Two weeks ago PlayCo started rehearsals for our new collaboration with Ripe Time – An adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s iconic short story, SLEEP, a work-in-progress which will have three public presentations at the Japan Society in February. Preparing to delve into the world of Murakami, we discovered the official Haruki Murakami website, unique because of the intimate discussion it creates between Murakami and his fans.
The site engages the viewer from the very first moment with their #mymurakamimoment campaign, which asks visitors to share what inspires them. The phrase, ‘Murakami Moment’, refers to a singular, life-changing event in the author’s life.. At the age of 29 Haruki Murakami was running a jazz club and had never written anything. One afternoon he attended a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp when hitter Dave Hilton hit a pretty routine double. But here’s how Murakami describes that moment in the introduction to WIND/PINBALL:
“I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel….Each night after that, when I got home late from work, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote.”
That unexpected moment of inspiration led to his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing (1979).
Murakami is generous with sharing information about his writing process. He invites the visitor to take a tour of his office where you can press different objects on his desk and find out where they are from. Our personal favorite is a small wooden foot with a spider on it from Laos. He explains that, among other objects that he puts at the base of his desk lamp, this foot serves as a talisman. He also posts conversations that he’s had with his publisher, cover designers and translators and in The Kafka Art Gallery even reveals what he eats, drinks, and listens to while writing.
In addition to sharing information about the author, the website gives Murakami fans the opportunity to share their Murakami experience with one another by answering one of three questions. We asked Ripe Time’s artistic director and director of SLEEP, Rachel Dickstein, to respond to them (click the question to read Murakami’s fans answers).
I discovered Haruki Murakami while in a used bookstore in Maine. It was actually not even a store but an unheated shed with some books outside on very old weathered shelves, all pretty damp and moldy. There was a small cashbox in the shed in which you put the money. You’d pay for your books on an honor system as there was no one manning the shed. It felt like a shrine to books and therefore the right place to discover Murakami in what seemed like an abandoned space full of ghosts.
An Elephant Vanishes was the collection I found there and Murakami’s heroine in Sleep is my favorite character. She’s not named in the story and in our adaptation by Naomi Iizuka she is simply called the woman. She’s powerful, smart and seeking revelation in a life of mindless repetition.
My favorite scene in the story is the final scene in the woman’s car. It’s mysterious and occurs so suddenly that it is one of the most riveting endings of a story I have ever encountered. It’s a gorgeous challenge to figure out how to capture that on stage in all its muscularity and beauty.
In the Strange Library Fan Photo Gallery, Murakami posts photos from readers of the unusual objects on their bookshelves. Check out PlayCo’s submission of our bookshelf, answer one of the Murakami questions or post your own strange library photo.