Learning Across Boundaries (LABs)

Theatre Making and Cultural Policy

May 2017

A Summer LAB led by Professor Lee Chee Keng

This course focus on examining the interactive dynamics of artistic practice and cultural policies within the context of social development by studying the artistic and public career of Japanese theatre director Tadashi Suzuki, one of the most influential of living theatre artists.

Tadashi Suzuki is the founder and director of the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) based in Toga Village, located in the mountains of Toyama prefecture about 360 kilometres from Tokyo. He is the organizer of Japan’s first international theatre festival, and the creator of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training.

Suzuki has played an important role in several public organizations which he initiated: Artistic Director of Acting Company of Mito (1989–1994); General Artistic Director of Shizuoka Performing Arts Center (1995–2007), founding member of the International Theatre Olympics Committee; founding member of the BeSeTo Festival (jointly organized by leading theatre professionals from Japan, China and Korea); and as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Japan Performing Arts Foundation (2000–2010), a nation-wide network of theatre professionals in Japan.

Art Tower Mito (ATM) and Shizuoka Performing Arts Center (SPAC), both designed by architect Isozaki Arata, ignited the spread of arts centers and public theatres across Japan. ATM is a modern complex which combines concert hall, flexible theatre space, gallery, conference hall, tower, and plaza area. SPAC sits on a 21-hecture park, and include indoor theatre, rehearsal studios, dormitories, canteen, reception center, administrative hub, outdoor theatre.

In his early career, Suzuki was one of the prominent directors who lead the Shogekijo (small theatre) Movement from the 1960s to the 1980s. When he entered Waseda University, Suzuki joined the Waseda Jiyu Butai (Free Stage) Drama Society in 1958, and became its director in 1960. He moved his company to Toga in 1976 and, with the help of Isozaki Arata, remodelled five old farmhouses as theatre venues.

In August 1976, Suzuki hosted his first festival and invited domestic theatre fans to Toga. About 600 people gathered from all around the country to attend this festival.
Despite its modest program, the impact was massive, and according to Carruthers “inaugurating an age of decentralization.” Six years later Suzuki mapped out a larger plan to host an international theatre festival, the “Toga International Festival” (later renamed Toga Festival), the first international theatre festival in Japan.

Since 2007, Suzuki and his company re-focused their main activities in Toga, where two festivals and a training program is held annually. This study trip will allow students to spend about five days at Toga where they would participate in Suzuki Method training, interact with SCOT actors, sit in rehearsals, watched videos of past SCOT productions, interview Suzuki and his administrators as well as local government officials whom Suzuki works closely with.

Following Toga, students will transfer to Tokyo and visit Arts Tower Mito (about 80 minutes by local train from Tokyo) to study its setting up, operations, functions. This will be followed by study visit to one or two public theatres in Tokyo as well as Festival Tokyo, an international theatre festival in Tokyo. Students will have opportunities to interact with cultural managers and administrators to gain deeper understanding into the workings of cultural policy and funding cycles.

DATES: Saturday, 6 May 2017 – Wednesday, 17 May 2017 (Tentative)


Suzuki Company of Toga
Arts Tower Mito
Japan Foundation

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This LAB will likely involve a co-pay of S$900. Financial assistance and merit-based grants are available. Please come talk to CIPE about any concerns or needs you may have. We will work with every student to ensure that finances are not a burden if you wish to participate.


Application for this LAB is closed.



While the study trip focuses on studying a living theatre director, it examines his career within the web social cultural context he works in, analyse his artistic philosophy, and traces the strategies he adapted to navigate and influence the artistic and cultural environment around him.

Through this deep case study of the career of Tadashi Suzuki in relation to selected key players and institutions in Japanese theatre, students will be able to gain insights into arts making within the larger social, cultural, political and the economic context that it occurs, and would be able to apply these understanding in analysis and purposeful decisions making.



By the end of this course, students will develop capacities to:

  • Understand how cultural policy cycle works and identify opportunities for influenceexplore policy challenges relative to the arts and culture
  • Understand the practicalities of arts and cultural policy and its effects on arts managers, artists, and arts organizations
  • Formulate a case for support of an arts through an analysis of prospective partners within and outside the arts
  • Understand and implement conceptualizing and managing an artistic company
  • Pro-actively participate in cultural policy & advocacy communities

Topics covered in this course/study trip include:

  • Arts and Ideology
  • Traditions and creativity
  • Building artistic networks
  • Building artistic communities
  • Building and managing arts company
  • Artistic entrepreneurship
  • Arts and the state
  • Programming Arts festivals

Each student will submit a paper on a selected topic. A panel presentation and discussion will be organized in the new semester, where students will each make a 20-minutes presentation of their papers followed by Q&A discussions.