Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 232 of Stageworthy I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy as a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. My guest this week is Teiya Kasahara. As you know, there are many theatres and theatre companies that have shut down their productions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of them have merchandise that you can purchase, which will go a long way to helping them continue to produce work when the crisis is over. One such company is Bad Hats Theatre. Bad Hats is the company behind SoulPepper’s popular Christmas production of Peter Pan, and they have some great merch from t shirts to hats, check them out and buy some merchandise at bad hatstheatre.com.

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As I mentioned, my guest this week is Teiya Kasahara. Teiya stopped by to talk about discord and Din theatres’ Revolt, She Said Revolt Again, which was scheduled to open on April 16. However, like most theatre productions, this production had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But Teiya I talked about the production as well as their journey into opera and creating their own work and so much more. And I really wanted to share that episode with you. So here that is.

what can you tell me about Revolt, She Said Revolt Again, .

Teiya Kasahara
Well, not much, I really haven’t started but so I’ve looked at the script as basically it. They had a, they had like a one day workshop in the winter, which I wasn’t available for it. So I’m not really even sure what’s going to be happening. However, from what little I’ve heard from Jenna, our producer, who’s also in the show as well. That it seems like there’s a lot of flexibility That the director or the production wherever it’s happening, like, for different rebounds, like there’s a lot of potential for creative input, okay for the director for the artists themselves. And there’s some really specific yet open instructions that’s listed in the script. Okay.

Phil Rickaby
Which is neat. And when you say a specific and yet open, what kind of thing do you mean?

Teiya Kasahara
So it says, ideally, a cast of six. Okay. But maybe there’s been other versions where they’ve had fewer actors, because they’re kind of like, broken into various scenes. And there’s no like, john is saying this and Lucy saying that, oh, there’s just a little dash that’s indicated this this person speaking and then when there’s a dash again, it’s another person.

Phil Rickaby
So you can assign those around however you want?

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And

also, another another instruction as well is that a woman should be playing should be in every scene. To kind of I think to I think the I’m just assuming that the the creator like the playwright Alice birch is wanting to have have more female bodies on stage. Yeah, you know, and to really look into a dress. What does it mean to be female in the 21st century to or to be a woman? Yeah. And another thing too, was I gonna say, yeah, so I think Jennifer Tarver, who’s who’s our director, is having a lot of fun kind of figuring out different configurations of these six actors,

Phil Rickaby
which is in between productions, things like the meaning could change depending on who’s completely one that completely listening to me completely.

Teiya Kasahara
Right. And I identify as non binary as well. So I’m curious as to how that will kind of play in with with with these really, like sexist kind of concepts that were there that the plays is attempting to deconstruct and really comment on and critique. Yes, yeah, yeah. Different power dynamics. Yeah another thing too This is a funny direction from the from the creators that like heels should be worn they should be taken off lipstick should be applied it should be reapplied and taken off so and if someone if a woman is getting undressed imagine also get undressed to address the imbalance dress the one to make sure it is balanced. Yeah. So it’s very intentional, yet open and a little bit more free to interpretation. That’s really fascinating.

Phil Rickaby
That’s a fine line to walk for for a writer.

Teiya Kasahara
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. But it really exciting I think for for actors for directors to to have your own personal stamp on something or,

Phil Rickaby
I mean, there’s always I always think about, you know, reading plays that have too much direction. And then Tennessee Williams, for example, and there’s like a paragraph describing everything and I was like, but what about exactly, and yet, to see something that’s so open, as a playwright myself, I don’t think I’ve ever Ever I know I’ve never written anything quite that open. Mm hmm. But it’s fascinating to think about the possibilities that you’re giving to a group of actors and a director.

Teiya Kasahara
Exactly. And that it potentially has like a wider reach like this, this production can have like, it’s a UK production, but it could happen anywhere in the world, you know, and you could really have some, some ownership, you know, some stakeholder shifts and agency as a as a creative person involved with it.

Phil Rickaby
Um, you know, as a as a performer you’re working with with with Nightwood, both as a performer but also as an artistic directing intern is that right?

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah, exactly. So I applied for a grant to the Canada Council and to, to learn and expand my skills in in arts leadership and what that really means being being new to that whole arena of skill set and experience, I would say coming from opera and being primarily a performer and so yeah, I’m I’m learning so much just by being involved with different meetings and being asked for my opinion, being asked to think critically from from different lenses, which is really exciting and, and being privy to what goes on and an everyday situation in a in a theatre company like this. And also what an artistic director is responsible for, like learning all of those, those different interactions that someone would have to what is it those responsibilities as well, right?

Phil Rickaby
What’s the biggest surprise of what an artistic director is responsible for that you didn’t expect?

