Give me two rehearsals!
Last month, I was part of an extraordinary show at the Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater in Osaka. In addition to the six famous comedians at the center of the play, this show featured jugglers, magicians, ventriloquists, a trampoline artist, as well as the famous musical comedy trio, the Yokohama Hot Brothers. There were over 30 performers in all. It was a two-hour play with a funny story with unique characters and a plot that cleverly incorporated all of these disparate performers.
The most extraordinary aspect of the show, for me was, that it was put together with only one six-hour rehearsal. To me, this was unbelievable. I have worked for many years in theater in Canada, writing, composing and producing musicals. To mount a show of this scale would take months, I would have thought. How was it possible to do on one rehearsal?
The answer lies in the name of a company whose name is synonymous with Japanese entertainment: The Yoshimoto Creative Agency, or "Yoshimoto," for short. Japanese people, especially we entertainers, sometimes take Yoshimoto for granted, but it is actually a very unique and remarkable company.
Why do I say this? Well, take as an example the show I was in last month. It is possible to put something of that scale together that quickly simply because all of the resources necessary are under one roof, so to speak. To put such a show on in Canada, I would have had to write the script, hire actors, hire a director, rent the theater, rent rehearsal space, have the set designed and built by company specialists, rehearse for several weeks, order posters designed and printed — and on and on and on. The work and expense would have been enormous.
In the case of Yoshimoto, the company owns several theaters in Osaka and Tokyo, manages hundreds of performers, has writers and directors on staff, builds its own sets and lighting plots, designs posters and promotional materials, and prints and sells tickets. The company can do everything in-house. It is a paradigm of efficiency and economy.
On top of that, the comedians and performers have been working together for years. They appear together on Yoshimoto stages and many of them also work together on television. The main cast members of the show I was in have regular TV programs together. So, when we go to put on a new play like this, the give and take, comic timing and sense of teamwork that would normally take a new cast weeks of working together to establish is already there. For me, this was remarkable, but Yoshimoto does this kind of thing every day, and has been doing so for decades.
Next year, Yoshimoto celebrates its 100th anniversary. This is also remarkable for an entertainment company. There is no company like this in North America and it is quite possibly unique in the world. I look forward to the day when a show I create will get produced at a Yoshimoto theater. Although I have to confess, I would prefer that they give me at least two rehearsals!
Shukan ST: May 27, 2011
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