s wounded soul; by reading these words, which appear as though summoned from the women’s bodies, how might we attend to the pain of those without voices in society today?
Tokyo, 2019. An aphrodisiac splashes into our day-to-day routines, creating a ripple effect across the city – someone is reading aloud from a script. Introducing 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 three directors. In this series, which is titled Reading Performances, cold readings of the plays these 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 2019? The times and places selected for these modest readings will figure as aphrodisiacs, creating ripple effects in the city’s day-to-day routines.
Yuko Nakamura was born in Tokyo in 1977 and graduated from Keio University’s Faculty of Letters as a Philosophy major. Following her work as an editor at a philosophy publisher, she joined TV MAN UNION. She is involved in the creation of many narrative documentaries that dive past the surface of the modern world, treating topics such as art and architecture, philosophy and more. Her films include Memories of Origin: Hiroshi Sugimoto; A Room of Her Own: Rei Naito and Light (official selection at 2017 Canadian International Documentary Festival Hot Docs 2017); TV documentary WOWOW Memories of Origin: Contemporary Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (finalist for International Emmy Award for Arts Programming 2012); NHK Illusory Tokyo Project: Three Potential Dreams of the Capital (winner of Galaxy Honors for programs recommended 2015); NHK Architecture Knows: Postwar 1970 as Seen From Landmarks, and more. Her essay “We are Here: Contemporary Spaces for Mothers” is currently being serialized in literary magazine Subaru. In recent years, her work has focused on the topic of femininity.
Susan Sontag was born in New York in 1933 and passed away in 2004. She was a prominent American novelist and critic. Her novels include The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America. She also wrote short stories, plays, and essays, including “On Photography,” “Illness as a Metaphor,” “Under the Sign of Saturn,” “Regarding the Pain of Others,” “Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes,” and “Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo.” She additionally wrote and directed four feature films, and directed plays in both America and Europe – among them, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, staged in a besieged Sarajevo. She was awarded the Jerusalem Award in 2001.
March 2nd [Sat] / 14:00
Marth 7th [Thu] / 14:00 *Additional Performance
March 8th [Fri] / 19:00
March 10th [Sun] / 14:00 *Talk (after the performance)
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.
Concept and Direction｜Yuko Nakamura
Written by Susan Sontag
Translation Support｜Atsuko Nishiyama
Thanks to The Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd.
Venue support｜Keio University Art Center etc.
Post-performance talk by the three artists participating in Reading Performances
Date: March 10th, following the 14:00 performance
Venue: Keio University Mita Campus, Ex Noguchi Room
Number of places: approx. 50
Show general admission pass on entry (first come, first served)