SCOT Suzuki Company Of TOGA

SUZUKI’s Philosophy
of Theatre
  • The Theatre’s Mission Ⅰ
  • The Theatre’s Mission Ⅱ
  • Culture is the Body
  • Theory of Acting
  • The Promise of Theatre

The Lonely Village and the Theatre’s Miision

Next year will mark a decade since I first began to make theatre in the village of Toga in 1976.

What led me to Toga was not a pressing desire to leave Tokyo. Indeed, at the time, I had every intention of continuing to work there, and the notion of permanently withdrawing from Tokyo never crossed my mind. Still, when other theatre professionals and journalists in Tokyo first learned of my plans to take the company to Toga, they teased me quite a bit. Was I planning to start a religious cult, they asked, or perhaps going on a Transcendentalist pilgrimage into the primordial wilderness to commune with nature? Even the local papers were dubious about how long I would last in Toga: wasn’t this, perhaps, just a momentary fling? And wouldn’t all our imported urban culture throw this little mountain village into disarray? In fact, when some of the villagers first spotted certain members of our company arriving in beards and jeans, they wondered if we might be a Japanese Red Army unit which had rented some of their old houses for basic training.

Of course, it was only natural they should react this way. Since none of the villagers lived in the immediate area around our facilities, we trained and rehearsed late into the night, knowing we would disturb no one except the foxes and raccoons. Whatever suspicions we may have aroused, either in Tokyo or Toga, our decision to relocate was not intended as a secret escape into egocentric, esoteric pursuits, but rather as a defiant public statement criticizing the social and cultural centralization of the country around the capital. One might think that, with the goal of protesting this trend, any place outside of Tokyo would have served our purposes. In fact, the reason we ended up in Toga was more or less the same reason that, years earlier, we established the Waseda Shogekijo on the second floor of a Tokyo café. It was not because the café space fit our ideal image of a 100-seat black box theatre, but rather because it gave us the opportunity to take one more step, however small, towards our artistic ideals.

Being all too human, we often believe it possible to exercise our free will and choose as we please. The reality is that most of the time we cannot. We are forced, instead, to make decisions based on a set of specific, limited circumstances. For me those circumstances were determined by the 1960s Tokyo environment, where I formed part of a generation dissatisfied with the direction in which the country was going as it experienced unprecedented economic growth on a global scale. A side effect of this boom was a “bigger is better” mentality in just about every field, with national policy regionally disseminated by the authorities in Tokyo, much the way parents impose restrictions on their children. As such, the central government gave little credence to the opinions and ideas of local or prefectural authorities, who often understood their particular problems on a much more detailed and practical level. This Tokyo-knows-best mindset had its effect on cultural policy as well. In the theatre, this resulted in the construction of unwieldy large-scale theatre complexes across the country, with no real plan as to how these facilities would be sustained and no artistic vision driving them.

Searching for a way to realize my artistic vision, I rejected those trends, determined to find a way to produce my work without sacrificing my ideals and thus founded the Waseda Shogekijo company. With this group, I was able to create a place where artists who shared this same critical, even defiant point of view on society could work independently of the dominant theatre company structures of the time, without compromising their principles. By fostering an environment clearly focused on artistic and philosophical goals, we were able to overcome all manner of obstacles and diversity, achieving more, in the end, than we ever predicted. As the rest of society, in fact the rest of the world was following the credo of “bigger is better,” we sought to return the theatre to its origins. We did not believe that high budgets, immense venues and large audience turnout naturally led to artistic success. On the contrary, it was apparent to us that increasing the financial, physical and social scale of a production often severely diluted its artistic quality and impact. I found that to understand the world, both a central and a marginal point of view were necessary. The Waseda Shogekijo space, in contrast to the centralized commercial theatres, provided me this marginal perspective, which I used as a springboard to investigate the issues of our time with a small group of uncompromising artists. Focused on the specific objective of restoring a dense, rich intensity to the theatrical act, we wanted nothing less than to cause a revolution in the hearts and minds of our audience.

