The Invisible “Page”: Children’s Plays in Kijimuna Festa

Okinawa CityI love the pages inside a book, the way it opens, directs, conceals and surprises. I wonder how the stage may perform a similar magic to that of a page and especially in theater for young children. Before heading Okinawa, I had already seen pages with holes, pages of different textures, and pages opening up architectural spaces. But the stages still amazed me.

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Most of my favorite plays have stages that hold only less than 50 audiences, with a carpet for children to crawl, sit on and watch the performance at the closest distance possible. Sometimes, the carpet becomes an extension of the stage. In a Scottish play named Cloud Man (www.cloud-man.co.uk/), the evidences of Cloud Man’s existence hide themselves among children on the carpet: as tiny hands approached those tiny socks, scarfs, bags and underwear from Cloud Man, amazement burst, eyes brightened and exploration made. It reminds me of the pages that I enjoyed panning through; picking up bits and parts to create my own story. I began to see the stage as a richly constructed space as the page is, with elements of shape, texture, sounds, colors interweaving in symphony.

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However, I was still amazed when I saw an actual “page,” flipping and opening on the stage. The play was about another imaginative creature called “Stickman” (www.salzundpfeffer-theater.de/sites/Stockmann/Stick_Man_2.html). As the background of the play unfolded and the story began, I felt myself strolling into a giant picture book. The background was made of a large piece of paper and characters of small pieces of paper. However, as Stickman got closer and closer to the audience, the paper-made character became a puppet, and then even the actors performed the character themselves. These layers of representation intrigued me: the distance they created, the imagination they provoked. Even the music sheets took forms from scrolls and even an umbrella patterned with scores: these “pages” echoing other “pages” of surfaces on stage, building a stereoscopic space from shapes, sounds and movements.

Children's Play: Wind

I was fascinated by the texture of pages when I discovered transparent pages and even pages in total black that you had to read them with fingers. How could this kind of “pages” be translated into the language of theater, with light, setting and bodies? Before I searched for answers in my mind, the title of a play interested me: Wind (www.facebook.com/TheatreMadamBach), a play about something that is invisible, but in some ways, touchable and hearable. The performers no longer had to strive between what shall be seen and what not but concentrating on showing the audience what cannot be seen. Dozens of fans, pieces of paper glittering and floating across the space and even the music and sounds came from the actor’s breathe into the instruments. This “invisible page” of wind was fabricated through the exquisite machinery of theater; a “page” to be read with not only eyes but also skins, fingers and ears.

At the end, I think the plays taught me one thing: there hides a “page” on every stage and every page is a dynamic “stage.”

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