Guest Post by Laura Tennant of The CULTCH: An Interview With the Directors of after the quake

Alessandro Juliani as Frog in after the quake photo by Ken Bryant

Alessandro Juliani as Frog in after the quake photo by Ken Bryant

Prepare yourself to enter the disrupted reality of after the quake. Based on Haruki Murakami’s short stories “Honey Pie” and “Superfrog Saves Tokyo”, Rumble Productions and Pi Theatre bring to The Cultch a remarkable production full of wonder. Touching on traumatic historical events in Tokyo, fantastic characters explore hope and healing while sweeping you into a world of super frogs and talking bears. This dream-like production will leave you in awe of the power of imagination and the strength of the human spirit. Running from October 13th to October 23rd, The Cultch is in full swing preparing for after the quake’s opening night tomorrow. Taking a little time off from rehearsal, Richard Wolfe (Artistic Director of Pi) and Craig Hall (Artistic Producer of Rumble) answered a few questions for us about their upcoming production.

Can you describe after the quake? How did the production get started ?

Richard Wolfe [RW]: after the quake is a theatrical adaptation of two short stories (“Superfrog Saves Tokyo” and “Honey Pie”) by Haruki Murakami. They are both from the collection entitled after the quake and are set in the months that fell between the Kobe earthquake and the Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. They present a world marked by despair, hope, and human instinct for transformation. The adaptation was done by Frank Galati of Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, but we had the original Japanese short stories in our rehearsal room which could be read by several people on our team.

How did Rumble Productions and Pi Theatre end up collaborating on after the quake? Had you worked together before?

RW: Craig Hall and I had wanted to collaborate on a project for quite some time. We’d talked about doing an original adaptation of Murakami’s work, but when the rights for this adaptation were released, we decided to obtain them for the Canadian premiere production.

Craig Hall [CH]: Rumble and Pi have collaborated on several projects and initiatives in the past, but this is the first time the companies have worked together since Richard took over Pi and I became the Artistic Producer of Rumble.

What was the most exciting/ difficult part of collaborating with another theatre company?

RW: Truth is, there was no difficulty. It’s great collaborating with like-minded artists and administrators. It’s exciting to share methodologies, workloads and inspirations.

CH: This show, with its two distinct stories, was the perfect vehicle for a directorial collaboration. Richard and I were able to establish our unique visions and then interlace them without confusing the cast or the design team. It was a pleasure to share a role that is traditionally a very solitary pursuit.

There is quite a bit of fantasy intertwined in the story. Was this difficult to translate on stage? Any story elements you were particularly excited about adapting?

RW: We had a lot of fun working on the challenge of how to represent a six-foot frog on stage.

CH: Dressing an actor up in a huge frog costume was never really an option. Murakami’s description of Frog and his battle with the giant Worm are so vivid that any attempt at direct representation, without the use of CGI, would inevitably have fallen short. In the end, what Alessandro [Alessandro Juliani, narrator and “Frog”] was able to bring to the character is the essence of a frog. It is an extremely imaginative performance, full of quirky subtlety that would have been completely lost if we had stuck him with a foam head or face-freezing makeup.

Last year’s production played to sold-out houses, why do you feel after the quake has been so successful? Any changes from last year’s production?

RW: We feel the play’s success is based on several factors including the loyal following that Haruki Murakami has here in Vancouver and around the world. And of course the acting, lighting, set design and original orchestral score are also excellent.

CH: I also think there is something to the fact that these are well-crafted stories with happy endings. The show is almost completely devoid of the cynical irony that pervades so much of contemporary literature and drama. The characters that populate the play are simple folk that almost everyone can identify with. Because of this, even when they are thrust into an extraordinary situation, we are able to imagine how we might react if we were in their shoes. People come away from the theatre feeling like they’ve shared a wonderful and whimsical journey.

What did Rumble and Pi hope theatre goers would take away from this story?

RW: We’d like people to come away with their love for theatre strengthened and their knowledge of Haruki Murakami expanded.

CH: It would also be nice for patrons to go away yearning for a little positive human connection.

With the captivating storytelling of after the quake it is easy to see why this is its second year running in Vancouver . Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.thecultch.com, or by phone (604.251.1363) or in person at 1895 Venables Street (at Victoria).

after the quake photo by Ken Bryant

after the quake photo by Ken Bryant

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