In this sense, the move to Toga from the Waseda Shokegijo space was only logical. In order to intensify our marginal perspective, we had to make it as dynamic as possible, and see where that would lead us artistically. By coming to Toga, a place that could not be more decentralized from Tokyo, I have been able to create from perhaps the most extremely marginal point of view available, deeply influenced by the daily challenges of living in such a place.

Throughout history, theatre professionals have persistently been confronted by various shifting conditions. We may have ample money one time but too little the next; our performance spaces may range from vast to tiny; our audiences may be large or small; reviewers may praise or condemn us. Yet, whatever our production circumstances may be, as long as we have the basic resources necessary to stage our work, we can advance toward our artistic goals. If, along this journey, we remain committed to our choices, sooner or later they will yield tangible results. Will we keep what we discover? Will it have value? Whatever the answer, I am convinced that any progress we achieve depends on our ability to be continuously inspired and enriched by each new experience. I continue to focus on what I learn in Toga because I recognize its vital role in my worldview. However, this was not so clear to me when I first began.

What caused my perception of Toga to change? Apart from the marginalized social perspective I gleaned from being there, Toga’s dynamic natural environment also impacted me profoundly. Just as I was intrigued by the revelations we made about acting in the intimate Waseda Shogekijo space, Toga’s thatched-roof houses engaged me through their inherent symbiosis with the expansive, ever-changing mountain climate, relentlessly challenging me with a new sense of space. The vital, protean quality of Toga inspires me still, and I will doubtless continue to make work there until I die. This staunch conviction stems from the fact that, in today’s Japan, it would be nearly impossible to devise a performance environment more closely suited to my philosophical and artistic sensibilities. Of course, limiting the discussion to the theater building itself, I wouldn’t object if some wealthy patron suddenly appeared willing to construct a theater to my exact specifications. Being incurably ambitious, I’d like nothing more than make Toga a headquarters from which I could expand my theatrical vision to New York, Paris, or even the North Pole, building theaters tailored precisely to my artistic sensibility!

My company does occasionally perform in commercial spaces like Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre and Iwanami Hall, despite the fact that they don’t reflect my ideology. Obviously, I am grateful when these theaters ask me to make as few compromises as possible. Nevertheless, when working in such venues, I invariably open myself up to censure. At Iwanami Hall, for example, the critics chide me for enslaving my originally wild iconoclastic nature to academicism. At the Imperial Theatre, on the other hand, they reprimand me for having sold out to commercialism. The fact is, no matter what the field, the industrial mentality in Japan persistently lashes out at anything attempting to go beyond that which has gone before, or interrupt the status quo—as if such groundbreaking work were completely irrelevant. Likewise, the attitude of my critics towards innovation reveals their misguided priorities. They forget that even when theatre becomes “enslaved” to academicism or “sells out” to commercialism, the artistic quality and integrity of the work must be valued above everything else. If theatre that reaches new pinnacles artistically also garners the attention of academic or commercial interests, more power to it!

In any case, no matter which standard we use to measure commercial success in the theatre, our activities in Toga inevitably fall into the red. My company, comprised of roughly forty members, is bound together by a kind of volunteer spirit that would normally characterize a religious group. We work in a village whose inhabitants are struggling to make a living and have no leisure time for the theatre. No matter how many months we might perform, we could never sustain ourselves economically on local audience support alone. The village itself is far from self-sustaining. Even though Toga’s annual budget is over seven million U.S. dollars, the national government subsidizes ninety-five percent of this. Like my theatre company, the village must attract money from authorities in Tokyo to survive.

The salient point here is that in a highly capitalistic society like Japan, every individual and organization must operate within the commercial system. There are people who imagine it might be possible to survive without doing so, but such conjecture makes little practical sense. It would be akin to believing I could maintain my operations in Toga with nothing more than an enthusiasm for its unique performance spaces.