Teiya Kasahara
I think it hasn’t been like, I guess, too unsurprising because I’ve had a little bit of knowledge, but maybe I think just the amount, I think just the sheer capacity, like how much there is to think about simultaneously and to hold All of that and to give such specific intention to every every aspect like planning your next season planning your three seasons ahead if you’re doing strategic planning or grant writing, you know, for the next three, three years, board meetings, always thinking of donors and that relationship with the company dealing with your artists thinking about the productions that are going on right now. Looking at infrastructure, like in the in the space itself in the in the studio itself, connecting with your staff, making sure you know, having really cultivating those relationships. Yeah, just so much always all all the time all the time all the time. It’s like being an artist director think it’s like being the ultimate multitasker. Wow. You know, and having to hold it all but not let it overwhelm you. And so I yeah, that is I think one big thing that I am learning Okay, just to not let the sheer volume overwhelm but yeah Do your job and be present in whatever meeting you’re in. Whatever interaction you’re having is, you know, from like, the person who picks up your mail and delivers it every day to another artistic director to a performer that you’re trying to, you know, fish line into your, your, your organisation, I don’t know, something like that.

Phil Rickaby
So, before we talk about your origin story, as a performer, and a creator, I want to take a second and talk a little bit about what was your what was the inspiration to start looking into the world of artistic direction? Yeah, that definitely made you want to transition to that. Mm hmm. I think

Teiya Kasahara
I see it as an expansion of my impulses not only as an artist but as a human and wanting to wanting to be involved in making real change in the world. That I felt powerless as just being a performer, or just just an opera singer, like something very narrow in its definition. And that in order to reclaim power that I felt was lost. I wanted to think about, okay, how could I do that? How could I make a difference? How could I be in control of my own artistic expression and creations? Then I started creating works. And then I was like, Okay, well, what’s beyond this in order to create your works, you have to produce them. In order to produce them, you need companies, right? You need infrastructure, you resources. So then that made me think about Okay, so do I start a company? Or do I look at building skills from other companies and looking at what I could I could learn from people and this kind of mentor mentee relationship? Yeah. So that’s where it started. And then I co founded a company called amplified opera. Because we wanted to do something and also trying to Arts Council was like, well, you need a collective to Get a grant. So yes,

you know, you jump through the hoops and see and then you see what happens and then it kind of has opened doors in terms of making me aware of other things I could do with my skill set that wasn’t just performing and being like this precision virtuosic thing. Because that was that’s it’s not a sustainable career. Mm hmm. You know, relying specifically on on artistic and personal fulfilment in performing Mm hmm. And I wanted to honour the other parts of my personality and, and also to, to look at Okay, what can what can something that be more financially sustainable as well? Right, you know, that there is there’s other work adjacent, and also around just strictly performing. Yeah. And I kind of liked having a little bit of power. Not gonna lie. What right and having artistic control over something and having a say and having people be like, Okay, let’s do that and right. With that, as opposed to just kind of doing what you’re told and falling in line,

Phil Rickaby
like, that’s why a lot of people who start making their own work, kind of keep making their own work because it’s hard to go back to falling in line and just doing what you’re told when you’ve put your heart into something in had full creative control and made a thing totally yours

Teiya Kasahara
Totally. But then when you can find projects and opportunities, like revolves, like, I’m so excited, just to like, be an actor, you know, for six weeks and do what I’m told, you know, but to also have it as a collaborative experience, because I know as this the nature of the piece will already be quite collaborative, and it’s needing people to be flexible and on their toes. But also I know the director and I’m excited to work with the other actors as well and just create something new but also structure that is in place, which is the script.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah. So what is your your your artistic already story what made you want to pursue performance? Whether as an actor or an opera singer, or both? Mm hmm.

Teiya Kasahara
Do you have all day?

Phil Rickaby
I have lots of time

Teiya Kasahara
Great, great. So you can edit this down for sure. Um, I just, I love music. I think that’s that that’s the that was my first love was music and being able to, to. How do I how do I phrase this?

