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March 8, 2012

Arena Theater to Perform Benefit for Japanese Quake Victims

A group of Wheaton College alumni will present a series of 10-minute plays and songs as part of an arts movement benefitting Japan’s theater community on the anniversary of last year’s earthquake.

The Arena Theater at Wheaton College will host “Shinsai: Theaters for Japan” at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 11. Arena Theater is one of more than 70 organizations nationwide and beyond presenting plays to benefit Japan’s theater community. Prominent Japanese and American playwrights are allowing their works to be performed royalty-free for the event. “Shinsai” means “great quake.”

There is no charge for the event, but donations are encouraged. Funds will be dispersed to the Japanese theater community by the Japan Playwrights Association.

“Shinsai: Theaters for Japan” was founded by James Yaegashi, a New York-based actor who graduated from Wheaton in 1995. Yaegashi, who has family near the site of the quake, mobilized friends in the theater community to help fellow artists.

On Wheaton’s campus, a group of 15 alumni and current students will perform a series of mini-plays and monologues. Each actor participated in Workout, Wheaton’s academic and artistic training program for students interested in developing vocal, physical, and improvisational skills.

“A project like Shinsai allows Arena Theater to connect with the world in a very tangible and theatrical way. It’s wonderful that Wheaton can be a part of that, especially since one of our alumni is its creator,” says technical director Andy Mangin. “The material that has been donated by playwrights for this event tells stories of tragedy, loss, rebirth, and hope.”

“Our hope is that audiences will not only be able to donate to the reconstruction of theaters in Japan, but that they will also engage with the people who experienced the earthquake and tsunami,” Mangin says. “We want this event to do what theater does best—connect us to one another.”

Arena Theater is located in Jenks Hall at 433 North Howard Street in Wheaton. For more information, call 630.752.5800. General information about the project is available on the website of Theatre Communications Group, tgc.org.

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