Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004
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Saturday, November 20, 2004 –
A few hundred members of the San Francisco Bay Area artist community gathered to celebrate the life of Sachiko Nakamura: avant-garde dancer, choreographer, theater group founder, teacher and student of the performing arts. At her memorial celebration, everyone entering Project Artaud Theater was handed a piece of bubble wrap. At various times during the films, the snapping, crackling sound of audience participation drowned out the sound track.
An altar was set up in the theater lobby, and a gallery space next to the lobby held paintings of Sachi. Musicians Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi & Nancy Wang) and then Phil Deal performed on a small stage in gallery area for about 45 minutes before Phil, playing his bamboo flute, led everyone into the theater.
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The emcee, Avotcja let everyone know that this was not a funeral but a celebration of a life. She had us all shout “SHACHIKO NAKAMURA” three times to invoke Sachi’s spirit. Then the films began.
Benji Young did a great job finding, editing, and compiling the sequence of films from Sachi’s career. There was an hour’s worth of clips, including some of her very early works. As one person told me afterwards, “It’s hard to remember now, but people were much more conservative then (the 60’s.) Her work from that time still seems edgy, but it must have seemed completely insane to some people at the time.”
Fans of Sachi’s work, familiar with her jokes and favorite lines, still laughed in all the right places. Like the scene where Sachi, recounting the times she went to Japanese movies as a kid, imitates Toshiro Mifune as a samurai – snarling, stomping, scratching, and then addressing the audience, she says, “This is how we learn Japanese.”
Lydia Tanji, one of Sachi’s favorite costume designers said,”Sachi was, in essence, an avant-garde vaudevillian. I loved designing for Sach. She was always open to anything that caught her eye or ear, and her conceptual process was more sophisticated and intellectual than her comedic choreography let on.”