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A Unique Process of International Theater Collaboration
Published December 16, 2020

By Kentaro Matsui, an opening keynote on Nov. 14. 2019

(This translation is edited from the script of consecutive interpretation by Yumi Calderon)

This article is originally presented as a keynote address in 
The Rhetoric of Creative Partnership: Conversations on Cross-Cultural Artistic Exchanges
Nov. 14-15, 2019
University of the Philippines-Diliman
Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts
The Japan Foundation, Manila

I would like to thank the University of the Philippines and the Japan Foundation, Manila for hosting this conference, giving me this valuable opportunity to share my experiences with you.

Over the past 20 years, I have produced ten internationally co-produced plays and dances. Now, before I start my keynote address, I will give you my definition of what I think of the international theater collaboration is as it is written on the title.

I will be referring to the term simply as “collaboration” and the first definition is simple. Collaboration is a joint production of artists such as theater and dance from more than two countries.

In collaboration, artists from different countries with different cultural backgrounds, theories, and methods of performing arts gather together to create a single piece of work. Create a new creative method to jointly create with other members, and create a work based on this new creative method. Therefore, the second definition of collaboration is, it is a collective creative activity based on a new methodology that participants have created in a collective manner.

On the other hand, when an artist gathers artists from multiple countries and creates a work based on his own ideas and methodologies, it is also sometimes called collaboration. Such things are not part of what I consider my kind of collaboration. It is not bad, but I do not  feel an attraction to it.

It is also related to the third definition, as a producer I have several goals every time when planning for a collaboration. But on the other hand, we hope that collaboration will yield to unknown results that cannot be predicted in advance. In fact, in a collaborative process where people with different backgrounds and methodologies gather, participants encounter unforeseen and unexpected events that are not in their normal practice, whether they want it or not.

I believe that the process of encountering this unexpected and unknown event is the best part of collaboration and the greatest attraction. And this unknown process has the potential to deliver great results. Therefore, the third definition of collaboration is a creative activity that aims to discover and realize the unknown possibilities of performing arts.

However, this process of collaboration is quite labor intensive. It is also a difficult process that can be mentally exhausting. The key to make this difficult process a success, for me is “TIME.”  It took me two to three years from the start of the preparation for a collaboration work up until the performance of the work.

What happens during such a long preparation period are the research, meetings, and workshops where the collaborators interact with each other.

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