The event comes on the same day as a new play premieres in New York about the medical staff who risked their lives at the Fukushima nuclear disaster. "Hikobae," a fictionalized story based on interviews with doctors and nurses, is being produced at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater by Stella Adler Studio of Acting and The Actors Clinic, a prominent acting school in Tokyo.
The idea for the "Shinsai" benefit came from James Yaegashi, an actor who starred on Broadway in "A Naked Girl on the Appian Way" and "Take Me Out" and whose family lived near the quake zone. Last spring, he proposed the theatrical community do something to help and "Shinsai" — which means great quake in Japanese — was born.
"Theater is a great way to get at the heart," said Yaegashi, whose parents live 40 miles west of the tsunami-flattened city of Sendai. "We rationalize in so many different ways but when you experience a good story, you're affected in a way that other mediums can't accomplish."
Some of the selections on offer include a section of Guare's 2002 play "A Few Stout Individuals," the performance of "Underwater" from Kushner's "Caroline Or Change," a new play by Nen Ishihara, the title song from the "The Skin of Our Teeth" by Kander and Fred Ebb, a monologue from Albee's "Seascape" and a new two-person piece by Greenberg called "Where Were We?"
Organizers say that while the theater community has come together for one-day events before — including "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later," based on interviews that occurred a decade after the 1998 killing of gay college student Matthew Shepard, and the nationwide performance of the anti-war "Lysistrata" in 2003 — a complicated effort of this magnitude hasn't been accomplished.
Wright, who has been to Japan several times and has several Japanese friends, said he signed on instantly. He has read many of the donated pieces and been impressed with how they have made something intimate from something so massive.
"When a good playwright takes an event so large we can't wrap our minds around it and distills it into a scene between a husband and wife sorting through debris to decide what to save, or a man in a hospital bed consulting with a nurse about the extent of his radiation, suddenly the headlines melt away and it becomes so intimate and so human," he said.
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