ABOUT THE PLAY
Tohoku, the northeastern region of Japan, is known for its bountiful nature. Mostly agricultural and sparsely populated, there are beautiful mountains, rivers, and coastlines everywhere to be seen.
On February 13, 2021, there was a magnitude 7 earthquake that struck the Tohoku region. The unsettling “emergency earthquake alert” rang through televisions, smart phones, and the radio. Seismologists have identified this as an “aftershock” of the Great East Japan Earthquake from 10 years ago. For the people living there, it was a harrowing reminder of that triple disaster on March 11, 2011—an earthquake measuring over a magnitude of 9, a tsunami that engulfed a 620 mile stretch of the coast, reaching a mile inland at places, and a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima that will take generations to clean up. Approximately 20,000 people lost their lives, and 40,000 are still displaced from their homes after 10 years.
Clippy & Ms. U was first produced in Japan shortly after the 3/11 disaster. The story follows three people, all looking for a “Ms. U.” Each of them is searching for her separately and knows only that she’s from a town in Fukushima, infamous for the oddball “Clippy,” who cuts out newspaper clippings and scatters them everywhere. The play examines loss and longing—of human connection and home. We follow the characters as they learn the beauty and history of the region through news headlines and poetry. The three encounter each other along the way and discover they’re all looking for Ms. U. But who is Ms. U? This question demands they face a reality they’d rather not.
Reversing the course of time, Clippy & Ms. U examines the complex layers of home, nature, technology, and human longing in the context of devastating loss. Presented in partnership with Japan Playwrights Association, Tohoku Branch.
This process was a search in the dark for a way to create theater on short notice in a world where “normal” is no more.
Last month I received an email from Kuramochi Hiroyuki, a playwright in Japan, asking if I could organize a reading of an English version of a Japanese play. The Japan Playwrights Association was putting together an event to commemorate the 10-year mark of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Being from the region myself, I immediately said yes. But. We are in the midst of a pandemic and the reading was supposed to be ready to stream by mid-February. How could I make this happen?
When you’re stuck with a problem, you consult friends. So, I called Ralph Peña at Ma-Yi to see if he had any advice. Much to my delight, he said Ma-Yi would love to come on board for the project. We could use Ma-Yi Studios, which they launched in response to the pandemic lockdown. The cast and crew were equally eager to join in solidarity with their counterparts in Japan. Natsu Onoda Power in D.C. offered her brilliant aesthetic to create the model. Jennifer Ikeda lent her talent from the West Coast. Ann Harada, Olivia Oguma (doing double duty as editor), and Thom Sesma were all game to come into the studio, one at a time, to act off the others calling in on Zoom. Sam Cowan and Zack Lobel lent their expertise with just days’ notice.
This whole process has reaffirmed the beauty of theater, an art form born of collaboration. I am deeply grateful to all.
–James Yaegashi, Director
Please support our artists. Donate directly to their Venmo Accounts by clicking the yellow highlighted text next to their names. Thank you.
Ann Harada | Performer
Jennifer Ikeda | Performer
Thom Sesma | Performer
Olivia Oguma | Performer
James Yaegashi | Director
Natsu Onoda Power | Model Art, B Roll Footage
Olivia Oguma | Editor
Kamel Boutros | Music Composition, Recording
Sam Cowan | Director of Photography
Alex Kesner | Stage Manager
Zack Lobel | Additional Edits
Kawata Yasumasa | Original Translation