Dojoji: Man Inside The Bell

Article by Raymond Mei
Photo credit Corky Lee

“DoJoJi: The Man Inside the Bell” presented by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row in 410 W42nd St. in Manhattan, celebrates its 36th season with an interesting spinoff of Japanese myth that’s been borrowed and displayed in many different versions of Japanese theatrical art forms. In this play, the director, Tisa Chang, takes an old tale and blends it with a new, modern story about ill-fated lovers. The two lovers, Kiyohime (Kiyo Takami) and Anchin (Toshiji Takeshima), are force to deal with opposing outlooks on what lies in their future. Written by Ernest Abuba and Sachiyo Ito, who also worked on the choreography in the play, depicted this play similar to that of the Romeo and Juliet, but with a Japanese flavor.

A young monk, Anchin, is on a journey to the Dojoji Temple to further his studies. Along the way, he encounters a treacherous snowstorm and is forced to take shelter in an inn. The innkeeper, Shoji (Dave Shih), has a daughter named Kiyohime. Kiyohime is single and often lonely, so Shoji plays matchmaker and kindles Kiyohime and Anchin love for one another. Enchanted by her love, Anchin finds himself staying with her for a year already, delaying his plan to the Dojoji Temple. When he decides it is time for him to continue his journey to the temple, she request for him to stay, but Anchin refuses and instead promises to return someday and wed Kiyohime. After years past, Anchin returns to the inn as he promised. However, he returns with a different agenda. Anchin did not want to wed anymore due to his religious beliefs and plans to go back to Dojoji. After Anchin leaves once again, Kiyomine vows to seek revenge on the man she once loved. She transforms herself into a serpent demon (portrayed by the choreographer Sachiyo Ito), and travels through centuries of time to modern Tokyo to punish Anchin.

Toshiji Takeshima, who plays Anchin, is originally from Japan and has had success in the acting business both back home and in the States. Some of his most recent theatre roles include appearances on “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, “The Shanghai Gesture”, and “Honor”. Also, with some notable appearances on “How To Make It In America” (HBO),“Happy Endings”(ABC), and many more film and television a roles, Takeshima is making a name for himself. He also has had numerous stage, film, television and commercial appearances in Japan.

Kiyo Takami

Actress Kiyo Takami, who plays Kiyohime, is an AEA performer based in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Japan, at the age of 18, Kiyo arrived in USA to chase her dreams of becoming a performing artist. She surpassed her 4 years of studying performing arts and has continued to work in the field she loves. Some of her favorite theater projects include “South Pacific (Liat), “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Marcy Park), “Seussical the Musica (Gerturude McFuzz) and “Tea Party” (Suki). Her number one fan will always be her family with all their support.

David Shih

Actor David Shih, who plays the role of Kiyohime’s father as well as the innkeeper, Shoji, has a key role in the development of the romance between Kiyohime and Anchin. Shoji is the one that takes in Anchin during the snowstorm and introduces him to his lovely daughter. Shih recently appeared in other plays such as “Hello! Dolly” and “A Dream Play”.

Ernest Abuba, the playwright, has worked with Pan Asian Repertory in the past producing plays like “Kwatz! The Tibetan Project”, “Eat A Bowl Of Tea”, “An American Story”, “The Dowager”, “Empress Of China”, and his semi-opera “Cambodia Agonistes”, which toured national and internationally to the Cairo Experimental Theatre, and Johannesburg. Abuba is a recipient of five New York State Council on the Arts Grants for playwriting and directing, a Rockefeller Foundation Playwright Fellowship, (CAPS) Creative Artist Public Service Playwright Award. He has been a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College for 17 years. In addition, Abuba was also a recipient of a 1983 OBIE for his performance in Yellow Fever, by Rick Shiomi, also produced by Pan Asian Repertory.

Director Tisa Chang has been a theatre professional for over 40 years. She has performed, directed and produced in theatre. Her role with Pan Asian Reperatory has led them successfully through NEA Advancement & Challenge grant campaigns and foundation initiatives since it’s founding. She has directed the bilingual premieres of “Return Of The Pheonix” and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Ellen Stewart’s LaMama Chinese Theatre Group. Original Musicals at Pan Asian Rep: “Cambodia Agonistes” which toured extensively, “Shanghai Lil’s” (also to San Francisco) and intercultural epics: “Kwatz! The Tibetan Project by Ernest Abuba, Rashomom by Fay & Michael Kanin, which was invited to Havana Theatre Festival in 2003, and the masterpiece “The Joy Luck Club” in Fall 2007. Recently, she produced “Vietnam Project II”, a two-play initiative featuring the second collaboration with Vietnamese artist Nguyen thi Minh Ngoc, We Are, and a companion piece Monster.

Sachiyo Ito

Sachiyo Ito, choreographer and lead dancer, like Tisa Chang has been in the theatre business for more than 40 years. Born in Tokyo, Sachiyo Ito is a professional artist, choreographer and art educator. Some of her notable choreography can be seen in plays such as “Yeats’ Trio”, “Three Irish Noh Plays in Ireland and New York”, “The Soul Shall Dance”, “Monkey Music”, and “Shogun Macbeth” directed by Ernest Abuba, for Pan Asian Repertory Theatre. In 1981 she founded Sachiyo Ito and Co., where she creates pieces in a versatile range of dance styles including Kabuki, Noh, Okinawan court, Jiuta-mai, and contemporary dances. It is the only New York City–based Japanese dance company that performs both Okinawan dance and Japanese classical dance and choreographs contemporary works based on these classical forms. She also earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Dance from New York University. Sachiyo Ito was also awarded the name, Sachiyo Fujima from the Fujima School of Japanese classical dance in Tokyo; and received the Foreign Minister’s Award from Japanese Foreign Ministry in 2008. In this play, Sachiyo Ito choreographed the dances performed by the vengeful Kiyohime and played by Sahiyo Itco herself.

Overall, we enjoy the choreography by Sachiyo Ito and the acting by David Shih who successfully played the two roles in this production. Also, it’s always wonderful to be able to see an Asian American production that tries to promote the culture and the tradition. Bravo!

For more, please visit: http://www.panasianrep.org

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