Stella Adler Studio of Acting and Actor’s Clinic Present: Hikobae 2013

Article by Bak Keung Ko
Photo by Niko

On April 5 and 6, Hikobae debuted in New York City for the first time at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center as a tribute to both 3/11/2011 and 9/11/2001. Directed by the renowned Toshi Shoiya, Hikobae seeks to share the brave efforts and struggles of those who sacrificed their lives to save thousands during Japan’s 3/11 Tsunami and Earthquake disaster.

Director Toshi Shoiya

On Friday April 5th, Natsuko Aoike emceed the event with guest speakers: Lee Ielpi as President of the September 11 Families Association, Tom Oppenheim and Toshi Shoiya as Executive Producers, Mr. and Mrs. Abe as the parents of the firefighter portrayed in the play, and Ryouhei Suzuki as the actor of the portrayed firefighter who died on 3/11 in the line of duty.

In any catastrophe, those on the medical forefront are often the first to address victims and casualties. The theatre production Hikobae aims to tell the struggles behind one particular disaster, Japan on 3/11. “Hikobae” is a Japanese term for “the new shoots that sprout from a fallen tree” which represents revival and new life. The idea of the term goes hand-in-hand with disaster relief efforts and the desire to return society to normal. Since the play’s first appearance in 2012, the cast and staff have toured California, Japan, and now New York to raise money for the Momo-Kaki Orphans Fund.

The story starts off with an American physician, Dr. Alan, who works in a Japanese hospital in Soma City to further his medical education. Portrayed by Stephen Dexter, he is placed in a situation of duty vs. self-preservation when the earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. As a visiting physician, he has the option of leaving Japan to stay clear from the disaster but he decides to stay to assist the local staff despite his father’s wishes.

The other main characters, Eiji Murai and Saki, also play an important role in this play. Eiji is the son of the chief doctor, a city employee, volunteer firefighter and also boyfriend of Saki. Saki is a local Japanese nurse in a hospital in Soma City. Despite all the confusion, Eiji is strung by duty and strives to save as many survivors as he can while simultaneously, Saki and the hospital staff tries to accommodate the rush of incoming patients. Throughout the entire play, the audience witnesses the stress, struggles and fears of a disaster scenario, all the while relaying the strong emotions and tensions of survival.

As a volunteer and participant of the New York Hikobae tour, I was surprisingly moved and fascinated by the striking detail and accuracy of the play. Hikobae staff interviewed survivors and families to bring out the story behind 3/11 which made the play highly compelling. The play also evoked many tears from the audience, which showed that it is definitely a play worth watching. Regardless of what one might choose to believe, each and every one of us can relate to the play, 9/11 or 3/11.

Some special features and accommodations of the event were: the firefighter uniform used in the play, the appearance of the parents (Mr. and Mrs. Abe) of this particular Japanese firefighter who died protecting citizens in the tsunami, and also families of those affected by World Trade Center (WTC) 9/11. The play centers around his sacrifice for others, which correlates with how 9/11 firefighters ran into the Twin Towers without regard to their own life to save others. Firefighters and officials demonstrated both determination and courage in the face of danger, which was something that the play accurately portrayed and relayed to the audience, and it is through this underlying connection that Hikobae was brought to New York in 2013. The play serves as a remembrance for these people so that we will never forget their heroic deeds.

A special thanks to the Hikobae staff for bringing the show to New York and also JOA Production for audio/visuals. If you missed Hikobae 2013, please make sure to see it in 2014!!

For more information about Hikobae, please visit http://www.will-do.co.jp/hikobae
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