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Many of us like nothing more than to relax in front of our favorite DVD or to chow down on some caramel coated popcorn as we take in the latest that Hollywood has to offer. Being one of these people myself, I was somewhat reluctant to spend time experiencing a live theatrical performance in Japan. But there is something very magical about a show being performed without the benefit of post production, unlimited takes and the myriad of onsite workers required to produce today’s Hollywood blockbusters.

The first time I saw a stage show in Nagoya was about 3 years ago when I had the opportunity to see a friend play the lead role in Lend Me a Tenor. This proved to be an experience I revel to this day. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to see a variety of Nagoya Players productions including their rendition of the Japanese classic, Rashomon and their latest, What the Butler Saw, a Joe Orton comedy classic, originally performed in 1969 that made a return to the stage for the Players’ 30th anniversary.

Before my introduction to the Players, I was aware of the many talented foreign musicians, graphic artists and writers, but didn’t discover that Nagoya has a rich theatrical component until I saw the Nagoya Players put on the aforementioned performance; it was stunning. I think one of the many things that really stuck with me was the fact that, as a stage performer, you really get only one shot to make it work. No cries of, “cut” from the director, or a quick brush up on someone’s make up mid-performance. It all has to work- in one sitting! It looked exciting. It almost felt as if I could be up there performing too.

That fact is that I can… and so can you.

First, allow me to give you a little bit of background on the Nagoya Players community theatre troupe.

Founded in May, 1975 by English professor Michael Horne, the Nagoya Players was formed to provide English language theatre to the community. Their very first meeting was held in Horne’s backyard. Given their appearance and level of professionalism today, however, you wouldn’t have thought their beginnings would have been so humble. The Nagoya Players have put on 57 shows to date and have nearly 50 members of both foreign and Japanese nationalities.

As audience members, we only get a glimpse of what is required for a performance to be pulled off; there is a lot of iceberg under the water, so to speak.

Each performance takes around three and a half months to put together, with rehearsals occupying a full Sunday every week. However, as you can imagine, there is a great deal more that goes into the production. For example, after a show has been selected for performance, the director needs to submit a set plan to a company that produces props and sets. This plan then has to be rendered and adjustments have to be made to the rendering before the final “OK” is given for production to commence. All this can take quite a bit of money. On average, a stage set will cost in the neighborhood of 400,000 yen to produce. However, sometimes this price can skyrocket, depending on the complexity of the set.

Of course, there are other costs that can only be measured in time. I asked one of the Nagoya Players how he managed to remember all the lines from a two hour show.

“Since school, I have used a method by which I read the play many, many, many times and then, as my confidence and understanding increase, I will cover certain sections of the script, uncovering each section one sentence at a time and only after I have said it perfectly, word for word. If I make a mistake, it’s back to the beginning of the section for me. Once you get “off book” (a term used for not looking at the script), then the real learning takes place because you get to act the part instead of just reading it.”

That is dedication and as you can imagine, a very time consuming exercise.

So, how does someone get a part in a Players performance?

Well, there are three main criteria. First the actor must visually fit the part. Of course, the director has a large say in setting these criteria as he or she will have already formulated an image of the ideal physical fit for each role.

Secondly, an actor must have a real understanding of the character (s)he is to portray. When interacting with other would-be actors during an audition, an actor must listen and react as their character would and be sure to refrain from the mere regurgitation of her/his lines.

The final requirement is the ability to improvise. A director needs room to work with an actor. Having a limited ability to improvise may hurt an actor’s chances of getting the part. Indeed, a director may even select an actor with less raw acting talent but more improvisation skills.

In the end, however, all of these attributes must be tied together with a passion for the part and the performance.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Like I said before, you can be a part of the Nagoya Players. If acting isn’t your style, you might want to try your hand at sound production, make-up artistry, costume design or even ticket sales. Everyone is welcome to contribute something. Be aware though, if you decide to join this wonderful group of individuals, and are accepted, your commitment needs to be unquestionable. It is a lot of hard work and there are a lot of long hours involved. Just remember though, at curtain call, after all the joy, sweat and tears, you will be taking away something that you and your audience will remember forever.

For all those interested, please send an email to specifying what you would like to contribute to the Players’ next production. The group will be more than happy to answer your questions.

For those of you who would like to experience the magic that the Nagoya Players have to offer as an actor, helper or audience member, check out their website at for news on their latest productions.