The Tokyo International Players’ production of BIG RIVER is opening Thursday, May 19 with a very talented cast. English Shows Tokyo talked with one of the lead actors, Ra Weir.
Interview, Speech-to-text & written by Chieko Tanaka
Proofread by Rodger Sono
－Please tell me about yourself.
My name is Ra Weir. I’m from Missouri in the United States. Pretty much born and raised there. I work for a company called World Family. I work in English Telecommunications as well as perform in their shows. Essentially, it’s singing and teaching in English.
－How did you get involved with theater?
It was back in college. My degree is in IT and initially I was thinking of going into the military. I was training to become a military officer. But half way through college, I realized that I no longer wanted a military life and even though my degree was in IT I didn’t really want to work with computers anymore. So, I was thinking, “Now what am I going to do?”
Then I remembered back in high school, we did “Julius Caesar”. It was my one and only acting experience at that time.
Everyone loved my performance and I had a lot fun doing it. So then I thought “Why not?” I walked into the theater department on campus, saw an audition notice, got a lead role, and that’s where it all began. I’ve been lovin’ it ever since!
－What brought you to Japan?
I always wanted to live overseas. It had always been a desire of mine to visit different countries and maybe live for an extended time there. Back in 2006, I was in Hollywood pursuing a career in acting. But the jobs had kind of dried up for me there. I wasn’t getting as many auditions or roles as before. So I started working in IT again – and I hated it. Loved my coworkers and it was a great company… but just hated the job.
Then while I was working, I had met my now ex-wife and she was Japanese. She was home sick and was ready to come back to Japan. And since acting was not going anywhere, I said “Why not?” And here I am. And I haven’t left yet.
－Please tell me about your role. How do you relate to your role and the story?
My character is Jim, a slave. But he is a man who has a dream; he has a goal in life – To get his freedom and reunite with his family. In his particular case, life in the US South during the 1840’s, slavery was normal. This meant he is physically and legally bound from being able to achieve his dream. But he tries anyway.
Jim ran away… choosing to run away to try to pursue this desire… if he gets caught, he could be killed. I think that is a story everyone can just relate to. Just having a desire… a dream… that you really want to do, and you’re blocked or there are serious consequences. Could be because of family, because of money, whatever… you just can’t do it… It’s a universal story.
－What is your dream?
To be a professional actor. I was told that “If you have ever been paid for your talents, you are professional.” So, technically I guess I am a professional actor. Maybe I should say I want to be a professional *working* actor.
－What is Tokyo to you?
Opportunity… It’s a place where you have a chance to start over.
You have the opportunity to explore, to experience, to discover things that maybe you couldn’t do where you are from originally.
It’s a wonderful city. There are so many different aspects of the city; everyone can always find their own little niche.
Tokyo, to me, is opportunity. You want to start over, you want to find your dream, and you want to do whatever… You’ve got something, some craving in your heart… you can move from wherever you are, come here, and go.
“Big River – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Date: May 19 – 22, 2016
Location: Theater Sun Mall
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Shinjuku 1-19-10 Sun Mall Crest B1 (Nearest station: Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station) *Click here for map
Ticket handling: Tokyo International Players www.tokyoplayers.org
Entrance fee: adult 4,500 yen, student 2,500 yen
※ Performances are in English, Japanese subtitles available.
Tokyo International Players：www.tokyoplayers.org/