Music really spoke to my heart. It made me feel something, and to connect into pop music as a young kid and thinking, Oh, do I want to be a rock star, maybe I do want to do that. And just seeing these people on like much music videos, you know, because we didn’t have the internet back then. Right? And just seeing the joy and that and I know this is a really like overused word, but the authentic like the authenticity in someone, especially of a rock star. Are ya really just inhabiting and being. And that was really exciting for me. But I didn’t have a pop rock voice whatever. I sang in choir, I played saxophone and Concert Band. And I played soccer. But so I went to this music camp at UBC. So I’m from out west. So I grew up and I was 15 that summer. And I stumbled upon Yeah, this music camp and I showed up completely unprepared didn’t bring any music with me. And they wanted everyone to sing the first stage of kind of like, slot where you would fit in with whatever respective teacher. I was like, Okay, well, I have nothing to sing like, I don’t know. And that day, I was listening to like masters, opera, opera students, you know, singing their Arias, like these big Italian songs or other folk songs with these big voices and other semi professional singers. Like what have I gotten myself into I was like, maybe one of like two other teenagers in among this group, everyone else was an adult. But they took us few young ones up to a room and kind of vocalised us and then were able to place us for that week. And I decided, you know what, I’m going to stick this out even though I felt completely like a fish out of water. We stayed in the residence there on campus. We did a lot of like, arts and culture activities. Like we saw a bar on the beach, we saw a Shakespeare play. We saw some other offers on film. And when I saw this, this, this film, this opera, the Magic Flute, it was egmore Bergman’s 1975 I think video of Magic Flute in Swedish notes was being German. It was amazing. It just blew my mind to see classical music, something I’d grown up with, like playing classical piano and seeing some Symphony and stuff like that melded with this amazing capacity to tell a story. And you’ve got all the theatrical production value, you know, the sets and the costumes. And then there’s this added element of TV where Ingmar Bergman was playing with like this really dark side of like, The Queen of the Night turning into like this skeleton kind of thing and then flashing back. And these really big close ups. I don’t know if that was a thing, you know of the 70s to kind of get really close into people’s faces when they’re singing opera, but

Phil Rickaby
I think it was a Bergman thing.

Teiya Kasahara
I – maybe it was a Bergman thing.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. With the 70s you can never really tell

Teiya Kasahara
kind of like an aesthetic of it. Yeah. And it I was hooked. I was like, I have to be a part of this somehow. Either sing this or do something with that. And I started studying, like classical singing specifically, I found a teacher who actually lived in my little city outside of Vancouver and Abbotsford and she was doing her master’s at UBC. And so I started with her whenever she was back in town. And then I applied to UBC I got in, I did my undergrad. I got into the CLC in Toronto, and I moved here when I was 22. And I was just like, Okay, I’m a full on opera singer Here I go, but so naive to the world. Because I had just been like, you know, focusing on opera, and being the soprano of what of what that is and then eventually realised I didn’t know who I was, you know? So I had to really take some time after cboc as a freelancer trying to try to make it, find an agent or find other gigs, and also figuring out okay, who is Taya? Mm hmm. So that was a huge journey for me. That took and it’s still taking many, many years. So like, maybe like, what is that? Yeah, eight years later, figuring out Okay, yeah, I’m gay. Yes, I’m genderqueer. And I’ve been whitewashing myself, haven’t been acknowledging my Japanese heritage at all. And just pushing it all to the side and trying to be what I thought the opera industry wanted me to be someone who’s white, feminine, you know, puts on this image of like this, this very upper elitist class kind of thing. And that’s when I started to write actually, because I needed to find a, like a way that I could voice my frustrate And my challenges and all my hurt and baggage that I had that I had associated with opera and realised Okay, it wasn’t opera because I love to sing and it makes me feel like I can do I can be invincible. I’m singing opera, but it was the industry and the climate surrounding it. So that’s why I wrote a show called The queen in me. And that was as Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. I was in their emerging creators unit. And they just they gave me an opportunity to explore that. And to explore this. This other voice that I had inside of me.

Phil Rickaby
That’s good. I think – so, When you were studying opera you basically you started from being quite young and you just sort of powered straight through straight to the CFC. No time just just yeah, you went right-

Teiya Kasahara
Like Bam, bam, bam, bam. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
I think that’s sort of like the story I hear because I know when I went to theatre school, they were always like, you should take a year off. No way I don’t need to take a year off. I’m straight out of high school, but I know what I want. I know who I am. Yeah. You know, of course. So you go through to school and then you a couple years after Theatre School, most people had some kind of crisis as they tried to figure out something because it was the first time maybe you stopped. Right? And like, we’re out in the world, and yeah, whatever.

