Beacher Kokichi Kusano presents Nae (The Rice Seedling) at Harbourfront Centre

The Nae Project (The Rice Seedling) takes the stage at the Harbourfront Centre starting on May 5.

By JAYSON DIMAANO

Beach resident and composer Kokichi Kusano will be presenting the theatrical musical The Nae Project (The Rice Seedling) this month.

The show, which Kusano also performs in, mixes Japan’s theatrical, musical, and festival traditions to examine a story of extreme human pain, compassion, and determination Nae will be on stage from May 5 to 7 at the Harbourfront Centre.

“We’re most excited to share it with people who are not of Japanese background,” said Kusano in an interview with Beach Metro Community News.

“We took this play, which was written a couple of years ago, and was written all in Japanese. We wanted to make it more accessible to the audience. We captioned it in English and Japanese; more than 70 per cent was converted into English.”

Kusano added that the production kept the Japanese for the poetry and some of the music as Japanese was the language that sounded and felt right.

The story of Nae is about Kusano going through a hard time in life, with his father dealing with bone marrow cancer. Kusano said this was a “dark, depressing time.”

In the performance, he uses the arts to cope with his emotions. Given what many people have dealt with over the past few years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot that people can relate to, he said, as the characters express these thoughts and feelings in the story.

“It is not a story meant to directly relate to my experience. It talks about people dealing with circumstances that are out of their control and how people persevere through these situations,” said Kusano.

Born and raised in the Beach, Kusano’s mother is of Scottish descent (from Northern Ontario), and his father is of Japanese descent (born in Neys, Ontario). When his father moved to Toronto, they settled in the Riverdale area. His grandfather had a house along Courcelette Road for many years, and Kusano himself grew up in Upper Beaches on Kingswood Road while attending Kew Beach and Adam Beck schools growing up.

“I’ve always bounced back to the Beaches,” he said. “It’s funny because it has changed over the years, but it does not change all that much over time.”

Kusano said he has played many instruments and covered many different musical genres over the years, something that traditional Japanese composers usually do not do, as they only specialize in one genre and one instrument. However, he plays the Shinobue (transverse bamboo flute) and the Shakuhachi (vertical bamboo flute), but Kusano said his favourite is the drums.

“I love the drumming. It is a big part of the performance,” said Kusano, who performed with the Taiko Drumming Team when he was younger.

The Nae Project is about much more than the music, he said.

“It is not about the acrobatic musical performances or the musical performers as the centre stage, but how can we complement the costumes, the acting, and the story with the music we play,” said Kusano. “That is the project I wanted to create. This is what the production has become, and I am very pleased with it.”

He said he hopes The Nae Project can go on to play to audiences across the country as some of the other performers are also from Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.

“I hope we have a successful launch and promote it where people want to see it. It was originally written to be performed at the Japanese Cultural Centre in Toronto, but they were not available,” he explained, hoping to find a later date to perform there.

Showtimes at the Harbourfront Centre are 8 p.m. on May 5; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on May 6, and 2 p.m. on May 7.

For more info about the performances and to purchase tickets, visit https://.harbourfrontcentre.com/event/nae-the-rice-seedling


Was this article informative? Become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter today! For 50 years, we have worked hard to be the eyes and ears in your community, inform you of upcoming events, and let you know what and who is making a difference. We cover the big stories as well as the little things that often matter the most. CLICK HERE to support your Beach Metro Community News!