Toshiki Okada's "God Bless Baseball" at Japan Society


Japan Society, baseball, God Bless Baseball, theatre, performance art, NYC, Japan, South Korea, Korea, Toshiki Okada, politics
Yoon Jae Lee, Sung Hee Wi, and Aoi Nozu. © Asian Arts Theatre (Moon So Young).

Toshiki Okada’s God Bless Baseball (part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival)

Thursday, January 14 at 8:00 p.m. (followed by MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)
Friday, January 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 17 at 2:30 p.m.

Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between First and Second Avenues)

Tickets: $35/$28 Japan Society members. follows the performance on Thursday, January 14.

The North American Premiere of God Bless Baseball, written and directed by Toshiki Okada, who has earned international recognition and acclaim for his own independent work as well as that of his theater company chelfitsch, plays four performances at Japan Society, kicking off a U.S. tour that will make stops at FringeArts, Philadelphia; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University; The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

Visionary playwright/director Toshiki Okada places baseball, an iconic symbol of America, as the centerpiece of his newest play that addresses the current social and political climates of Japan and South Korea, where baseball is deeply rooted in popular culture. Through an episodic narrative and incorporating Okada’s distinctive style of hyper-colloquial speech and subtly choreographed commonplace gestures, God Bless Baseball unearths images, conflicts, and personal and national memories related to the sport, while offering a humorous yet cynical allegory depicted by the naïve adoration that two brothers (personifications of Korea and Japan) have for their parent (America). In his director notes, Okada says, “I wanted to offer the opportunity to contemplate on the current relationship between South Korea and Japan and envisage its possible future. To that extent, I chose America as the theme of the play, as both countries have been hugely influenced by the United States.”

Featuring an ensemble cast of Japanese and Korean actors and an inventive stage set by internationally known visual artist Tadasu Takamine, this new work pulls at the thread of a beloved pastime – examining its influence far beyond the sporting arena.

This work was developed out of a commission to create a new work for the inaugural festival of South Korea’s large-scale national culture complex in Gwangju, the Asian Arts Theatre, in September 2015. Prior to receiving the commission, Okada had worked extensively and built artistic ties with counterparts in South Korea through activities including participation in Festival Bo:m, an art festival held annually in Seoul and other cities. The cast for this production was assembled through auditions held in both Japan and Korea, and comprises actors who are not part of Okada’s chelfitsch theater company. In his process around this piece, Okada endeavored to reflect actual baseball-related memories of the actors, through creative collaboration and brainstorming.

Japan Society, baseball, God Bless Baseball, theatre, performance art, NYC, Japan, South Korea, Korea, Toshiki Okada, politics
Yoon Jae Lee, Neji Pijin and Sung Hee Wi. © Asian Arts Theatre (Moon So Young).

God Bless Baseball marks the third time for Japan Society to present Toshiki Okada’s work,” said Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director of Japan Society. “When Toshiki decided that the theme for his new work would be the United States, and its subject matter, baseball, he expressed his hope to have this piece presented in America and asked if Japan Society would once again function as the organizer for a group of U.S. presenters for commissioning and touring support. Thrilled by this request, my immediate answer was, ‘Yes, absolutely!’ because this piece not only addresses U.S.-Japan relations, but also provides an opportunity to look at these issues in a global context, which is a core mission of the Society.”

The play will be performed in Japanese and Korean with English titles.

The New York engagement is part of the The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival. Over the last 12 years, The Public’s Under the Radar Festival has presented more than 194 companies from 40 countries. It has grown into a landmark of the New York City theater season and is a vital part of The Public’s mission, providing a high-visibility platform to support artists from diverse backgrounds who are redefining the act of making theater.

For more information about God Bless Baseball and to purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website.

[callout title=RELATED EVENT]

Toshiki Okada Workshop for Theater Professionals

Saturday, January 16 from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Tickets: $40/$35 Japan Society members

Toshiki Okada, internationally acclaimed playwright/director and founder of the widely lauded theater company chelfitsch, leads a workshop introducing his characteristic theater techniques and everyday movements of fidgets and twitches that expand the conventional vocabularies of theater and dance. Maximum 15 participants. Professional performance/directing experience required. Participants must wear socks and activewear (no jeans).

Observer tickets may become available when participant tickets sell out.[/callout]