Matthew Ozawa, Founder and Artistic Director of Mozawa talk with Brian Knall of the Japanese Culture Center.
I went to meet with Mozawa’s Artistic direct, Matthew Ozawa, about the upcoming production of Fallen running this Halloween weekend. I entered through a black door with white polka dots that was sandwiched between two businesses. After climbing up two flights of stairs, I was cordially greeted by Fallen’s Stage Manager who let me into the rehearsal room.
Ozawa was in the midst of leading the cast through a Suzuki exercise, but he kindly stepped aside to introduce himself to me and introduce me to the cast. After finishing the exercises they set up for the prologue. During the set up I met Mozawa’s executive director and Fallen’s producer Jodi Gage who encouraged me to sit in one of the audience chairs rather than watch from afar.
I was blown away by the movement work of the cast. The elements of Japanese culture embedded in the movements, combined with their great ensemble work kept me wanting to see more. Even though the prologue did not have text I have high hopes based off the work I’ve seen. But the best part may have been Ozawa’s directing style. He clearly had a strong relationship with his cast members, evident by the jokes and stories he shared. He danced with members to work out choreography, and he drew comparisons to help visualize the movement, including a parallel to a baseball pitcher and batter. He also named movements, one of which was so popular it evolved into a chant as the actors repeated the movement again and again.
Over the break I was able to briefly speak with some of the cast members. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and had a playful sense of humor. Even Fallen’s oldest cast member who, if my patchwork math is correct, isn’t even 30 yet!
Next I sat down with Ozawa himself and began to learn more about the inner workings of the production. The tale of Fallen, which was popularized by the Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s short story “In a grove” and adapted to the film “Rashomon” dates back as far as 300BC, yet the story still resonates with today’s audiences. Depicting seven people’s experiences with a single event, this tale illuminates the different facets of people. Each angle reveals a new perspective that complicates how you previously viewed them. This is particularly relevant to anyone who engages with social media where they project a certain image of themselves or interpret a particular image of others. Furthermore, Fallen’s soundscape engrosses audiences with selections by an electronic sound artist, live music by a koto performer, and sounds made with the body innate to human nature.
Mozawa’s unique combination of theatre, dance, and music works to blur the boundaries between these forms. Ozawa has travelled around the world studying various art forms, but being unable to find a space where they merged together successfully, he created his own. Fallen is the show where everything comes together and I encourage everyone to go see it! I know I will!
— Brian Knall