Teiya Kasahara
And you left without a safety net? Right. Yeah. Without an institution to kind of hold you.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Yeah. I often wonder about these, these younger kids now who are doing that, but now they’re going from like, they’re going in when they’re like 1718 Yeah, I at least was like 19 when I started Yeah. And I think everybody’s there going through the same thing. But also there’s there’s something about that breathing room. Yes. After the institution where you I think everybody has some kind of crumble. Yeah. Whether or not you struggle with you know who you are as a person or whether this is still something you want to do. Was was the time at Buddies The first time that you thought about writing,

Teiya Kasahara
I had always written, like, in my teenage hood, I was writing, I was writing songs. But when I discovered opera, I just closed the door to a lot of that creative impulse. And I had, yeah, like, I grew up playing a guitar and writing songs and singing stuff in my basement and, and I loved writing essays, you know, in university for whatever, whatever capacity that needed to be. But I guess it was the first time that I formally or publicly put myself out there to be like, I’m gonna apply for this programme that is an opera. And it’s about creating something that have to be accountable to someone else. And that was a big lesson too. Like I learned that I need external account like motivation and to be accountable to someone in order to get something done.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, I wrote a solo show for eight years before I finally was like, I think I need to perform this otherwise it’s never going to be finished right. You need something, some accountability. Whether is to an audience or to an organisation to make yourself exactly something. This the show the queen in me. That was not just opera. There was like opera to it.

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah, so there’s opera involved, but all of the original part of it is all text. So it’s a monologue after monologue and different types of monologues. And it kind of just flows freely from opera into monologue, and then it breaks out into song again, and then it flows back into monologue. And then sometimes there’s monologue overtop of operatic music. So the music is underscoring and it just became this this big weave weave of Yeah, opera, opera and text. Hmm, yeah, that this journey, which is the Queen of the Night, going back to that original offer that I saw as a kid breaks out of the norm of being depicted always as a two dimensional evil, ambitious Emotional, irrational woman, you know, and really takes the time and space to advocate not only for female opera singers but for female characters that have come before her and asked her her and ultimately for the opera singer who’s playing her in that moment, just me. Yeah

Phil Rickaby
When you the decision to actually put yourself out there and right after so long of not not doing it, what was the what was the that emotional journey? Like, were you? Were you afraid? Did it feel freeing? Like all of that?

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah. Yeah, totally like, and I still feel a little bit afraid, but maybe a little bit less afraid. And I think it’s more afraid of what people think what the opera industry thinks. And that’s something that I’m still shedding and it’s It feels great to like to shed another layer like every day when I clock when I clock that. I’m like, Yeah, I don’t care what they think, you know, just gonna be me. But and a lot With that fear shedding or being afraid, then the freedom comes, you know, to be like, this is something that I made that I thought of, and then I get to have ownership over, as opposed to just performing something by some dead white composer from like 100 or 200 years ago, that there’s all this tradition and all this baggage associated with Yeah, and something that I don’t necessarily, personally today in 2020 connect with anymore because you’ve got like, someone who’s very hetero and white, and maybe really privileged that it’s just like, we don’t live like that anymore. Yeah, Toronto. Yeah, you know, we’re many places really many places. Exactly.

Phil Rickaby
You feel like those, those those layers of like, what the industry thinks you should be. Those are like foundational things that you learned early on, or they just because of your time in the CFC or, or where do those come from because it sounds like they become deeply ingrained.

Teiya Kasahara
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, it’s, I don’t think it’s anything I was explicitly taught, you know, that it’s like, everything is like this, and you have to behave like this. But it all did become very ingrained, because everyone around my age or a little bit older, who was an opera singer, he knows what I’m talking about, in terms of, they were, they were conditioned that way they were taught that way in schools, like in institutions and universities or conservatories. From the general opera community at large, you know, you have a very kind of like, certain demographic, who the majority, that majority is going to be of a certain age of a certain ethnicity of a certain socio economic class with certain values, maybe certain political slants, which you start to like take on as your own because you’re involved than that art form something that that is so encompassing and not just like, this is my job. This is my vocation. Yeah. Because they expect you to commit so much of your life and all of your choices. Commit so much of your life to opera because those choices affect like, how good of a singer you know, and your success is determined so, so much based on Yeah, like how you appear, not necessarily how good your voices but like who you know what you look like, what your background is, what your breeding is, you know, whatever that term is. Yeah, grooming, breeding, breeding. Yeah, it’s pretty fucked up. But

Phil Rickaby
I mean, some of those, those those lessons, though they wouldn’t. It’s not the kind of thing anybody has to say. They get ingrained just by repetition and seeing how other people behave. Yeah, I remember when I was in theatre school back in the in the early We were aside from being terrified all the time we were, it was very clear. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t, don’t, don’t make the wrong choice. Don’t do the wrong thing. Just be, you know, be be good. Just be good and follow follow line exam follow in line. Exactly. You know, it down to the point where we were at that point. Nobody was talking about ever, like creating your own material. Hmm. That was that was something that you did if you couldn’t make it. Right say if you can’t do that maybe you can do fringe.

