Friday & Saturday, October 8 & 9,2010
Conceived, directed and performed by Yoshi Oida
Music by Dieter Trüstedt

Since its premiere in 1979 at the Avignon Festival, Interrogations: Words of the Zen Masters has become known as one of Yoshi Oida's classic masterworks. A constantly evolving piece, Interrogations was performed this summer in Padua (Italy), Ossiach (Austria) and Barcelona (Spain). Interrogations was last performed in New York City 12 years ago, at Japan Society, and has been re-staged for this 2010 performance.

New York
333 East 47th Street NY 10017

Since its premiere 31 years ago, Yoshi Oida's Interrogations has been presented and performed numerous times throughout the world. Interrogations has had a truly exceptional theatrical run—receiving attention worthy only of a true masterpiece. New Yorkers have been particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to witness this great piece three times before: first in 1981 at American Theatre Laboratory, then in 1987 at LaMaMa E.T.C. and again at Japan Society in 1998 as part of the Society-wide season Japanese Theater in the World. With this said, this performance of Interrogations marks Yoshi Oida's first New York acting appearance in 12 years—a long and much awaited return for New York audiences.
The reason behind such an extended absence has largely been due to the fact that in the last decade Yoshi has become extremely popular (hence busy!), particularly on the other side of the Atlantic as a director of opera. In fact, Yoshi's 2007 return to Japan Society was not as an actor, but as director for a French production of Benjamin Britten's opera Curlew River. And behind-the-scenes, this 2010 engagement was enabled by grabbing a small break in the rehearsal schedule for another Oida-directed Britten opera, Death in Venice, due to open next weekend in Toronto, Canada.
Trained in various Japanese traditional performance styles, including noh movement, kyogen acting, kabuki dance and gidayu chanting in bunraku, in an amazing transformation, Yoshi has made his international reputation as a director of Western classical opera. His quest to find "the truth in art" has led him on a long journey from East to West—probably something to be found regardless of the classification of East and West.
Thinking about Yoshi's transformation, it occurred to me: Isn't his journey similar to the spiritual training in Zen? Yoshi wrote in his Notes on Interrogations; "The 'words' themselves aren't logical, and there is no clear and coherent answer to the questions they pose... To find a response to a question may take several years, maybe even a lifetime..." Could the "words" in his Notes be replaced with "art"...?! One may conclude that the eternal power of Yoshi Oida's Interrogations can be attributed to his constant searching within the arts.

Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director

PS: Tonight's performance is presented in conjunction with the Japan Society Gallery exhibition The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin. This fall, Japan Society presents many Zen-related programs, including films, lectures and workshops, through our Here & Zen series. We hope that tonight's performance encourages you to explore our ongoing series of Zen-related programs.

In Zen Buddhism, the realization of the true nature of one's mind is attained through meditation and self-training. In Japan today, Zen Buddhism continues, manifesting in the traditions of two major sects: Soto and Rinzai. In both sects, spiritual training involves the practice of meditation, but in the Rinzai sect, such meditation may also utilize the koan.
A collection of "words" taught by Zen Masters and recorded in Chinese anthologies dating from the 11th to the 13th centuries, the koan refers to a question or statement posed by the teacher to provoke understanding from the student. The student must strive to reply to each koan, which in turn becomes the focus for meditation. The "words" themselves aren't logical, and there is no clear and coherent answer to the questions they pose. The student's search beneath the surface to find a response to a question may take several years, maybe even a lifetime....
During the performance of Interrogations, I ask the audience questions from the koan. In this case, there is no spiritual or philosophical objective, only entertainment based on the gap between word and thought, as in the writings of Beckett or lonesco. Obviously, there is no need for anyone to find the "right" answer, but the questions act as a thread linking the audience with the two performers. They join us together; they create a sense of involvement, and cooperation, allowing us to move together toward a moment of shared delight, toward a living theater, (edited from www.yoshioida.com)

Trained from early childhood in the traditional kyogen acting style of the Japanese noh theater, actor, director, teacher and writer YOSHI OIDA is widely recognized for his over 40-year collaboration with legendary British director Peter Brook. In 1968, Oida appeared in Brook's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest at The Roundhouse in London. Further collaborations included The Mahabharata (on stage in 1985 and film in 1988) and Conference of Birds and The Man Who.... As part of Brook's Paris-based Centre Internationale de Creation Theatrale, Oida's work led to appearances around the world. Brook observed Oida's gifts as an actor, stating, "Yoshi Oida shows how the mysteries and secrets of performance are inseparable from a precise, concrete and detailed science learned in the heat of experience. The vital lessons he passes on to us are told with such lightness and grace that typically the difficulties become invisible." Discussing his style of theater Oida wrote, "I feel that there are two types of theater. First, the circus. The players are fantastic, acrobatic creatures employing all manner of effects. And then there is the type of theater which is like a bus transporting the audience to a realm of their own imagination which they would not reach otherwise. That's the sort of theater I do, a theater of service." Oida has written three seminal books on the art of the actor that have been translated into more than 15 languages: An Actor Adrift, The Invisible Actor and An Actor's Tricks. Oida has also appeared in films, including Cannes Film Festival's Official Selection The Pillow Talk (1996), directed by Peter Greenaway. In recent years, Oida has garnered international acclaim as a director of opera. In that role, his credits include productions at the National Theatre Prague, Opera de Rouen and Festival d'Aix-En-Provence (France), Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Italy) the Aldeburgh Festival (UK) and Opera National de Lyon (France), to name a few. Among his many honors, Oida was named Chevalier de I'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (1992) and Officier de I'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (2007). Japan Society presented Benjamin Britten's opera Curlew River, directed by Oida, in 2007 as part of the Society's icoth anniversary celebrations.

DIETER TRÜSTEDT was born in Berlin in 1939. He received his PhD in Physics from the Technische Universität in Munich in 1969. In his research he focuses on the phenomenon of light and sound, and he has been a freelance sound and lighting artist since 1973. Trüstedt has developed a number of electronic and acoustic instruments and sound objects, including synthesizers, laser drawings, motion holograms, wind harps and a solar sculpture. Trüstedt's lightart creations have been exhibited throughout Germany. He has appeared in numerous international music festivals and competitions, including Experiments 4 in Frankfurt (1971), Europalia at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1978), Experimented Musiknacht München (1984) and in Oida's Hannah at the Schauspielhaus Berlin (1997). He has worked on numerous productions with the Tanzprojekt München and has appeared with Oida in performances of Interrogations all over the world. Trüstedt is a frequent lecturer at symposia and conferences in Germany and Europe, and has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ulm's experimental music department since 1991. He has also published widely on experimental music and its use in theater, education and therapy. Since 2004 he has worked with open music-software, sonifications and virtual stage designs. He founded the Autorenmusik Ensemble at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich.

Foto: Yoshi Oida (Regie und Schauspiel) und Dieter Trüstedt (Musik) in Interrogations,
9. Dez. 2001, Théatre du Rond-Point, Paris.