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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2013 Summer Issue]>The hidden drama of a successful performance

Hakumon CHUOIndex

Chuo University English Speaking Society
First performance of an English-language drama in 45 years

The hidden drama of a successful performance

The Chuo University English Speaking Society is now celebrating the 110th anniversary of its founding. To commemorate this milestone, an English-language drama entitled Nobody Famous was performed on May 12th.
Held in a medium-sized auditorium at C Square on the Chuo University Tama Campus, the performance was a huge success. The packed auditorium resulted in standing-room only.
The last English-language drama performed by the ESS was held 45 years ago in 1968. It was a new experience for everyone involved.
Leading up to the performance, each day was filled with constantly-changing human drama.

The play’s heroine is Brenda, a budding actress who dreams of stardom. Brenda is invited by her friend Heather and visits a fortune-teller named Mooch, who predicts that Brenda will eventually become famous. He also tells Brenda a winning lottery number. Other characters include a mysterious gun-wielding man who is searching for Mooch; Mary, a movie director who has come to recruit Brenda; and Brenda’s manager Gina, who works feverishly to reconcile Brenda and Mary when the two clash over a role.

Students portraying these 6 characters devoted themselves to their roles. They acted with great passion and spoke their English lines smoothly. A large screen with Japanese subtitles was positioned in front of the audience.

The audience was captivated during the 30-minute performance and there was a thunderous applause at the finale, forming a bond between the stage and audience. As the thrill of the performance lingered in the auditorium, ESS Chairperson Chihiro Nabeshima (3rd-year student in the Faculty of Law) addressed the audience. Chihiro, who played the role of Gina and also served as executive producer, remained dressed in her stage costume in a blond wig and red-framed glasses. After repeatedly thanking the many alumni and supporters who attended, Chihiro revealed the surprising fact that the ESS started planning the performance on pure impulse.

Aspiring spirit in a traditional organization

It was mid-November in 2012, roughly 3 months after the new leadership was appointed for the ESS. Chairperson Chihiro Nabeshima and Vice-Chairperson Rika Isaka (3rd-year student in the Faculty of Law; played the role of Mary) wanted to do something special while the society was under their leadership. After some discussion, they came up with the idea of an English-language performance and immediately took action. They consulted with the Chuo alumni, and Vice-Chairperson Rika watched major performances by Rikkyo University, Waseda University and other schools playing a leading role in English-language performances. “I was touched by the performances,” says Rika. “At the same time, I felt that our performance could be just as good.”

Upon hearing Rika’s report, Chihiro took action herself. She went to the University of Tokyo to watch a performance of Macbeth (Shakespeare). “Like Rika, watching their performance also left me touched,” she says. Chihiro moved swiftly, learning tips from ESS associates at the Tokyo University of Science and the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Incidentally, Chihiro questioned the way in which the ESS participated in the Hakumon Festival. “It didn’t feel right to simply sell takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and say ‘Hi! We are the ESS!’” she says. Of course, based on the society’s annual activity plan, they conducted many traditional ESS activities such as discussions, speech contests and interaction with foreign students.

The desire to do something special in their generation. The thrilling English-language performances they watched. The aspiring spirit passed down from alumni. Once all of these aspects combined, the society’s momentum toward an English-language performance suddenly grew stronger.

Establishing a vision

The idea of an English-language performance had become more than an impulse. In early January, the notion was raised as a resolution at the last meeting of the academic year. “I propose that we perform an English-language drama as a new project,” said Chairperson Chihiro. However, Chihiro faltered under questions regarding details of her proposal. Her idea was judged as lacking sufficient preparation and approval was not given. “I was really disappointed,” says Chihiro. “However, all members of the ESS gave the idea serious consideration, so such a severe review was necessary.”

“Reaping the rewards of effort is the epilogue of a drama.
Only those who have helped sow the seeds can feel the thrill of this epilogue.”
(Quote by screenwriter So Kuramoto (from Yomiuri Shimbun))


Chihiro and other ESS members started all over. Upon consulting again with alumni, they were advised to clarify their vision. An English-language drama supported by all 327 members of the ESS is a grand project which seeks to pry open the door of history after 45 years. Chihiro, Rika and other members strengthened their resolve.

In addition to performers, they recruited a wide range of staff. They communicated with members by email, held face-to-face meetings to discuss particulars, and encouraged members who hesitated to participate. They asked even more questions to members who had stopped actively participating in the society. Through these efforts, Chihiro and other ESS leaders recruited performers and operation staff.

The script was determined, roles were assigned and the duties of staff members were decided. The wheels of this grand project had been set in motion.

“The cast’s acting ability improved rapidly,” says Chairperson Chihiro. “I was surprised to hear the powerful voices which some of the performers displayed. Also, I was so happy at how each staff member put their own unique ideas into lighting, sound and the stage set. Despite being busy with work, some young alumni spent their entire day off giving us instruction and advice. I am also truly grateful for the generous donations which we received from alumni.”