Another issue, which must be considered in analyzing our presence in the village, is the fact that Toga is a textbook example of Japan’s post-WWII urban exodus—a phenomenon whereby many rural villages have experienced a drastic and consistent drop in population. While I don’t pretend to be a government official or political scientist, I can see clearly that people are leaving Toga—so quickly, in fact, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Toga soon has problems justifying itself as an independent municipality. Villages all around Japan seem to be thinning out in this manner. Since no tactics have succeeded in quelling the exodus, the few enduring residents in Toga now find themselves inhabiting a sizeable expanse of land. It would seem that this depopulation of the countryside was particularly striking in our recent period of high economic growth. As a result of the postwar energy revolution, Japanese society has become fully industrialized, and the ensuing prosperity has triggered a migration to urban areas. In the process, Japan has grown greatly dependent on oil, electricity and gasoline, causing the villagers who once provided firewood, coal and charcoal to lose their livelihoods.

Conversely, as the city populations have swelled, secondary and tertiary industries have expanded, so that villagers no longer employed by the primary industries of farming and forestry have converged on the cities to seek work. The development of mass transit networks and global communications systems have also contributed to the urbanization of the villagers’ mentality, encouraging an even greater withdrawal. Now that the era of rapid economic growth has more or less come to a close, the benefits of urbanization are being re-evaluated. Still, the depopulation of the countryside persists, and villages such as Toga continue to shrink.

Geographically, Toga occupies an area 500–600 meters above sea level, running twenty-three kilometers east to west and fifty-two kilometers north to south. About four percent of this area is suitable for housing, yet at this time only 332 functioning households remain, with a total of about 1,200 inhabitants. The principal sources of income for these families include the village office, a forest and agricultural cooperative and a public contractor. Indeed, the village office remains the largest employer, providing jobs for nearly 100 people. With little work to attract young people, the village is naturally growing older. The only chance the population has to grow is when a young woman marries into the village, but this is very rare. The fierce weather, too, makes life for the aging villagers more difficult. In winter, the snow accumulates to a depth of at least three meters, reaching as much as six meters when snowfalls are heavy. Each year, slabs of packed snow and ice slide down from the rooftops with such force that several people are killed. Such dangerous environmental conditions (particularly in winter), coupled with the lack of caregivers in case of illness or injury, compel many elderly villagers to move in with their sons and daughters living in urban areas, despite the strong desire they have to stay. Homes abandoned by such families dot Toga’s hillsides. With each passing winter, these houses disappear one by one, crushed by the weight of the snow. It is hard to describe the sense of hopelessness this creates. Of course, when I first came to the village I knew nothing of all this. When the youthful members of our company arrived in Toga, the first thing they wanted to do was tell their parents to come and build houses in the middle of this beautiful natural setting with its splendid thatched-roof houses.

During my university days, twenty-five years ago, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre had an enormous influence on my generation. As articulated in his theories on phenomenological existentialism, Sartre believed that mankind, in the face of a hopeless future, should battle on with the pride of the defeated, and that each individual, by choosing to live in this way, could realize the universal in the singularity of a human life. I was particularly inspired by Sartre’s insights into the temporal, futile nature of human existence and his conviction that human beings, by tirelessly, consciously battling against all odds for what they believe in, get closer to understanding the meaning of life.

In youth, people generally harbor many dreams about their future. As they become adults, however, these dreams, through betrayal, undergo a transformation. The result is a detachment from one’s ideals, and a feeling of remorse. Nevertheless, there are some who cannot endure living their lives this way. For them, Sartre’s way of thinking, extolling the spirit of the defeated, is very encouraging. His words remind us that human beings all want to live passionately dedicated to something. This will to pursue our ideals is what makes our lives unique. If we truly understand this as the basic human condition, then it follows that we will want to, from the beginning to the end, consciously manage our lives. It was this fight for conscious, willful control that Sartre proposed. His credo was, “Don’t regret failed actions, only the failure to act.” In other words, the worst that humans can do is do nothing.

