[EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Kagan-Dubroff recently performed the kokata role in the English-language adaptation of Sumidagawa “Sumida River,” in South Texas. The kokata (子方) role in the play is a depiction of the Spirit of a Dead Boy. During almost all of the performance she is hidden from view of the audience within the tsukurimono (作り物, in this case; a grave mound.) During the South Texas 2015 performance tour, we asked her “Just what is it that you’re doing in there that whole time?” Below is her response. Ms. Kagan-Dubroff is 10 years old.]
Contributed by Miriam Kagan-Dubroff
When the little girl is sitting in the grave mound, what does she do? That is the question I know you’re asking and I’m here to answer it. I try to do all the things I can to amuse myself . The first thing I do is find a position in which I think I will be comfortable for most of the play. Then I try to amuse myself by shadow puppets and looking for shapes in the fabric covering the grave. Sometimes if I’m a bit sleepy , I close my eyes and listen to the Ji sing. [The “ji” is the chorus.]
Once I come out I see people starting to whisper to each other. I can’t help but wonder what they’re saying. I try so hard not to smile. I bet you’re wondering how I keep a straight face. I’ll admit, it isn’t easy. But the trick is to think of something scary or sad. I think of the most horrible nightmare I ever had. If that doesn’t work I think of my role in the play. I imagine I’m actually a dead boy that would never be able to live again. When I look at the mask Kinue [大島衣恵, Oshima Kinue, the shite actor] is wearing, I see the mother’s face and it looks so sad. That wipes the smile right off my face. I have performed this play once before at Zen Mountain Monastery and really enjoyed it. I’m so exited to be in Sumida River again.