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Hagerty Hall bridges cultural gap with theater, sword-fighting event

“Tenshu Monogatari” is a Japanese play considered to be one of the masterpieces of modern theater with its tremendous display of samurai fighting and raw human emotion struggling with power, honor and love.

This fall, Ohio State’s East Asian Study Center, Institute for Japanese Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and Center for Languages, Literatures and Cultures is hosting a series of events centered on “Tenshu Monogatari.”

The first event is this Friday at 4:15 p.m. in Hagerty Hall. The event features theater, dance and swordplay and is headlined by a lecture from Hiromi Sakamoto.

Sakamoto is a theatrical producer, director, professor of performing arts at Kinki University in Osaka, Japan, and a translator of the original “Tenshu Monogatari.

Sakamoto will introduce his views on how theatrical pieces have been culturally and politically placed in Japan throughout the past 100 years.

Seven of Sakamoto’s students from Kinki University will accompany him to perform excerpts from “Tenshu Monogatari” in Japanese and English, including Japanese traditional dance, swordplay and modern Kabuki-style performance.

Among the many adaptations of the Japanese play all over this country and others, Shadowbox Live in downtown Columbus will present an interpretation of “Tenshu Monogatari” this October.

“The production by Shadowbox Live is one interpretation of ‘Tenshu Monogatari,’ but to understand and appreciate this interpretation and the production, it will be beneficial to know the original ‘Tenshu Monogatari,’ how it has been perceived in Japan,” said Etsuyo Yuasa, director of the East Asian Studies Center, when talking about the topics Sakamoto will cover.

Yuasa is from Tokyo and completed her undergraduate degree there, but always longed for American culture. She studied linguistics at the University of Chicago and after graduating came to OSU. She has been an OSU faculty member for 18 years.

Yuasa says the Japanese culture is very relevant in OSU students’ lives.

“The state of Ohio actually has a very close relationship with Japan,” Yuasa said in an email. “Japan is the top foreign direct investor of Ohio, and there are many Japanese people and Japanese companies living in Ohio.”

Shelley Quinn, an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at OSU, said she believes students can learn from Sakamoto’s lecture.

“The world is so interconnected now, and Professor Sakamoto’s career seems to reflect this. He was trained in ballet and jazz dance and performed in New York City for 16 years,” Quinn said in an email. “I have also heard that he has been active in the role of cultural bridge, making arrangements for many Japanese performance artists to perform in the U.S. and U.S. artists to perform in Japan.”

The free event’s goal is to promote cultural understanding through theater, music and media arts.

“It is a great opportunity for our students to get exposure to the complex dynamics of an international theater production and to meet a distinguished international choreographer and performance artist and his students,” Quinn said.

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