Although Sartre created his philosophy in a context that was distinct from my simply humanistic one, I assimilated his way of thinking into mine, and interpreted his words in the following way. Modern man is defined by his deliberate attempt to understand his humanity. There are no guarantees, however, that he will find any consistent response to his inquiries. On the contrary, human life is constantly confronted by the arbitrary, the unexpected. It is multi-layered. In striving for consistency we often aim to eliminate risk or reduce the myriad aspects of life to a single dimension. Yet, even if we make such efforts, we can never willfully control our future and approach it like horses racing down a single straightaway. What we can do is develop a consistent awareness of our actions—actions that in turn must persistently be governed by a determination to ask our own questions, motivated by our personal worldview. To put it more simply, we must strive towards our life goals with a clear understanding of our circumstances in connection with the rest of humanity. Is not the essence of human life comprised of such endeavors?

When I see the villagers who have stayed in Toga, I view them as men and women who are actually living out Sartre’s struggle of the defeated. Yet, I also know that at some point they too will be forced to leave. Even if their situation improves, with the rigors of the environment and worries over education, medical care and the lack of recreational facilities, they too will eventually be attracted to urban life as they imagine it. Looking at the everyday conditions of the village,there is really no way to stem the thinning of its population. In the primary school, for example, there is roughly one student per grade. Ten students, representing all the grades, huddle together in a single classroom to do their work. No wonder the woman who has moved up from the city to marry into the village feels such an inevitable sense of loneliness when she sees them. The more they learn, the more foolish it seems. Even if one argues that such an environment gives students the freedom to accelerate their curriculum and get ahead of their peers studying at another school in a standard setting, with such a bleak future awaiting them in the village, there seems little reason for them to develop their intellect.

For the mayor of a village like Toga, the highest priority is developing a plan that keeps the number of people leaving to a minimum. Starting with the Toyama Prefectural Office, followed by the Ministries of Construction, Agriculture and Forestry, he goes from one government agency to another, petitioning for subsidies. As mayor he knows that, even if all his petitions are successful, they still won’t be enough to solve the larger problem he faces. Yet he cannot sit idly by and lament the situation. As long as one person still wants to live in the village, it is his duty to improve the conditions there as much as possible. He must not wait passively for the circumstances to change but instead actively try to change them. Several consecutive village heads have, in fact, succeeded in diminishing the rate of exodus to a degree, but none has been able to stem it entirely. From an outsider’s point of view, the mayor’s efforts resemble those of Camus’ Sisyphus, or of a bicycle rider who’s stopped moving forward but still must keep his bike from falling over. Since the whole village’s welfare is his responsibility, the mayor, more than anyone else, must dedicate his life to fighting the fight of the defeated, in the face of impossible odds.

As such, the mayor’s psychological burden is enormous. Any kind of news or information that might affect the village is transmitted directly to him before anyone else. No doubt, much of what he learns can never be shared with the villagers. His must be an incredibly isolated and lonely existence.

In his essay, The Appearance of a New Mass Society, scholar Yasusuki Murakami hypothesizes about the relationship between the general public and the government in Japan. He argues that as Japan continues to prosper economically and individualism becomes more widely entrenched, people will inevitably become more aware of their personal needs and start to seek emotional fulfillment through an increasingly self-centered lifestyle. A greater emphasis on short-term values will surface, with less value placed on such matters as fidelity, hard work, and other collective concerns focused on benefiting the current and future generations. Still, as long as society continues to rely on rational logic and industry to function, the importance of far-reaching, communal values cannot be disregarded. As a result, a major rift will develop between a Japanese public that prioritizes immediate gratification and an administrative elite that governs them via a rational, efficient and posterity-oriented agenda. Stressed by the burden of this schism in values, the governing officials will find themselves more and more psychologically isolated. As the short-term-focused social initiative of today’s Japanese public continues to grow, the administrative authority of the governing elite will be more difficult to justify and thus eventually will deteriorate.

