How do we maintain dignity in face of adversity?
Movement, sound, and silence paint a vivid journey of migration and the act of leaving home, not as a choice, but in desperation.
The Water Station is a film adaptation by playwright, director, and NYU Abu Dhabi professor Abhishek Majumdar of a play by Japanese playwright Ōta Shōgo, written in 1981. It is the second part of a three part trilogy dedicated to silence including Majumdar’s NYU Abu Dhabi Spring 2021 course Silence as its prequel and his forthcoming staged play, 9 Kinds of Silence as its sequel. It is about our experience of the world and how it is shaped by what we have to leave behind, who we can leave with, and what happens when we meet others in our journeys.
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Inspired by Ōta Shōgo’s experiences as a child, walking long distances with other refugees as his family migrated from China to Japan the piece foregrounds ‘slowness’ and ‘quietude’, having no spoken words, and was crafted through movement, sound, and silence across space and landscape. Movement sequences for this adaptation were developed using techniques of the Sanskrit theater form Kutiyattam as a natural choice to drive an entire language of slowness. Its creative development honored Ōta Shōgo’s original form of a devised performance text which was open to improvisation and development in partnership with the student actors and was rehearsed as a play before being captured as a feature film. This openness allowed the diverse cast of NYUAD Students from across the world to bring their own experience with international forms of theater and film to the piece.
The NYUAD Theater program is proud to present its first student production since the Covid-19 pandemic in collaboration with the NYUAD Film and Music Programs and creative professionals Fowzia Fathima (Director of Photography), Suresh Kaliyath (Movement Director), Arthur De Oliveira (Assistant Director), Abhi Tambe (Music and Sound Composer), and Vandana Menon (Dramaturg and Editor).
Abhishek Majumdar is a playwright, theater director, and Scenographer. Currently he is the Artistic Director of Nalanda Arts Studio, Bangalore, and a Professor of Theater at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Ōta Shōgo was born in 1939 in Jinan, China, and lived in Beijing until Japan’s defeat in World War II brought its occupation of China to an end. Eventually Ōta matriculated to the political science department of Gakushūin University in Tokyo and, during the turbulent 1960s when the consuming political debate was on the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, he was active in both protest and theatrics. He left the university in 1962 without receiving a diploma.
Ōta’s career can be divided into three periods. The first and short period was between 1962 and 1968, when he tried working in new shingeki (new drama) companies but was not satisfied with the quality of their art.
During his second and major period from 1968 to 1988, Ōta grew into a central figure in the angura (underground) counterculture and in the Tenkei Theatre Company (Gekidan Tenkei Gekijō, Theatre of Transformation) specifically. In 1970 he became the head, playwright and director of the Tenkei Theatre; over the ensuing years of collective activity, Ōta produced twenty-one plays with the company.
It was through his collaboration with its members that he found his theatre of divestiture. In 1977 he produced the nō-inspired Tale of Komachi Told by the Wind (Komachi fūden), which made startling use of silence and stillness, winning the prestigious Kishida Drama Prize for it. In 1981 he produced The Water Station (Mizu no eki), his seminal play that epitomized divestiture, and for their performance his company received the Kinokuniya Theatre Award in the group category. Ōta led the Tenkei Theatre on international tours of The Tale of Komachi Told by the Wind and The Water Station to many venues in Europe, Northern America, Australia, and Korea. He disbanded the company in 1988 due to financial reasons, a few years after they relocated to the T2 Studio in western Tokyo.
In his third period from 1990 to 2007, Ōta was active as an independent artist, promoting not only his own but also other experimental performance work and criticism. He served as artistic director of the Fujisawa Civic Theatre in Kanagawa Prefecture between 1990 and 2000 and as vice president of the Japan Playwrights Association from 1992 to 2002. He was also senior professor at Kinki University from 1994 to 1998 and later chair of the Theatre Department at the Kyoto University of Art and Design and chief editor of its Performing Arts periodical.
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