Press Releases

April 28, 2009

News for Anime Boston 2009:

MIT Dance Theater Ensemble presents performances at Anime Boston and Tokyo University of the Arts

From MIT, a Unique Cultural Exchange between Boston and Tokyo, Japan

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- April 22, 2009

How can Massachusetts Institute of Technology students bring to life the excitement and eccentricities of anime? The MIT Dance Theater Ensemble will demonstrate the possibilities with its performance Live Action Anime 2009: Madness at Mokuba at the convention Anime Boston on May 22, 2009 (Fri.) in the Hynes Convention Center. The troupe will then take the show to Japan, where they will collaborate with Japanese students to perform the play at Tokyo University of the Arts on May 29-30, 2009.

This project highlights the diverse paths of globalization by drawing inspiration from fan activities around Japanese popular culture. Globalization is not driven only by large corporations and national governments, but also through the less understood but increasingly important channels of grassroots fan activities and digital media--a kind of globalization from below. Anime (Japanese animated films and TV shows) is a popular culture form that is driving American interest in Japan, especially among young people. Live Action Anime 2009: Madness at Mokuba aims to bring some of that energy back to Japan, while also underscoring the on-going importance of Boston as a center for US-Japan cultural exchange.

Who else but MIT students and faculty could invent "live action anime"? Part homage to anime history, part commentary on the plight of undocumented workers in the US, and over-the-top tribute to anime creators and fans worldwide, this original theatrical production features giant robots, a Japanese schoolgirl, a lovelorn fanboy, a masterless samurai, a gamer woman, evil media magnates, and a vengeful deathgod who all battle for truth, justice, and the anime way.

SYNOPSIS: The stage is set for the finals of the giant robot battle contest at the Mokuba Institute of Technology. But as the two teams prepare for battle, a strange disease called VIRTIGO is sweeping the school, causing unpredictable reality slippages. And it's getting worse. Does it have something to do the suspicious arrest of undocumented Japanese gamers at Infinite Channel Network? Can our heroes solve the mystery of VIRTIGO, help the workers, and find love?

Directed by Prof. Thomas F. DeFrantz (Music and Theater Arts, MIT) with original script by Prof. Ian Condry (Foreign Languages and Literatures, MIT), the play features a cast of MIT students and community members as they attempt to do the impossible: create live action anime. Through dance, words, music, and anime-inspired backdrops, the show explores the joys and peculiarities of Japanese animation. It is appropriate for audience members age seven to seventy and lasts about one hour.

Performed first in December 2007 at MIT's Kresge Little Theater to sold out crowds, the show has been updated for a performance on May 22 at 4:00pm at Anime Boston at the Hynes Convention Center. Anime Boston is a convention that draws upwards of 15,000 anime fans over three days. People wishing to see the play in Boston must register for the Anime Boston convention (see for more details).

The fifteen-member crew will then take the show to Japan where they will perform at Tokyo University of the Arts (Kitasenju campus) on May 29-30 2009 (Fri, Sat.) at 7pm both nights. Profs. DeFrantz and Condry (MIT) are collaborating with Profs. Sachio Ichimura and Yoshitaka Mori (Tokyo U. of the Arts) to create this unique international exchange event. The show in Tokyo will include a dance performance by students at Tokyo University of the Arts (a.k.a., Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, ).

Live Action Anime is a collaborative project that is performed by the MIT Dance Theater Ensemble. This particular project emerged out of two on-going initiatives at MIT, namely, SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, and the MIT Cool Japan research project.

The MIT Dance Theater Ensemble (DTE) is a co-curricular dance ensemble supported by the MIT Theater Arts and Dance Program and the Music and Theater Arts Section of MIT. DTE performs original work as well as works by visiting guest artists. The faculty advisor, Thomas F. DeFrantz, and DTE has been fortunate for the participation for of an astonishing array of professional and emergent artists, including student performers. Among visitors with MIT DTE have been master tap dancer Dianne Walker; McArthur "Genius" awardee and "Popaction" innovator Elizabeth Streb; postmodern choreographer (and MIT alum) Gus Solomons, Jr.; Hip Hop experts Rok-A-Fella and Kwikstep; internationally renowned dance theorist Brenda Dixon- Gottschild; and downtown diva dancers Regina Rocke and Dawn Springer.

SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, and Technology is an interdisciplinary performance collective founded by Prof. DeFrantz in 2003. The group explores connections between performance and emergent technology in the service of theatrical storytelling. In 2004, SLIPPAGE presented Ennobling Nonna, (EN), a solo performance work devised by Maria Porter, a professor of acting at CW Post College. EN has been performed in Denmark, Peru, Cuba, Italy, and at several venues in the United States. SLIPPAGE also produced the play Queer Theory! An Academic Travesty (2006), which was commissioned by the Theater Offensive of Boston and the Flynn Center for the Arts in Burlington, VT. Current projects include The House Music Project (first workshop 2006) and Cane, a responsive environment work, that premiered at MIT in March, 2009.

The MIT Cool Japan research project was founded in January 2006 by Prof. Ian Condry with support from MIT and Harvard to encourage scholarly debate, research, and networking in the Boston area for faculty and students interested in media and globalization related to Japan. The Cool Japan project presents colloquia, international conferences, and arts events aimed at exploring the cultural connections, dangerous distortions, and critical potential of popular culture. Past events include film screenings and discussions with directors, a Japanese rap performance in Cambridge by Miss Monday (from Tokyo), and presentations by leading Japan studies scholars including Prof. Anne Allison (Duke Univ.) who discussed violence and desire in Pokemon, and a talk by Prof. Jennifer Robertson (Univ. of Michigan) on gendering robots and posthuman sexism in Japan. More info at

Prof. Thomas DeFrantz is a dancer, choreographer, playwright and scholar. He is the author of Dancing Revelations Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2006) and editor of Dancing Many Drums: Excavations of African American Dance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001).

Prof. Ian Condry is a cultural anthropologist specializing in Japanese popular culture, media and globalization. He is author of Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization (Duke University Press, 2006). He is currently writing a book called The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and the Making of Japan's Media Success Story.

What is "anime"? Anime (pronounced "AH-nee-may") refers to Japanese animated films and television shows. Although anime is known for certain stereotypes--large eyes, spiky hair, ultraviolence and quirky sexualities--the media form encompasses an enormous range of genres and styles, from mass circulation children's cartoons such as Pokemon to art house cinema for adults such Paprika.

Live Action Anime 2009 is sponsored by the MIT Japan Program, MISTI Global Seed Funds, MIT Office of the Arts, MIT Council of the Arts, the De Florez Fund for Humor, MIT Music and Theater Arts, MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures, SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, and the MIT Cool Japan research project.