What kind of image comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘play’? According to the basic conventions of the play, we know that actors exaggerate their lines and move in front of a spectacularly decorated background. The background changes depending on the situation, and sometimes the actors' makeup and costumes also change. However, some plays question such conventions by showing the characters' daily conversations in one background. One such play is the Hirata Oriza’s play 'The Scientifically Minded'. Students from the Department of Theater, CAU wrapped up their Spring performance with success by staging the play ‘The Scientifically Minded’. What was the play 'Scientific Mind' trying to convey to the audience by showing the characters’ daily conversation?
1. Hirata Oriza: the Author of the Play
Hirata Oriza, the author of ‘The Scientifically Minded,’ is known not only in Japan but also in other countries abroad as a representative of modern Japanese plays. Before his appearance as a playwright in the 1990s, 'Japanese plays' were usually extreme and noisy. In contrast, Oriza’s plays were very quiet, focusing more on the daily lives of characters than on dramatic stories, and taking the inner side of humans as his subject matter. Oriza has thus pioneered a new field of Japanese drama.
Hirata Oriza carried the daily lives of the Japanese on stage. His plays do not have only one subject matter, but they often dig deep into the identity of modern Japanese. His world of directing has gradually gained support from all around the world. His representative works include ‘Tokyo Note’ and ‘Seoul Citizens’, as well as ‘The Scientifically Minded’ series, and he is constantly expanding his creative field.
2. Realistic Representation of an Ordinary Life
The play shows realistic daily lives of a total of 16 characters. No artificial theatrical effects have been used, and the play only reflects the rest of the characters in the lounge near the lab. This is the intention of Hirata Oriza. The play 'The Scientifically Minded' has completely broken the existing rules of play. The actors' voice tone was not the usual 'play tone,' and the spoken words of everyday life were used on stage. Each character was busy talking to others and they even showed their backs to the audience. You may think that these factors can interfere with the audience's concentration, but not at all. Rather, the audience could have been completely immersed in the play by looking at a scene that is no different from their daily lives. No dramatic situation occurs in the play, which lasts about 90 minutes. As usual, there is only a small story. This play is so similar to our daily life that people do not think there is a written script for the play.
3. Science in the Play
Many people think that 'plays' usually have only a humanities personality. However, the play ‘The Scientifically Minded’ is about science, as you can see from the title. The setting of the play is at a research institute at a university in Japan, where most characters are also researchers. Since they are all members of an experiment to evolve monkeys, science-related dialogue is inevitable. The story of genetic engineering shared by researchers in various fields makes the audience think about it. The audience must have gone through the process of asking themselves questions and thinking about the problems of modern science that are being discussed so far, such as human evolution and animal testing.
However, the play is not made to instill scientific knowledge to the audience. ‘Science’ in the play is simply used to indicate that the characters are currently working on a giant bioscience project. We can see them agonizing and amused by the little things such as the failure of love and the delay of experimentation though they might change the human history.
4. Evolving Human
The characters in the play work on a project designed to evolve monkeys into humans. Their explanation of evolution is very grand: stopping the growth of monkeys but making their brain similar to that of humans. However, evolution does not just mean a big change. Any change in feelings or trivial resolution that occurs after a day is also an evolution. The characters in the play evolve by talking to the person next to them and thinking together. As such, we are evolving by the people around us and the environment we are in. In other words, we are all in the middle of an evolution.
The play 'The Scientifically Minded' contains a very mundane story. The topic of conversation is also not grand enough that it makes the audience feel they are looking at an actual day in the life of researchers. However, the still-flowing play makes viewers think in complex ways. This seems to be the intention of the play 'The Scientifically Minded'. Students in the Department of Theater at Chung-Ang University who participated in the play, and the audience who watched it, may have all evolved to another level.
Dates: 2019.02.28 ~ 2019.03.02
Place: Space1959 Chung-Ang University Performance Art Academy
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