This thesis seems accurate, especially when one compares Japan to the twentieth century communist model where, even when the economy flourishes, the central government remains powerful.

The mayor often jokes that his village is a “consumption co-operative” since its main function is to spend government funds. Still, all joking aside, I am sure that this man, who every month spends half of his time on the train taking petitions to Tokyo, must feel a terrible emptiness in his heart. After all, how did he come to assume the immense burden of looking after this tiny bit of countryside, this microcosm of the entire Japanese society, torn apart by the forces of rapid social change?

As I started working in Toga, I began to experience the contradictions inherent in the structure of modern Japanese society and so came to share this sense of isolation that the local politicians feel. For this reason, I did everything I could to cooperate with the mayor and his policies to help reduce the depopulation of the area. Of course, I never intervened directly in any of the village’s political activities, which would have been overstepping my boundaries. Still, I tried to do what I could to help curb the urban migration and perhaps even bring about an influx. In making such efforts, the presence of my theatre company was indispensible. It was quite clear to me that if the population declined any further, we could no longer function in Toga no matter how ideal the environment might be for our work. At some point, the minimum population threshold would be breached, so that even the village’s basic operations would come to a halt. If any of the financial aid or local tax subsidies were to shrink, transportation facilities and snow removal services would be reduced, low-cost housing would no longer be available, and our theatrical activities would be directly impacted.

To give a more specific example, in the village there are currently no lumberjacks and only two or three carpenters. Still, with the mountains so full of trees that anyone may fell, one might think that the price of lumber in Toga would be quite reasonable, but that is not the case. Indeed, the cost of erecting a new structure is prohibitive unless lumber imported from the United States or Southeast Asia is used. This paradox stems from the fact that even though raw timber is easy to obtain, there is no sawmill in the vicinity to process it, so any timber collected must be carted off to another region for processing. As the costs of additional workmen and transportation mount, the price per board foot of lumber skyrockets. Naturally, if there were sufficient demand for wood a sawmill could be built in Toga, which in turn would attract lumberjacks and transportation service workers. But who would want to build a house in a village like Toga, littered with empty houses left behind by its former inhabitants? In short, there is simply no market for lumber in Toga. Which is why, when we need wood for sets and such, we must travel forty kilometers to reach the nearest supplier. Finding carpenters can also be problematic. The bottom line is, in places like Toga, these kinds of complications crop up in every aspect of daily life, so that as the population shrinks, ordinary tasks become more and more tedious and everyday life in all its aspects becomes extremely burdensome.

In the end, my theatre company cannot run itself as an independent entity. If the village of Toga ceases to exist our work there must also end. Such is the interdependent relationship between company and village in a region like ours. In Tokyo, on the other hand, most theatre professionals cannot fathom the idea of the city disappearing, even if it were put forward as an abstract proposition. The word “disappear” itself would be meaningless to them. Such ideas are entirely remote from their daily reality. I believe, however, that not only Tokyo, but all of Japan as we know it may very well disappear one day. There is certainly a strong possibility that Toga might vanish altogether. I am surrounded everywhere by evidence of this, from the practical problems I experience firsthand to the statistics I read in print

Understanding the situation as I do, I cannot limit my activities in Toga to the theatre alone. If the village is really in danger of disappearing, I must do my best to help solve these problems—which are indeed national problems—with the same energy I pour into my theatre productions. With this mindset, I can accomplish something of real, integral value. Even though it may come across as audacious, I believe my company’s presence is an indispensable component of the Toga community. Moreover, I consider myself, along with the mayor and those who really love the village, to be one of those who will, in the face of almost impossible odds, endlessly battle on to save it.

