Tohoku Theater Project

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the most devastating earthquake and tsunami in over 100 years. In the course of the past two years, communities in the Tohoku Region have made enormous progress in recovery and rebuilding. However, many communities from Tohoku, and other impacted regions in Japan, are still under tremendous stress as a result of loss of family and sense of community, loss of community infrastructure, and of livelihood. As the burden of recovery wears on, the psychological cost is becoming more apparent.

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Background

As the time since the disaster increases, the needs of the impacted communities in Japan are shifting, and mental health concerns present a serious priority that require attention. Attending to emotional health and well-being is complicated by the fact that communities are displaced, services are disrupted and many individuals find it difficult to seek help because of stigma and concerns about placing more burden on an already-taxed system.

Project Overview

Visual and performance arts have a long tradition of being used to engage communities, capture important social issues, and promote wellbeing. In consideration of the profound impact that the 2011 disaster had across all aspects of human experience, this project aims to use theater to create safe environments for open dialogue about the difficult issues facing communities from Tohoku. We are developing and delivering the program in partnership with local organizations and theater groups to tailor the intervention to the particular needs of the participating community groups. In all cases the program is designed to support communities, promote resilience and coping, and address psychological needs of members from the community. The theater program is based on a unique and participatory methodology developed by Outside the Wire, a social impact company that uses theater and a variety of other media to address pressing public health and social issues. The Tohoku Theater Project represents the first time that this methodology is being utilized in Japan.

Project Aims

This program aims to: 1) build community capacity and resilience; 2) engender empathy and enhance understanding of mental health needs; and 3) help individuals pursue appropriate community services as needed. After each performance, audience members are connected to appropriate information and resources, empowering them to take action steps based on their new understanding of the core issues explored by each play. We will conduct an impact assessment of the program.

Collaborating Team

  • Tsuyoshi Akiyama, NTT Medical Center Tokyo
  • Evelyn Bromet, Stony Book University
  • Bryan Doerries, Outside the Wire
  • Naoko Horikoshi, Fukushima Medical College
  • Phyllis Kaufman, Outside the Wire
  • Norito Kawakami, Tokyo University
  • Mami Kayama, St Luke University
  • Kathleen Pike, Columbia University
  • Tahilia Rebello, Columbia University
  • Hirooki Yabe, Fukushima Medical College
  • Lawrence Yang, Columbia University
  • Seiji Yasumura, Fukushima Medical College

Contact Information

For more information on the Tohoku Theater Program, please contact Tahilia Rebello at rebello@nyspi.columbia.edu.

For information on Outside The Wire, please visit: http://www.outsidethewirellc.com/.

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