An intercultural work for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Text and Music by Kevin Salfen
It is October 1964, the day before the Tokyo Olympics, the first to be held in Asia. The filmmaker Ichikawa Kon (1915-2008), who is making a documentary about the Olympics, meets an old man, the spirit of Kanō Jigorō (1860-1938), the founder of judo and Representative to the International Olympic Committee in the years leading up to the failed 1940 games. Ichikawa assures the old man that the Tokyo Olympics will begin tomorrow, and the shite reveals his identity before disappearing from the field. During the ai-kyogen, two vendors arrive to sell food to the gathering crowd. The two discuss the nature of the Olympics - after a half century of devastating conflict, can the first Olympics in Asia show a way forward: humankind, beyond nation and creed, striving to overcome its limits? After their conversation, Ichikawa announces the start of the opening ceremonies, various events are briefly described—enacted by the universal Athlete, beyond nationality, ethnicity, or gender. The games close in celebration and hope.
Phoenix Fire at Ryôgoku Bear, Tokyo - June 2019
During the first week of June 2019, members of international performing ensemble Theatre Nohgaku gathered from around the world for the first rehearsals of Kevin Salfen’s new intercultural work Phoenix Fire. Phoenix Fire imagines a meeting of Kanô Jigorô, founder of jûdô and Japan’s representative to the International Olympic Committee in the 1930s, and great Japanese filmmaker Ichikawa Kon, who directed the documentary about the 1964 games, generally considered one of the finest sports documentaries ever made. The rehearsal period culminated in a work-in-progress presentation of portions of Phoenix Fire on June 9, an event attended by representatives from KON Pro, Inc., and the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute. The below collection of photographs commemorates the rehearsal process and presentation.