KPB Theatre - The Family Behind The Curtain, Part 1 - The Beginning
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life"
Charles Dederich & Brian Cullen - Jukebox Paradise
I wish someone had told me this quote when I first decided to take a leap of faith, trip over and accidentally start a theatre company. As far as this collection of writings, I've been wanting to do this for some time but never had the nerve to do it. I mean, who would really want to know about KPB Theatre and its stories. Who cares? Well, I care.
I'm writing this because I want to record the amazing journey we have had thus far. The start of it all and the magical adventure that is KPB Theatre behind the curtain. I would like to share, and if you have the time, then it is my pleasure to share it with YOU. I wasn't supposed to pen this though. In my mind I had a dream of some respected magazine of the day telling this story, or even interviewing us to talk about what the hell KPB is all about. But that has not come to pass as of yet. So, without further a do, here I am to tell you all about it. The beginning seems to be a good place to start. I mean the beginning of KPB as opposed to the beginning of me. Come to think of it I could swing back later and do a George Lucas on you. But for now let's start at episode 4. The beginning of KPB Theatre - A New Hope. Let me think, how did this all happen?
One evening in 2007 I was sitting with my new found friend and co-worker Gary Beaubouef in an Izakaya (Japanese bar) eating some chicken wings and enjoying a beer. Both Gary and I had recently found out that we both loved the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" and this had led to a whole array of conversations which revolved around becoming creative, and perhaps making a film or putting on a theatre show. Gary wanted to write stories and I wanted to write music. In an effort to get creative we decided to meet every Tuesday after work (which is still the case now, 10 years later) to brainstorm, discuss and create stories that would perhaps one day be made into something watchable. Our first project was not a theatre piece.
At this point we really had no idea that one day we would be running Nagoya's only original foreign theatre company. We had written a story that we could film with two people (and one extra). It was called Departure. We filmed in Jokoji with a 7D, a tripod and a shot gun mic balanced on a beer crate we found in the bush at location. The main motivation behind this film was originally to make a film that was watchable / interesting and had an nice music score. It turned out to be a nice little film I think.
Finishing this film gave us the confidence to try a feature film. I lie, we were totally out of our depth but we new we had to make this film "The Composer" My mother had got the cancer and wasn't going to live much longer. I knew that I had to do something to keep my mind off being totally heartbroken and angry all the time after she passed. The Composer was the film that would become my overflow valve. A role that I could get emotional over. A project that would keep my mind and I totally busy. Gary would write his first script.
A man who looses his best friend to cancer, his wife to be, removed in a taxi accident and only the bottle to keep him company. The journey he faces in the story was inspiring especially as he climbs back out of the darkness and re asserts himself into life again. It was this film that would catapult us into the theatre world, and into a lifetime of committing to a dream.
We filmed for two years, as the movie is set over four seasons and has numerous hair lengths which had to be grown and cut. We had no budget so we labored night and day to get the shots that we thought would tell this story. During this time I struggled with my demons caused mostly from an identifiable pain and anger that took most of the two years to get over.
The film was reaching completion and we were ready to show it. But Gary and I felt that we needed some kind of spring board to help us promote it's premiere, which was to take place in Chikusa Playhouse in June. At this time Joe Sichi mentioned that we could use The Red Rock as a space to put on a play. I had previously performed "The Dumb Waiter" (Pinter) with Michael Walker at The Red Rock and I was excited about the idea of doing our first small show there. The small show would be a great way to promote the premiere of "The Composer" I thought. So I asked Gary Beaubouef to write a play that had minimal cast and was set in one place. We still laugh about that moment now...
THE ELEVATOR - Our first show
Written by Gary Beaubouef
Directed by Steve Pottinger
A couple of weeks later he had written the first draft of "THE ELEVATOR" We were off! Or so we thought. We went around and asked theatre groups if they were interested in putting on a Beaubouef play and were disappointed that no one was interested.
"No one will pay to come and see a play that some guy from Nagoya wrote" was one of the things we were told. Gary, who is, but was then, much more polite wouldn't dare use the F word but I had no problems. I couldn't believe it. What I wanted to believe was that the community in Nagoya would come out, support, pay, and possibly enjoy an original piece by "some guy from Nagoya". So I stole Gary's now popular catchphrase "Well F**k that!" I shouted and proclaimed to Gary that we would do it by ourselves. Finding a cast was a challenge. In fact all the actors which we used in the Elevator were pretty much first timers. A couple of guys that I worked with at the time had shown an interest in trying a spot of acting and agreed to rehearse and put "The Elevator" on stage. When I say stage I mean, The Red Rock, a bar, with mirrors...
So the line up was Jeffrey Clapp, who had appeared in The Composer, and Matthew Lott.
Steve: Hey Jeffrey! Gary wrote a play You're going to be in it! Jeffrey: I am?
We were missing a female lead. So I went looking. I literally went around on Friday and Saturday nights to foreign bars and asked a bunch of girls "Would you like to be in a play?" Obviously the success rate of this 16 year old chat up line was limited but it worked. We met Yuki Yamada who was studying English. She had the strength and attitude that was required for the role. She did not however have the English for the role... So Gary and I set to work, teaching her the script line by line. She worked very hard and by the performance she was sizzling and throwing Jeff and Matt left right and center! My friend Nick Edges (now of Edge Creative Media) brought some light and did a great job setting the atmosphere for the show.
For the Elevator, we wanted to transform the Red Rock so it felt like a black box space. We used black out curtains around the whole space, blocking out the windows, the bar and the Mirrors. We built a set (a big elevator) that was from floor to ceiling. It was pain staking to tape rubber on all the gaps in the wood to prevent any light leaking in. The idea was that the show would start on a TV, which followed the two men on their trip around Nagoya. As the Elevator broke and the lights and screen turned off a cloth, which stretched across the stage would be pulled down, and when the lights came up the set and actors in the Elevator were revealed in live action brilliance. At certain points the camera still showed the audience on the screen the risque things that Jeffrey's character was filming.
All in all we had 50 seats per show and we sold out. Nagoya's foreign community had shown interest in our original work, even though we were first timers, they came and supported us! Thank you all. To this day I still love working with first time actors and it all started with the solid performance that these three gave. We were overjoyed and we had inadvertently created a newly born fawn of a theatre company, born so soon after the death of a mother.
I named it KPB Theatre, for my mother Kazuko Pottinger Brown. I wish that she could see it now.
To be continued in part 2 - Dreamcatcher (An Original Musical)