The view becomes another part of the art, and could also keep you safe!

As the pandemic continues, many people are still hesitant to go to crowded indoor areas like movie theaters, playhouses, and music halls, and many of those places remain closed as a result. But the people who work in the performing arts need to earn their living too, so they’ve been coming up with creative ways to revive and continue their shows, such as creating outdoor venues where movies, music, and the arts can be appreciated safely.

One performing art company based out of Nagoya in central Japan came up with a unique idea for a socially distant theater. Tsukiakari Movement Theater created a round stage encircled by little booths, each of which faces a door that closes it off from the stage. Each door, which is 199 centimeters tall (6.5 feet) and 99 centimeters wide (3.25 feet), has a mail slot and a peep hole, like a regular door, which audience members can peer through to watch the performance.

While the doors could easily be replaced with plexiglass windows for what some might consider a better view, the narrow viewing windows actually add a unique appeal to the viewers. Kazuki Ishikawa, an architecture student at Meijo University who helped design the doors, said that they had to do a lot of experimenting with the holes to find the best options, and found that small openings actually provided a better look into the far edge of the stage and guaranteed a good view.

One viewer who went to watch a show at the round stage told the Mainichi Shimbun, “Watching the performance through a small opening is a really fresh, new way to do it. It made me look much closer than I usually do.” Another said, “It felt as if I was standing on the outside watching someone with the virus performing inside.”

While providing a new viewing experience, each booth is also socially distant as well. There are only 30 doors, which can each seat a single audience member, so the number of people allowed in the room is limited, and they’re blocked from having direct contact with each other. Nobuyoshi Asai, a member of the performing arts troupe at Tsukiakari, hopes that this could be one form of the “new normal” stage, where guests can feel safe as they watch the show. Since they’re easy to disassemble and transport, it also makes a good traveling stage.

“The doors are light and can be reduced to individual pieces, so I’d like to take our stage on a tour around the country,” he said.

In fact, Tsukiakari Movement Theater has already been moving around Aichi with their stage. In December, it was set up in Nagoya’s Dance House Oukin 4422, until they moved it to the Komaki City Citizen’s Hall in January. Now they’re planning to open a new performance with their socially distant stage in the Chitashi Labour Cultural Hall on February 7. In “Peep Garden”, 15-year-old dancer Yura Sugiura, who has been taking dance lessons with Asai since elementary school, will be performing in a white dress using two-meter-long cardboard tubes as props.

About the stage, Sugiura said, “Even though I can’t see the audience, it’s a different feeling because I can immerse myself in the performance.”

The doors themselves were crafted from a performer’s perspective; Akira Omi, who has danced ballet since he was 10 years old, helped design the doors with Ishikawa as a fellow student at Meijo University. “It’s like facing the world of dance one-on-one through the door,” he said.

With any luck, you might find this unique stage coming to a community space near you! In the meantime, if you still wouldn’t feel comfortable going to this theater, or can’t travel to Aichi to try out this new audience experience, then you can also livestream the performance starting on February 8. For tickets, contact the Nagoya City Cultural Promotion Agency at 052-249-9387.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso

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