Friday, August 14, 2009

the sounds of silence

There's something that I find quite disconcerting, performing here in Tokyo.

It's the silence.

Once we are at places, we are backstage, methodically going through some last minute stretches, turns, props (cause you know, ACL has just so darn many), conversations with each other--and all of this activity is masked by the cacophony of sounds coming from the audience.

They are chatting, situating, finding their seats, popping in some gum before the black out or whatever, the point is they are making some noise. Some blessed noise. And I never even realized how much I find that wall of accidental noise to be comforting. To be evidence of an energized audience, a reason for me to be all dolled up, stretched out, warmed up, lip-sticked and powdered.

But here, they sit silent as the grave. Oh, but surely it changes once you guys start performing, you might think?

Not really.

They sit there, politely smiling and yes, clapping when it absolutely calls for it (as in, you are standing there no longer moving or speaking and the music has stopped), but they rarely laugh.

Yet at our bow, they applaud like crazy, sometimes even standing up which is highly different for the Japanese. It is their custom to only give a standing ovation at a closing performance, and rarely even then. But they gave us one at our opening, which was quite an honor. And once we exit the stage they sit there and clap in unison, even in rhythm, for a long long time, hoping, I suppose for some sort of encore. Little do they know that we are already in robes and crocs and have no intention of stepping back onto the stage. At least not till the next show.

But still, how nice of them to show their appreciation.

It would just go a really long way to get some of that appreciation scattered throughout the entirety of the show. It'd really help to distract from the pain in the feet, the hunger you feel, the fact that maybe we are only in the 2ND number and have a ton to go. It'd really help to know that they are with us as we tell our stories, make our jokes, sing our songs.

And in America, an involved audience MAKES SOME NOISE.


I keep telling myself it's cultural, it's okay, it doesn't mean they don't like the show, but I will be honest and say that it's still pretty hard to get past. It still feels a little like the show is great, we're just ready for an audience. A live audience, for goodness' sake.

But it's actually pretty hilarious to hear the complete silence that follows almost every punch line in the show. And then to hear our own pitiful attempt at filling the silence with laughter; the laughter from people who have heard that joke every day now--sometimes twice!--for a year and a half.

But still, we try.

And on a completely different note, I saw this at a restaurant tonight, listing the different sizes for a particular salad:

Regular: 850 yen
US-Size: 1300 yen

Uh-oh. So now there's the regular size, meaning you know, a healthy normal amount of food to imbibe in one sitting, and...US-Size??? As in, come on over Fatty McButterpants and kid yourself into thinking that you'll "eat light" and "only order a salad," but it will be huge, dripping with dressing, just plain TOO MUCH, and utterly, unequivocally American.

We get it, Japan, we eat too much in America.

One plate from Texas Roadhouse could feed a family for a day.

The irony of the way you define your sizes is not lost here.


kathiek said...

Wow, Jess, I know that silence must be hard for you and the rest of the cast. That's really cool about the standing ovation at the end of your opening performance, though!

I also couldn't help but wonder what you would do if you were an American in that Japanese audience and you wanted to laugh and clap and hoot to show your appreciation throughout the performance...would you do it because that's how you would respond to ACL in the US, or would you stifle your response until the end like everyone around you?

Jessica Latshaw said...

Yeah, good question--with that kind of silence, it might feel almost wrong to make a lot of noise...But on opening night there were some brave souls who sounded out their enthusiasm...The cast of Rent is seeing our show next week, so it will be interesting to see how they respond!

Michele said...

How embarrassing to have a size named after us! And "Fatty McButterpants" hahahaha

Jessica Latshaw said...

True, Michele! And I can't claim Fatty McButterpants as my own brainchild cause my friend Jordan came up with that:)

Mandy and Jack said...

That's really interesting! I can imagine that would be really awkward!!

And ouch. US size.

That's SO COOL that the cast of RENT is coming to your show! I'm a big dork, but I love them. A lot. As in "Facebook fan of Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal" a lot. (Did I mention the dorkiness?) I hope they risk offending your audience by totally laughing at the jokes. :)

Jessica Latshaw said...

I know, it's awesome! And you know what's even cooler? We get to see THEM next week, too! It's embarrassing to admit, considering what I do and all, but I have NEVER SEEN RENT. I've never even heard it, really. Never even seen that movie that came out.

And I don't just get to see the show, I get to see Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp perform it...I am psyched!!!

kathiek said...

Well, Jess, I guess you'll have the answer to that question when the cast of Rent sees your show and vice versa!

Anna K said...

Jess, it will be my first time seeing RENT, too! Even though most of my friends went repeatedly when I was in college, I just have never made it until now!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Ooh, Anna--how exciting for both of us! I am glad we have each other, since we may very well be the last two on earth that have not seen it!!!

James Ricardo The Actor said...

I will take the US size..These small portions aint for greedy old American J.R.!!!!!

The silence is very weird, but they do love the show, so much!

Jessica Latshaw said...

haha, JR, US-size must be just for you then!!! :) And they do love the show so much, that is so true!

used to be semi anonymous said...

I would find the silence UNNERVING, although I don't ever expect to find myself up on the stage singing and dancing. My husband comes from a different culture, and even though we've been together over twenty years, I still can't get used to it. I'm always afraid of offending his family and their friends and relatives, because I want to be respectful, but I never understand (and don't think I ever will) their code of manners. It's a very challenging aspect of diversity. I'm glad you are having the opportunity to experience something so interesting (gross food experiences notwithstanding).

Mandy and Jack said...

Yay! You mentioned you hadn't seen RENT before. I'm glad you get to see it on their last tour. Let me know what you think!!

junejune said...

Hello, I just saw your show tonight and found your blog through the official site of a chorus line.
So I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the show even though I/we were so quiet. :) The show was GREAT!!!

I hope you liked japan even though you had to experience the earthquakes...

Please come back to japan and play the show again!

Jessica Latshaw said...

Hi JuneJune--thanks for stopping by! And thanks SO MUCH for your kind words and encouragement! We have learned that it is just a cultural difference and that even if the audiences here are not super loud, they do really love the show! In fact, I have met the nicest most supportive people at the stage door, telling us all how much they loved the performance!

So thank you for being one of them--and actually, the audience was really lively tonight:-)