By choosing to live this way—struggling against innumerable obstacles and pushing forward at whatever cost—it may seem like I’m promoting traditional Japanese concepts of martyrdom. But there are real differences. In many ways, the life of a theatre director actually does resemble the life of someone like the mayor of Toga, in that we always want to try new things. Even when the human resources at our disposal seem limited, we put everything we have into what we do.

Without the villagers, the mayor would not exist. Similarly, without actors, the director does not exist. The function of a theatre director is not like that of other artists in other forms, where the final product takes on an independent visual or textural form. Rather, the theatre director’s essential job—at least for a founding leader of an ensemble that works in a continuous context like mine—is to stand at the junction of various intersecting artistic endeavors and manage to strike a harmony among all of them. He can never rest on his laurels, but must tirelessly re-invent his company to face new challenges while also maintaining their relationship with the constantly changing outside world. Simply put, the director’s job requires him to discover the best way to develop his company and then obtain the means to do so. He must relentlessly renew his vision, then strive towards it on a trial-and-error basis. To facilitate this, he must also generate a shared way of working with his company that allows each individual to undergo a continual transformation both as artists and individuals. Finally, on the basis of those transformations, which are difficult to stop once set in motion, he must devise a communal hope for the future.

As the director executes his work over time, not only do his goals evolve but he also experiences personal changes, while his creative impulses manifest themselves in new, unpredictable ways. He must constantly make choices regarding casting and, in certain circumstances, the text and performance venue as well. In my case, as a founding director, I am also responsible for the economic welfare of my company. I cannot simply make decisions based on some personal whim. I must observe changes in our audience, even in society itself, and base my agenda on what I ascertain. I cannot simply amuse myself with my work in some narcissistic fashion. I live in the world, and as such tenaciously make connections with everything around me. To what extent should I try to wrestle with these connections? This is the enigma facing the director, and herein lies his most demanding task. Put another way, connections inevitably accumulate between a theatre director and the society in which he abides. The director who is aware of the influences acting upon him can use that knowledge to make artistic choices that will consistently engage his audience. Such continuity validates his work, ensuring him a genuine vocation.

Perhaps, in another sense, the very notion of continuity or consistency in theatre work is outdated. One might even argue that such an idea runs counter to the creative impulse, which spontaneously springs up and then vanishes as quickly as it came, and that from this very impermanence emerges the true theatrical moment that transcends time. I agree that a continuity of the creative impulse can never be anticipated. It is, like human life, essentially ephemeral—here one moment, gone the next. Thus, the theatre director, or any artist for that matter, can never consistently predict how and when inspiration will surface. However, what artists can do, in fact what we must do, is create continuity in the environment that surrounds us. For me, this has meant maintaining a group of people that shares a common worldview and collaborates over long periods of time in the same context. Without this continuity of artistic infrastructure—space, theory, training, company, artistic vision, philosophy, and the like—the creative impulse cannot blossom. However spontaneous and inspired such impulses may feel in the moment, there is simply no accumulated history to support them, and hence no way for this spontaneity to become inevitability. In the world of competitive sports, great, inspired plays are only able to take place because the athletes have spent years continuously preparing for such extreme moments. We often think of inspiration as something that happens in the beginning of a creative process. But for me, true inspiration only happens after a long period of training, when such impulses can be processed in a skillful way. Take the case of acting. In an environment based on continuity, improvised or spontaneous impulses cannot help but be connected to all the work that has gone before, in dialogue with the performer’s own instrument, the other artists, and the physical space. Under these conditions, the creative impulse inevitably leads the artist closer to his or her ideal state of being, where he or she may experience freedom. At such moments—be it with music, literature or theatre— artists open a window through which they can clearly transmit their singular point of view and stimulate the audience’s imagination. It is for this reason that, until my death, I will continue to focus my efforts on exploring the innumerable artistic possibilities that exist within the continuity of human actions.

