'NAE' (which translates to The Rice Seedling) is a new, groundbreaking musical and theatrical work by Toronto-based composer Kokichi Kusano, featuring traditions of Japanese music and theatre for the modern stage. Premiered in May 2023 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre in Toronto, Canada; Nae features an exciting international cast from Japan and from across Canada - from British Columbia to Quebec. The Japanese-English script is fully captioned, making this unique production accessible to the hearing impaired. Written and performed in Canada by Japanese Canadian composer Kokichi Kusano, Nae combines traditions of Japanese theatre, music and festival arts to explore a tale of great human suffering, compassion and perseverance.
In the 13th century, Japan, misery and suffering have consumed the land, which is gripped in a famine of historical proportions. A lonesome monk, diligently serving prayers to the dead as they float away down the river, is soon to discover the mysterious forces that hold the fate of humankind in balance.
Nae was written as a testimony to the very personal and internal struggle of watching my father fight cancer for 13 years. When it was completed in 2019, I shared this work with my father only once. It was, then, an immensely personal work and seemed to me almost too private to share. Then, shortly after it was completed and my father ultimately succumbed to his struggle - the pandemic overtook our world and suddenly Nae seemed to speak to us all.
Nae is the tale of our greatest desperation, our greatest joy and the cyclical impermanence of these parts of human life that seen from far enough away, seem to fade into the waves. It was, at the time it was written, and remains, ultimately a prayer for vindication over a relentless evil, and an end to suffering.
It was a journey for me to share Nae even with the cast, but since doing so, and in the capable hands of these wonderful talented people, Nae has taken on to become so much more than it was. I am excited, proud and immensely humbled to soon share Nae with you!
-Kokichi Kusano, Composer and Artistic Director