Teiya Kasahara
Ah, no. Well, they in our industry, it’s it’s a well, maybe you’ll teach

Phil Rickaby
Oh. So suddenly I feel like that, that that’s a bit worse,

Teiya Kasahara
in a way but i think it’s it’s really, it’s a really sad way in which we we see teachers in our industry because those are the ones that are bringing up the next generations. Yeah, you know, and we need to value teachers more Opera, because they’re the ones with the direct connection if this art form is going to live or die and have like, more and more singers and directors or conductors or whatever, yeah, you know, anyway, so that we we need good teachers, we don’t want better teachers who couldn’t make it right. as singers. You know, we want people who really see the value in teaching and and making that connection with another young minds. You know, So.

Phil Rickaby
Did – your teacher was your mentor, when you were younger, that were they that engaged.

Teiya Kasahara
Ah, my mentor when I was younger, she was doing like 10 jobs for like as one person. She was running the School of Music. She was directing all of the operas. She was fundraising because they barely gave the opera department any money. So she was getting private donors and funders to help us make like a bigger name for ourselves. She was then she had a voice studio, then like there was just so many things she was doing well, you know, and also She was the university Marshal at 1.2. So doing a lot of like ceremonies and things. So I think it was really, really tough for her to really just focus on Okay, cultivating healthy students, mind body and soul and not just okay, you can sing those notes. Great, good for you. And you know how to act on stage. And she she had a huge career in Germany for like 20 years or so unknown, but she was a fast singer, which meant she had like a fixed contract because they have full time jobs in Germany, right? Like, it’s almost like a school teacher. You go from September to June or something, you get your holidays paid. Like it’s crazy. People really value opera there. So she had so many skills and talents that she was able to pass on to her students. But it was more about the craft. Yeah, like that was the the main focus was to be like a good opera singer, to be the best you could be because as a soprano, you have to compete against so many more people than you would if you were a tenor. Right, or bass or something, right. Hmm. Or even a mezzo soprano. Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby
You mentioned as you were you were talking about the discoveries you were making about who you were about starting to embrace your Japanese side. Was that something that had always been put to the wayside? And in what ways? Have you been sort of exploring the Japanese side?

Teiya Kasahara
Mm hmm. Yeah. Because my parents separated when I was a kid.

And then I was kind of estranged from my father in my teenagehood. And then he passed away when I was 19. I didn’t – and then because of there was a lot of sadness around that right a lot of grief. I didn’t. Basically my whole 20s so for like, I would say 10 years, and even before that, too, right? Because it was just easy to not deal with it. I didn’t put any effort or energy into exploring what that meant. Like I had this Japanese Name. I sort of looked Japanese depending if my hair was short or long or whatever if I had makeup on or not, or if someone saw in me or, or didn’t. Yeah, and I never corrected people when they would anglicise my name too. It was just like it was just easier to blend in. But that really started to hurt me when someone told me at a party once they were getting to know me for the first time, and they had been to Japan and I hadn’t ever been to Japan at this point. This was maybe about four years ago, five years ago. And she’s like, Oh, well, you’re not really Japanese. And I was like, What gives you the right to tell me that I’m not Japanese, you know? So that I think really lit a fire in me. Yeah, you know, made me so angry, so upset and all these things. And because of that on it and also tying into wanting, wanting to create and wanting to invest To gate more of my more of my, my history in my relationship with opera, and then wanting to go beyond that, like what else like, Well, my gender, my race, how I fit into this world, it led me down the path of like, I really need to know who my father was, you know, and what that meant for him being an immigrant coming to Canada in his late 20s, you know, and not ever being fully understood or seen by people in this country. Yeah, you know, and facing racism and facing discrimination. And so I wanted to unpack that more, because Also, I’m not just like a white Canadian that can just fit into any white space, you know, privilege space as well. And looking at holding that duality of being Japanese and being half white. And then when I went to Japan, I wasn’t seen as Japanese there either, huh? Because they have such homogenous culture and a history of that, that if you grew up outside of Japan, even if you’re like, you’re more Japanese than me, like DNA wise that Yeah, they see you as foreigners. You know, they my family in Japan saw me as Canadian. So, to look at all of those, those different angles of even holding my queerness in Japan, like what did that mean? For me as well? Can I come out to my cousin’s? Can I come up to my uncle? Like, I don’t know, like, is this appropriate? Is it not by me disrespecting them? Would I be? Would it be accepted? Because I’m Canadian in their eyes and not Japanese, even though we share the same DNA? Like, so many different questions. I started, um, I started investigating, but being able to just hold that space that I have a unique Japanese or half Japanese experience that my experience is still valid. Yeah, you know, and then it’s Important to investigate and important to, to hold and it’s okay that I’m that I’m early on in my journey of knowing that of knowing who I am, you know, and whatever, whatever that wherever that journey takes me will be what it’s going to be and I don’t need to be like, Okay, I know how to speak Japanese perfectly now and I’ve been to all the places in Japan, you know what I mean? And now I hold all this Japanese culture like in my life in Toronto, like, it’s not about that end goal. But it’s, it’s beautiful when I can connect it back to to my father and those memories and that heritage. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
Have you been able to put that into your work yet?