Whatever their views on artistic continuity may be, theatre professionals in Japan face a grave dilemma because the scope of their discourse is hermetically sealed within the realm of purely theatrical concerns, while the larger philosophical and sociological aspects of the theatrical act go unaddressed. As a result, these so-called artists have not integrated the theatre into their own spiritual lives, and thus fail to experience the passion that drives true artists to brave impossible odds. Their attitude is rather one of capitulation toward both life and art. With no greater purpose propelling them, they have conceded to a theatre bereft of spontaneity and risk, where they, like children afflicted with attention deficit disorder, strike serious and gloomy poses for their own amusement, creating little that transcends the boring and the tedious. They do not engage the historical legacy of artists who have tenaciously pursued their ideals. They have never discovered the joy of challenging themselves to do the impossible, which in turn galvanizes a commonality of spirit with their audience. Rather, these artists have, through their apathy, fallen into fragments of individual interests, concerned with nothing more than their own satisfaction. At best, their work has a cramped and febrile sense of purpose. The theatrical diversions they create, one after the other, simply wound and betray their original artistic dreams. Instead of confronting the travesty of this trend, they evade it in a fit of denial. For this reason, they can never see how feeble their dreams, through neglect, have become.

The shallowness of these artists’ goals grows increasingly prevalent day by day. The spiritual laziness—lacking the interest or will to transform the situation—is perhaps the most alarming feature of this trend. I simply can’t imagine making theatre that doesn’t incessantly catalyze new perspectives about the world we live in. Often we hear acting referred to as a form of play. But we must be careful how we define “play” in the theatre. For me, this “play” is not simply an attempt to amuse oneself or others, but a way to make people think critically of the world we live in and struggle to ponder the ways we might improve it. In the case of professional sports, when an athlete plays, he or she is striving to set new records. The athlete concentrates, unwaveringly, on a specific goal and makes maximum effort to attain it, prepared for success or failure. The actor uses this same sense of play to focus on a fiction and then strives, always risking failure, towards discovering a collective epiphany with the audience. This is the theatrical sense of making a “new world record,” which of course never lasts for very long, soon something even more interesting happens, but it is the effort that is critical!

Unfortunately, most theatre-makers today perceive “play” as a form of entertainment, and so their efforts rather attempt to avoid risk and vulnerability. They work within the parameters of a course that has a guaranteed audience response, perpetuating an environment that lacks discovery. While many of these artists begin their careers with lucid, far-reaching goals that have social impact, along the way they become distracted by their personal fears and desires. Such artists do not fully realize the symbiotic relationship of failure and success nor the vital need for risk-taking. Their fear of failure traps them in the lukewarm sphere of mediocrity, preventing any possible transformation of themselves or the audience. Having lost sight of their original ideals, they often feel a sense of remorse and so mollify their regret with the opium of work that is comfortable and copacetic.

The fear that drives these artists into mediocrity is unwarranted. We must never forget that, in the end, we are all only mortal human beings. However powerful we may feel we have become, in the end we are never able to change very much. The theatre, too, has a limited impact on the world we live in, however revolutionary and influential our work may seem. We must have courage then to continue pushing forward without doubt, despite the fact that we will never achieve what we set out to do. This is the essential, existential paradox that lies at the heart of the artist’s life. We must pursue our ideals until our dying day. In fact, it is this link between the ephemeral quality of both the theatre and of human life, this common relationship with time, which binds them so inextricably together.

If I had to choose one thing I am most thankful for since having come to Toga, it would be the opportunity to encounter certain courageous individuals who understand that, despite whatever desperate conditions they may face, they must continue the quixotic pursuit of their impossible dreams. Armed with this knowledge, these spiritually enlightened artists have achieved a self-awareness that allows them to lead fulfilling lives. To paraphrase Sartre, I have finally been able to see at close range a few individuals who truly understand that life is a futile, passionate play; who are nevertheless driven by the desire to battle on, fighting the lonely fight of the defeated, in the face of hopeless odds.

Toga, 1984