Spectacular “Tokyo Rose” Performance Debuts at Japan Society

Enter the radio twilight zone of the 1940s.

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Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.
Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape.
Courtesy of Aichi Triennale 2013.

This week Miwa Yanagi debuted Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose’s Last Recording, the first-ever North American presentation of her multi-disciplinary theater show, at Japan Society. It trades in WWII nostalgia, though the subject has never been treated so stylishly.

The production will run for a total of three nights, before going on a tour to Washington DC, Maryland, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Catch it if you can, because there is more than just an artwork here. Its theatre and performance art. Its also a kind of opera, too.

Primarily known for her photographic work and video art, Yanagi conceived, wrote, and directed the entire performance. Consisting of five female actresses and two male actors, Zero Hour is set during WWII and is inspired by real events. Forced to serve as broadcast announcers for a propaganda radio program controlled by the Japanese Imperial Army called “The Zero Hour,” several Japanese-American women’s voices (collectively known as “Tokyo Rose”) were heard, loved, and idolized by US troops based in the South Pacific; in the opening sequences, voice-overs of American soldiers filled the auditorium with lines like “dark-haired girls are raunchy.” After the war, the broadcasters were subsequently tried for treason in the U.S, with one woman serving more than six years in prison.

The performance reinterprets those historic events in a highly stylized show interchanging the use of spoken Japanese and English. One of the best uses of props in a performance, the set’s futuristic white rounded broadcast desks also serve variously as courtroom witness boxes, a kitchen counter, and a local bar. Throughout the performance, the female actresses, donning matching 1940s Western get-ups with hats, oscillated between playing anonymous almost robot-like beings to real-life characters including their broadcast counterparts, obnoxious American journalists, and U.S soldiers. The result is a mash-up of acting, choreographed dance, and video footage that turns the play into a whodunit about a woman caught between two nations in a time of war.

So act swiftly, get your tickets, and prepare to enter the radio twilight zone of the 1940s.

 


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