News & Articles
2005-2006, Volume 1
Letter from the Artistic Director on after the quake.
by Martha Lavey
Haruki Murakami’s after the quake is a collection of six stories written in 2000. The title of the collection refers to the Kobe earthquake of 1995, and in each of the stories, the earthquake serves as a reference point in the lives of the characters. Frank Galati has taken two of those stories, “super-frog saves tokyo” and “honey pie” and created an adaptation for the stage.
The stories in after the quake invite dramatic expressiveness: each contains dialogical passages (which is the procedure of the stage); and the narrative of the stories tend to concentrate on observable action (which it is the stage’s business to show). The ingenious turn that Frank has created in his adaptation is to allow “super-frog saves tokyo” and “honey pie” to interpenetrate in performance. The interlocking staging of these two stories dramatizes the subtle interrelatedness of the stories that Murakami implies in his collection. While the six stories of after the quake maintain their separate integrities, they resonate against their collective title, after the quake, which establishes their overarching
narrative theme. The suggestion of after the quake is multiple: a large and cataclysmic public event sends tremors through the lives of the individuals touched by it; and, in each of our lives, there will be a quake–a shifting of the ground–that will change us forever. Further, Murakami suggests that we are united in an experience of a “quake.” In the case of a public and shared quake, we gain a collective reference point for what becomes our individual and private aftershock. In the more metaphorical key, we acknowledge the eruption of our personal ground as a shared human experience: to experience an earthquake is an archetypal human experience.
It is clear, in after the quake, that Murakami invites the metaphorical reading. His characters reference musicians, philosophers and writers when explaining their actions and beliefs: they are placing their own lives within a skein of larger meaning.
This idea–the idea that a profound, collective experience like the Kobe earthquake parallels (and can activate) a profound, personally-held experience–participates in what Jung identifies as our collective unconscious. Our access to this realm is our imagination: our dreams, our stories, our myths. In “super-frog saves tokyo,” the narrator invokes Joseph Conrad in expressing the power of imagination as the awesome force in human life: “true terror,” Conrad writes, “is the kind that men feel toward their imagination.”
The idea that our imagination is the true source of our terror is simply and eloquently expressed in “honey pie,” the story with which Frank has chosen to open his adaptation of after the quake. The story of after the quake, in Frank’s adaptation, begins with the problem of Sala. Sala is the young girl, the innocent and impressionable consciousness of the book, the one onto whom the Kobe earthquake explodes with greatest force (because she has no language, no experience, to negotiate its aftermath). Sala cannot sleep, she is startled into wakefulness by her dreams of the Earthquake Man. For Sala, the real world event of the earthquake is inseparable from the imaginal realm it activates (and which threatens to consume her). The antidote, as presented in “honey pie,” is the creation of story: Junpei, the short story writer, dearest friend to Sala’s mother, is called in the middle of the night to comfort Sala back to sleep by creating, with her, the assuring bedtime story. The cure for the terror of the imagination (which Sala experiences as the dream) is another act of imagination: the story. It is homeopathy–it is, as Jung describes it, the therapy of “like heals like.”
The idea that real world events and imagination have an equivalency in our experience, that we are ever and always trafficking between the real and the imagined is the mysterious, beautiful and fundamental insight of after the quake. Frank has contributed a further level of expressiveness to this idea in his adaptation by introducing the character of Murakami into the play as a narrative figure. Suddenly, Murakami is visible to us, the theater audience, as a character in the complex interplay of storytelling and historical reality. Murakami, the real-life fiction writer, lives for us, the theater audience, as a fictional character (in the fictive world of his own making–a fictive world spun into being by the real-life event of the earthquake that exploded his childhood home).
Frank’s insight, in creating an adaptation of after the quake, is the selection of these two stories as expressive of the central tropes of the collection and to interpenetrate the stories, adding density to the themes in the key of performance. Through “honey pie,” we are given the figure of the short story writer, Junpei; through “super-frog saves tokyo,” we are given the collection’s most fantastical character, super-frog. As super-frog asserts, “I’m sure you realize that I actually exist. I am not a product of your imagination. I can take action and produce results. I am a real, living being.” Frank gives this strange assertion of super-frog another layer of meaning by assigning to the actor playing superfrog the role of a narrator whom he names “Murakami.” So, super-frog IS a real, living being, and the action (which produces results) is story-telling. This echoes the action of our fictive writer, Junpei, whose action in “honeypie” is the creation of the bedtime story that soothes a young girl, traumatized by the earthquake (which she receives both through the real-life source of television news and through the vehicle of her dreams). The earthquake is both real and imagined, the “savior” is both real (Murakami) and imagined (super-frog), the storyteller is both real (Murakami) and imagined (Junpei). Sala, the innocent, to whom the earthquake comes, unbidden and overwhelming, is the stand-in for all of us: an earthquake HAPPENS in our lives– that is the nature of the archetypal ground on which we stand–and story (the feat of our imagination) is the vehicle of our healing.
The great beauty of Murakami’s writing and the graceful accomplishment of Frank’s adaptation is the simplicity, modesty and deeply concentrated rendering of these profound and essential insights into human consciousness. We are constantly oscillating between our daylight and dreaming consciousness, we are constantly seeking the creation of story to render event into meaning. This is the fundamental action of the theater: we walk our daylight selves into the theater and we wait for the lights to dim, we invite the beginning of our dream-state, and there, before us, we witness the parade of characters constructed for our reception. Just like a dream. We are helpless to stop it–the dream and the play FIND US. The imagination is both our terror and our healing.
I encourage you to read more of Haruki Murakami. His is a singular voice, a consciousness deeply in tune with our times and with all times. I encourage you to stay for our post-show discussions which we are now offering six days a week. after the quake is especially meaningful to us now, as Americans. We have, together, experienced collective and traumatizing events–both man-made and natural disasters. We require the meditation of story to heal our souls. We humbly submit after the quake in the spirit of Junpei who declares, “I want to write about people who dream and wait for the night to end, who long for the light so they can hold the ones they love.”