Working in the Theatre: In the Field – Mikiko Uesugi

Working in the Theatre: In the Field – Mikiko Uesugi


My name is Mikiko Uesugi; I’m a scenic designer. I’m from Japan, I [was] born in Tokyo. We had, as a child, my grandmother, my mother’s
side, took me to Noh Theater and my grandfather took me to Kabuki theater. My grandmother on my father’s side took
me to [unknown]. Since I was three, I liked to go to theater
because they bought me ice cream during intermission. The occupation of a scenic designer didn’t
come to me until 23 I attended art college majoring in oil painting. And one day, my friend from art college took
me a walk and she was assisting designer Yukio Horio and now he’s the most influential
designer in Japan. He showed me his work, and I observed what’s
going on, what he’s doing, and it’s really instinct. I thought this is it, this is what I wanted
to do and I came here and while I was waiting for my green card I attended San Francisco
State, Master of Fine Arts. People think I know everything about Japan,
but I always have to study, too. And, in Japan, people thinks I know everything
about palm trees and Disney and it’s not true, too. It’s a stereotype. I’m not always thinking, “I’m a Japanese
designer.” Every American is different, every Japanese
is different, every Japanese designers is different. As I read script, things come up, I just draw
very tiny sketches for myself next to script. Just imagining how it could be, it doesn’t
have to be set design, any image I get. During design process, I often think about
the set elements whether it really needs to be here. I keep questioning about set so that makes,
I think, my sets tend to be very simple. I just always feel that set design is not
for decoration. I know I tend to be very careful with details,
too. And probably that aspect is influenced by
Japanese culture and Japanese tradition. I studied in Iran a lot about history through
designing Golden Thread Productions. I think it’s important to have such a production
which has different histories or background to present in the United States, right now,
because you’ve experienced the same kind of human beings. Life, if we examine further in some conflicts,
politics, families, so many times I hear the same: “I have an issue with something like
that at home.” And being immigrant, I hope, the audience
will feel a possible connection to said production or produce and to understand the people.

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