LA-based pianist Erika Tazawa and NY-based actress Mari Yamamoto will be presenting their collaborative work, “An Untitled Tale” as part of a night of musical performances by Ms. Tazawa. The duo will premier in New York with a follow-up show in Los Angeles.

Zouch NYC recently had the opportunity to speak to Ms. Yamamoto about her upcoming world-premiere.

New York headshot photographer Sofia Negron

actress Mari Yamamoto

What is “An Untitled Tale” about?

It is a retelling of the tragic life of a girl named Oshichi, who actually lived in Tokyo in the 17th century. We’re thinking of this piece as the first in a series of stories –since Erika and I are both from Japan, it will most likely be themes or stories that stem from our culture, untold tales that we feel need to be passed on.

Why did you make it?

We’ve been close friends for 10 years and never had the opportunity to work together. Erika was interested in venturing into collaborations with artists in other fields and it just seemed natural to make something together finally. With her piano and my acting we decided it was best to do a interactive storytelling piece.

How did you go about writing and composing it?

Our priority was to choose something that had strong visual images that Erika could interpret into sound. Since Oshichi is such an intriguing character and the story has lots of vivid imagery, we decided it would be perfect for our collaborative project. I wrote the story from Oshichi’s perspective and we passed the draft back and forth while Erika composed the framework of the music. Once we had a concrete version we rehearsed on FaceTime (since she is based in LA and I’m in NY), and Erika would improvise to my reading.’

Untitled Tale

pianist Erika Tazawa

As an actress, how does music change the experience of performing?

I was blown away at our first rehearsal not only because Erika’s playing is absolutely gorgeous but, since we are telling the same story simultaneously and working off of each other’s energy, every moment becomes twice as meaningful and alive. I felt as though we were the same person experiencing this story as one instrument and the music propelled me deeper and deeper into the world of Oshichi.

How does it feel to write your own material?

Its terrifyingly exciting and liberating. I’ve always wanted to write my own pieces and even though this is an adaptation, I feel there is so much of me in Oshichi and it truly will be a one and only version of her in this world and that feeling gives me the freedom to let her be whoever I want her to be, not who I think she should be, which is always a question when you are working on someone else’s creation.

You have been playing the violin for most of your life, and came into acting many years later. How are musicians and actors different?

I think since musicians use instruments whereas for actors our bodies are our instruments; musicians possess some kind of objectivity and accuracy that is hard for actors to maintain sometimes. Also for musicians I think the road to perfection requires the tremendous discipline of just tackling the instrument for hours everyday. The process is a little different for actors in a sense that you can’t predetermine how you are going to say each word, you have to be present and organic and find the truth in yourself each moment and getting there requires another kind of discipline. That’s how I see it but I think these things overlap and I can’t make a generalization!

How did it feel when you first got into acting?

It was scary to not have an instrument between me and the audience in the beginning but the immediacy of expression in acting was exhilarating. And once I started acting I had a better connection and understanding of myself so it helped me play the violin more freely and take risks, it’s also helped with improvising on the violin which I do a for a lot of shows because acting forces you to be in the moment and follow your intuitions.

Thanks so much for talking to Zouch NYC! Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Our next performance date is our LA debut on November 13th at Mimoda Studio (5772 West Pico Blvd @ Ogden) at 8:00pm, entrance thru Paper or Plastik Cafe, $10.