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah. So that’s my second project.

Phil Rickaby
Tell me about that.

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah, it’s it’s still in really in its beginning stages, I think because it’s requiring so much more mental and emotional space as well as like physical time and physical space to like really investigate. So it’s called Yoda. nicknaming the project Yoda Which means night in Japanese. And I’ve taken it as a spin off from Yoda no jewel, which is the Japanese word for the Queen of the Night. So as I was expanding the queen in me a few years ago, maybe like a year and a half ago, this whole other narrative and character started to emerge, and it wasn’t really jiving with Queen and me it wasn’t like connecting. So I kind of extracted it, plopped it on the table and said, okay, you just hold there for a second finished Queen and me. And then I have this big mess of like feelings and words. You know, and, and all this like, nebulous, yeah, gooey mess of stuff. So with that, I’ve been exploring utilising Taiko Japanese drumming in my practice, and and being able to unpack and kind of sort through that mess and also, I’m looking at a lot of my father’s writings like he was a minister and the Japanese United Church. But he was also a poet and a writer and he wrote both in Japanese and in English more so in Japanese. And he was published and I had no idea until I did some research and and talk to some of his friends just last year about this because I really had no idea like what he was up to, you know, kind of in his private creative space and yeah, he had a pen name. It’s called He called on pen which means he go is the ancient word for the city from where he was from Niigata. And Dawn 10 means like, kind of like thunderous or cloudy ominous weather. So this kind of like, cloudy, ominous thing and then situating and situating yourself in that city. And I was there in March It was very rainy and very cold kind of like a really cold wintery Vancouver day. Like that call that that gets you right in the bones and stuff like that. Yeah. So anyway, just really Like put me in his mindset like where he was kind of kind of coming from. So I have some of this, this material that I still need to translate as well. And then a lot of a lot of text that is in a very raw new stage, which is exploring a lot of these dualities with these binaries that I’m holding simultaneously that seem and often do contradict each other like this Japanese masculine, paternal side of myself, which incorporates I think the Tyco in the piece, you know, which is very physical and also something that has a lot of traditional maleness attached to it. Even though I play with raging Asian women, Taiko drummers, and we’re a female East Asian identified Group here in Toronto, right. So there’s that like dichotomy and then also holding like my mother, she was born in Germany, so this like German feminine operatic side as well and holding that in this non Binary identity. So unlike Okay, that’s another big project. It’s a big pile of stuff. big pile of stuff there. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
I’m fascinated because the way that it seems like the Queen of the Night has become a theme for you. Since you saw that film. It’s In fact, it’s it’s sort of like, inspiring both of these pieces of yours.

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah, totally, totally.

Phil Rickaby
This early influence really seems to have have imprinted on your mind in a very,

Teiya Kasahara
on a very deep level. Mm hmm. Which is really neat to be able to circle back to, because I did sing a lot of Queen of the nights like early in my opera career. And I was getting pigeonholed, like being like, well, if you can sing the high up, so just go to Germany and just get a bunch of work and they’ll just keep hiring you back and then eventually you’ll be able to pick what you want to sing. But when you keep doing production after production, and they just kind of keep doing Missing, you’d be like, okay, you’re fine. We’ll just make just more evil no more sexy. Gotta want it more, you know, these kinds of really just like flippant directions from directors who aren’t wanting to investigate and more because the whole opera is really sexist. Yeah, like looking. I don’t know if you know, Magic Flute, I don’t know. But it’s like basically you’ve got this male brotherhood sect, which is all about light and illumination and wisdom, and it’s all light and blah, blah, blah, and that everyone is trying to like, put the darkness aside which is associated with feminine the moon, emotion, you rationality, ambition, all of these these negative things to come into this light and be illuminated and these Yeah, anyway.