Approval was received for the performance and rehearsals began from spring vacation. However, a setback was encountered in April. The ESS was extremely busy with events for welcoming new students and the performance had to be put on the backburner. After nearly a month, the despondent cast members were uncertain whether the performance would actually take place. The performance was scheduled for May 12th. Even professional performers hold repeated rehearsals in the time leading up to opening day. An amateur group like the ESS could not afford to fall behind.

The cast and staff started over again. They held demanding rehearsals under the direction of executive producer Chihiro. “All cast and staff members could gather only 2 times per week,” explains director Tsunenori Suzuki (3rd-year student in the Faculty of Law). “We started rehearsing from around 6pm, after the end of classes and seminars, until 9pm. Some members even took time off from their part-time jobs to participate.” Preparations took place at a hectic pace.

“Dialogue was translated by cast members themselves,” notes Taiyo Uchino (2nd-year student in the Faculty of Policy Studies; plays the role of the fortune-teller). On the day before opening day, an 8-hour long rehearsal was held to polish the minor details. Through the sharp eyes of cast and staff members, unnecessary parts of the performance were removed and brilliance of the drama was heightened.

Tears of pride

At shortly after 3:30pm on May 12th, the Chuo University English Speaking Society’s performance of the English-language drama Nobody Famous ended to thunderous applause.

It was the first acting experience for Kotaro Kato (2nd-year student in the Faculty of Economics), who played the role of Joe. In the scene where he emerges holding a gun, Kotaro displayed an aura refined through countless hours of rehearsal. “When I heard that the ESS would perform a drama, I never imagined that I would set foot on stage,” he says while expressing his surprise. “I practiced my expressions by looking in the mirror of my room. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, akin to when I made a hit to win as a pinch hitter during a junior high school game.”

At the social gathering, introductions were given for each staff member who worked behind the scenes. Everyone had their moment in the spotlight. “I couldn’t stop crying,” reveals Chairperson Chihiro when sharing her feelings upon returning home after the party. “I think my feelings were a mixture of overcoming difficulties and achieving our goal, while still believing that we could have done a little more.” Chihiro’s tears were sprinkled with pride.

“Although we started the project on pure impulse, we were able to achieve something great,” she says. “We performed a drama through the work of many colleagues and friends. Truly, we were saved by the support of friends. Everyone is capable of helping someone else. I believe that people must expand their horizons rather than narrowing their focus.”

The strength of Chihiro’s feelings she expressed in her speech to the audience only increased. Her speech also had a message for younger students. A project which started from impulse has ultimately rewritten history. Indeed, anything is possible if one takes action. Even now, the sound of the clapperboard signifying the start of the performance seems to linger in the air.

Message from alumni

Chairperson Tatsumi Odaka
(President of Meryx Co., Ltd.; graduated in 1966)
“Even when we entered Chuo University around 1963, the ESS had about 300 members. With the Tokyo Olympics coming the following year, it was a time when greater emphasis was placed on the need for English. The current ESS is in a similar situation. As the entire university works to cultivate global professionals, I hope that the ESS will contribute to improving the English proficiency of Chuo students. I will do everything in my power to support the society.”

Former Chairperson Yasuhisa Kuwada
(formerly employed at Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.; graduated in 1958)
“I was surprised when I heard that the ESS would be performing a drama. However, upon actually viewing the performance, it was easy to see how the entire society had contributed to the success of the project. What a wonderful achievement! Everyone worked very hard in a short period of time—maybe too hard! ESS dramas were at their height when I was a student. Current students did an outstanding job of reviving this tradition. Thank you so much!”

Introduction of Drama Members

(Photographs by ESS)

Cast

Brenda:
Haruka Kawaguchi (2nd-year, Faculty of Commerce)
Heather:
Yoko Sekiguchi (3rd-year, Faculty of Letters)
Mooch:
Taiyo Uchino (2nd-year, Faculty of Policy Studies)
Joe:
Kotaro Kato (2nd-year, Faculty of Economics)
Mary:
Rika Isaka (3rd-year, Faculty of Law)
Gina:
Chihiro Nabeshima (3rd-year, Faculty of Law)

Staff

Props:
Mitsuyo Oko (2nd-year, Faculty of Commerce)
Fumika Hayashi (2nd-year, Faculty of Letters)
Costume:
Mika Okamoto (2nd-year, Faculty of Commerce)
Sound:
Mai Furukawa (2nd-year, Faculty of Commerce)
Lighting:
Yuki Kimura (3rd-year, Faculty of Commerce)
Subtitles:
Yuki Imamizu (2nd-year, Faculty of Law)
Tsunenori Suzuki (3rd-year, Faculty of Law)
Yoko Sekiguchi
PR:
Taiyo Uchino
Pamphlets:
Nobuyuki Abe (3rd-year, Faculty of Law)
Director:
Tsunenori Suzuki
Executive Producer:
Chihiro Nabeshima

Social conditions 45 years ago

1968: Professor Wada of Sapporo Medical University performed Japan’s first heart transplant. Yasunari Kawabata won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 300 million yen robbery occurred in Fuchu, Tokyo. Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh of the Tokyo Giants were outstanding players in Japanese professional baseball.