Directing Ōta Shōgo’s Elements: From Form to Body


  • Peter Lichtenfels University of California, Davis


Peter Lichtenfels and Ōta Shōgo co-worked on the play Plastic Rose (1994) and had an understanding that there was no “pure” way of “doing Japanese theatre.” Ōta presented Lichtenfels with scripts of many of his plays and asked him to continue directing them. Through a study of two of Lichtenfels’ productions of Ōta’s play Elementsone produced in Davis, California (2017) and the other in Bogotà, Colombia (2018)—this essay explores insights arising from different theatre practices, some of the resonances, and three key issues of theatre directing that Ōta explores at a meta level in the play. With Elements, producing something on stage in the spirit of a different culture became a confidence that theatre bodies can work, within their contemporary possibilities or constraints, with the verbal, visual, and sound records of other embodied cultures. The scripts, those bodies, their voices, and their movements are resources on which transcultural theatre needs to draw before it happens into meaning.

Author Biography

Peter Lichtenfels, University of California, Davis

Peter Lichtenfels is a German Canadian theatre director and dramaturge who has committed his artistic career to intercultural theatre and performance. As artistic director at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, he developed the drama of the new Scots renaissance in the 1980s. As executive and artistic director of the Leicester Haymarket in the 1980s and 1990s, he supported the growth of international theatre and the theatre of migrancy in the UK. From the 1990s to today, he has worked professionally directing intercultural productions in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. As professor emeritus of theatre and dramatic arts at the University of California, Davis, he specializes in intercultural directing techniques for plays ranging from early modern to current theatre scripts from around the world.