A lot of symbolism.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, sounds like it like very, yeah. But I mean, it’s also got all of that. All of that history of like, this is how we’ve always done it. Mm hmm. Sort of tradition. Yeah, it must be hard. To shake in a production

Teiya Kasahara
yeah and like many, many directors in the past I would say 30 years I’ve started to really shake things up and really tip things onto their heads and whether whether they make sense or not, you know, they The show goes on, you know, and I think opera on a general level is still kind of placed on this pedestal. So we haven’t brought it down enough yet to the earth where we can look at it from more contemporary critical lens like I’m talking about like, like mass level like on a ground level to to really critique it and presented it in a way that will provoke more conversation. You know, about the issues today so

Phil Rickaby
what I think a lot of that like to me I I honestly have never been to an opera. The only reason I know any operas is because of Bugs Bunny, and

Teiya Kasahara
yeah, that was me too as a kid.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. And so I feel like there’s the barrier in opera is the fact that people a lot of people don’t go to it. Yeah. And only if you think sometimes like I think maybe I’ll go to the opera and then I look at prices I’m like, if you go to the opera Yeah, you know, and I think if more people could go we could have more of these conversations about planning what these things mean.

Teiya Kasahara
Completely it’s inaccessible in a lot of levels you know, especially to be able to consume it at a rate that we consume Theatre in the city Yes, yeah. You go to you go to I don’t know much about the Met but I know in like Vienna or less Gala. In Europe, you can get like a really cheap ticket for like eight euros or 10 euros the day of Yeah. And you might have to look around like a pillar because you’re stuck in this kind of weird angle, like in terms of your viewpoint of the stage, but it’s 10 euros. You know, that’s accessible. And you’ve got world class musicians and all of the Alda like a giant season showing like 30 to 40 Productions per year and a show on almost every night. Yeah. But in this city, like, it’s different. And that’s all it’s all because of funding. Yeah. You know,

Phil Rickaby
it really is. Well, I mean, in Europe, they, what the company I work for, we have a German office, and whenever the guy who runs the German office comes over here, he talks about the way that that the arts are funded in in Germany, and how there’s something always going on because they are they just keep putting money into the arts, Tony, and it’s affordable because they keep they see it as something that’s worth funding. keep giving pennies to the arts. Yeah. As far as governments go, so

Teiya Kasahara
Exactly. Well, their taxes are also higher, too.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah.

Teiya Kasahara
You know, but I think there there is a lot there are a lot of people wanting to make opera more accessible. You know, we have talented Opera has been around celebrated 40 years this season. And they are the leaders in contemporary Opera in this city and maybe one of the leaders in the world to creating producing contemporary opera. And they’re, I know they’re they’re making a lot of efforts trying to make their, their, their art form, their organisation more accessible to people like not only in price, but in terms of venue in terms of engaging with certain communities that that might that might not even know what opera is, you know, and being exposed to it and wanting to invite people in and draw people in. And then we have a huge indie opera scene in this city as well. I think there’s like 13 or 14 companies alone just in this city. And then there’s more across the country more definitely out like the Vancouver area. Yeah, creating their own projects where you can get cheap artwork or tickets you can get and usually an average price to see a to see an indie opera is maybe around 20 to $30 So there is a lot going on that, that it feels like, kind of my generation has been like, well, we’re not getting hired by these big companies because there’s only five in Canada. Yeah, we may as well make our own work. Yeah. You know, and, and really make something that is provocative and, and challenges and critiques the status quo and the stereotypes of opera, because we all love it. Like it all drew us in there for a reason.

But it’s how can we also let other people know how awesome it is? You know,

Phil Rickaby
I think an industry that has an indie scene is a healthy industry. Mm hmm. If you didn’t have that, then you just have these five companies doing the same things and nobody doing anything really interesting. Yeah, I think really challenging. So it’s good to hear there’s this this great NDC have to look out and find more of that. Is it the indie scene that you’re aware of is it is relatively new?

Teiya Kasahara
No, I would say it started against the grain. theatre is probably the first indie company that started about 10 years ago or so. And then from there other ones started to pop up like opera five is really big. They have this whole series on YouTube called opera cheats, where they break down an opera in two minutes. And they, they actually hire like opera singers of the city to act out these roles like in really comedic fun ways. And then the head of the company, the the previous head of the company, she would kind of narrate the in between stuff. So you get these really fun little comedic snippets and summaries of operas, and those have gone viral. Yeah, so they’re getting like a global reach. And and then now we have all these other companies that kind of have different focuses in what they want to do, how they want to present what they’re presenting. And the latest one, I guess, is amplified opera, which is the one that I’ve co founded with Aria, whom as our who used to actually run out for five. And we’re centering equity seeking artists within the industry because there really isn’t any company that explicitly has that in their mind. You know, and because it’s a really hot conversation right now to look at diversity inclusivity equity within the arts. Yeah, we really wanted to bring that conversation over to opera too. And I feel like the Indus opera industry is is is catching up, like theatre has made much more gains. And we have a lot to learn, like the opera industry has a lot to learn from, from theatre. So, hopefully with more conversation across these disciplines, and more collaborations, I think, across these disciplines, like, for example, expanding the definition of opera, you know, integrating theatre into opera, integrating opera into theatre, we could see, we could see a lot more strides being made. Yeah, and more opportunities for people to Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. It always found it interesting that there’s opera as this separate thing, and musical theatre as a separate thing and there are these certain shows that seem Like they’re opera, but they’re not like Sweeney Todd, for example, seems like an opera. And yet, it’s considered musical theatre. Mm hmm. And and

Teiya Kasahara
how do you see that? It’s like an opera. I’m curious as to what you think

Phil Rickaby
in that it’s sung through, for one thing.

