By Gemma Villanueva (Fukushima-ken, 2008-11), editor for the JETAA Ottawa Newsletter. Visit the Canadian chapter’s website here for more stories. Written and photo submissions are always welcome. Please contact the editors at newsletter[at]jetaaottawa[dot]ca.
The Canadian play “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is giving its farewell performances as creators-performers Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt retire from the show. “2P4H” follows the youngsters “Ted” and “Richard” as they tackle their love-hate relationship with piano lessons, exams and recitals. In January, “2P4H” played at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The show, which made a three-week stop in Tokyo in 2004, finds itself again in Japan this May.
Colin Rivers (Nara-ken JET, 1997-2000) is now the Theatre Producer/Agent for Marquis Entertainment, which produces “2 Pianos 4 Hands.” I had the chance to ask him about his time on JET, life as a producer and bringing 2 Pianos 4 Hands back to Japan.
What is it like to be a producer?
“A Producer manages the business behind the show. A General Manager does the same thing, but without the risk and the pressure to find the money. A New York theatre blogger sums it up perfectly… “Producers do everything! We are the bank, the therapist, the negotiator, the scapegoat, the creative, and we rarely get credit! I should add it’s awesome. Because I think it is.”
How was your JET experience been relevant to producing?
“The JET experience strengthened my communication skills immensely. It taught me how to adapt my way of communicating with individuals and groups based on the ‘culture’ of the relationship/environment. It taught me that communication is not always about how much you can say in words. In Japan, I produced and directed three community theatre productions that were supported by the Nara Prefectural Government. They involved both JETS and Japanese friends/community members. And they were lots of fun!”
What’s a typical day for you as a producer?
“Every day is entirely different. I start each morning by reviewing my 10-page long ‘to-do list’ and figuring out what the most critical items are – and then do them – the key things that MUST get done for me to be able to leave work satisfied and sane and at a reasonable hour (so that I can enjoy my night with my family). It’s a mix of behind the desk/email, working in the theatre/venue, and being out having meetings/communicating with people.”
Any memorable anecdotes?
“I still remember the afternoon 2002 when I reached out (through the cold medium of an email) to a very respected translator of English plays into Japanese and asked him if he had ever heard of a play called “2 Pianos 4 Hands.” He replied within 10 minutes with great enthusiasm, and from there he went on to work with me to broker the tour partnership with one of Japan’s largest theatre companies (Shochiku) for a 2004 tour. And here I am, answering these questions from a hotel in Tokyo in 2012 as we prepare for a revival tour to Tokyo and throughout Japan later this spring. Sometimes you just have to ask…”
Could you tell us about the revival tour of 2P4H to Japan?
“My hope is that it’s a big hit again and that through this opportunity, we’ll be able to continue working with Shochiku to develop a Japanese team who can perform the show again in the future. I would also like to see the show be produced commercially in China and Korea with new performing teams.
I still remember the opening night in 2004. The audience responded politely, but was very reserved compared to what the performers of 2P4H are accustomed to. After the show, the two actors were very concerned that the show wasn’t received overly well, but then our Japanese co-producer came bounding backstage saying that he’d almost never seen such an enthusiastic response to a show. And that’s when we learned it was a hit and that Japanese audiences, as with all different cultures, will respond in their own way.”
Any advice for aspiring producers?
“Just get out there and produce a show – something within your community or at a fringe festival. Figure out what’s involved by working on as many projects as possible that requires mostly time and energy (as opposed to financial risk) and develop your own process.”2 Pianos 4 Hands
Tickets, tour dates and more info can be found on www.2pianos4hands-japan.com. Watch a show in Tokyo, Sendai, Nagoya and Osaka this May.