Ogawa Brings Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog” to Japan


Through December in Tokyo, Eriko Ogawa is directing her translation of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 2002 Pulitzer prize-winning “Topdog/Underdog.” The Japan Times notes:

With ubiquitous New York street-slang, foul language and hip humor, the play presents two African-American brothers Lincoln (Tetsuya Chiba) and Booth (Shinichi Tsutsumi) as they talk about their lives, their identities and the reality of their hopeless futures. The work would be a challenge for most to render meaningfully into Japanese, but for Ogawa, she says, this really “ain’t no big thing.”

For 10 years Ogawa immersed herself in the New York theatre experience. Born and raised in Tokyo, and after graduating from Japan’s Seishin University, she journeyed to Manhattan in 2001. At the Actors Studio Drama School, she worked toward an MFA in directing. While there, she founded “Woken’ Glacier Theatre Company” with other Actors Studio artists and started producing shows at the New York Fringe Festival and other venues.

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She graduated from the Actors Studio in 2005, and joined the Lincoln Center Directors Lab. The same year, she founded “Theatre Arts Japan,” and by 2006 and 2007 had received the Japan Ministry of Culture’s outbound artist grant. Her credits included “The 7th Disorder” (The Barrow Theatre Group), “Down the Road”, “Audience” (ASDS rep. season) “When we awake” (Here Theatre) “Penguins, Puppies and Porn” and “Tokyo Nostalgia” (New York International Fringe Festival), and produced the staged reading “Japanese and War” (Theatre Arts Japan).

After a decade, she returned to Japan and the performing arts spotlight as a director/translator, receiving in 2010 the Odashima Yushi Award, the prestigious drama-translation honor, and in 2011 the highly prized Yomiuri Drama Award.

She’s presenting “Topdog/Underdog” at the 218-seat Theatre Tram, the smaller of two stages at the Setagaya Public Theatre, a non-profit theatre funded by the city of Setagaya council. Setagaya is the most populous area in central Tokyo. The theatre is located in a 26-story building complex, a major city development that opened in April 1997.

The play then tours to Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagasaki from Jan. 4 to 18.

You can read more about Ogawa in a question-answer session here.