Teiya Kasahara
Okay.

Phil Rickaby
Um, it’s sung through. And I think, like, there’s no breaks, there’s no dialogue. No, the music doesn’t stop music doesn’t stop. It stops a couple of times, but it is pretty much song through a couple of moments of dialogue. But also, it’s operatic, and then it’s big and little over the top. Mm hmm. And like that, you know, I think, to me, I think they seem separate and yet. Mm hmm. I think that they’re only separate in

Teiya Kasahara
their marketing campaigns?

Like, and their audience like who goes to it?

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah.

Teiya Kasahara
Well, yeah. And I think That’s a really interesting point you make because it is operatic in its scale. In terms of like, I would say, most musicals you see being produced today are operatic and scale. like they’ve got giant budgets. Yes, huge sets. You’ve got stars on stage, like actors from Hollywood, are playing these characters on Broadway. And they’ve got really, really great stories, you know, and powerful messages sometimes. And tour de force types of singing, yet it’s amplified. Yeah, it’s a completely different technique. Mm hmm. So if you didn’t look at like, the technical output in terms of what the vocal technique needed, it could be seen as opera. Yeah, because opera really just means work in Italian. Hmm, that’s the only thing of where it came from. And I guess because it has been it, it originated from this like western classical music that we hold as like one of the high arts. Right? That that’s what maybe is different. renovating opera from musical theatre and then also to the fact that it’s not amplified. And the voices are much louder and they have a much wider range. And they’re singing with a completely with a very specific and very different technique from musical theatre.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Yeah. So,

Teiya Kasahara
yeah, but really, there’s a lot of similarities. Yeah. Yeah. And then, now I feel like there’s a whole other sub genre evolving, that I call Music Theatre. Mm hmm. That it’s like you’ve got something that isn’t quite an opera. It isn’t quite theatre. It might sort of have kind of quasi operatic singing, yet some of the singing isn’t that operatic in nature, it’s gonna be more in a, I wouldn’t say music, musical theatre, because it has a very specific aesthetic that you go to specific conservatories and schools to learn how to sing that way for a microphone. But it has maybe softer edge to it a more accessible edge in that you’d see more people have the ability to sing in that in that style.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know.

Teiya Kasahara
It’s all just kind of like a big blur. But it is great to be able to see artists flexing through all of those genres because I have opera singer friends who were singing on Broadway in New York, and then they come back and they start doing an opera show, you know, and early on I was told you know, don’t do that just do one type of singer because you’re a gonna wreck your voice or PII, you’re gonna be you’re gonna confuse people. But I don’t know, I think in this kind of this kind of economy this age, we need to be adaptable. We need to be flexible. Yeah. And that’s why I started to get into acting too. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
the whole idea of confusing people. That’s cool. Another one of the things they always said was like, just to, if you’re gonna do something else, do that, but never tell anybody that can do more than one thing. Make sure everybody knows you’re an actor to let them know that you’re you’re also a carpenter or that you do stage combat or any of this stuff. Just do that. You don’t want to confuse them.

Teiya Kasahara
Or you don’t want them to think that you’re not taking it seriously. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. And yet, now I talk to people and they’re all of the things, you know, they are stage combat. They’re intimacy directors, they’re, they’re actors. They’re also singers. They also do carpentry stage managers set decoration,

Teiya Kasahara
totally

Phil Rickaby
Personal Training, or yoga or, and they can be all of those things.

Teiya Kasahara
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
And I think it’s, you know, the ability to go from the COC to a show on Broadway and back again, just is more opportunity.

Teiya Kasahara
Hmm. And I think maybe also more personal fulfilment. Yeah, like you can just get a variety of experiences in your life as opposed to just doing one thing for the rest of your life. I don’t know that also made me really sad to thinking okay, I only can do this one thing and be really unit focused and not have a backup plan or a plan B. You know, that was one thing too. I was like, nope, don’t have a plan B, just go for it. Yeah. You know, but then, when things started to get tough, and I wasn’t understood by the industry, I had to reevaluate. Yeah, yeah. So,

Phil Rickaby
yeah. Thank you so much. It’s been a great conversation.

Teiya Kasahara
Thank you.

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