Theater Breaking Through Barriers (Nicholas Viselli, Artistic Director), the only professional Off-Broadway theater company dedicated to advancing artists and developing audiences of people with disabilities, will take a contingent of 14 artists to Japan’s Tottori Prefecture to participate in the 15th BIRD International Theatre Festival. 

Makoto Nakashima, Artistic Director of Japan’s BIRD Theatre, and host of the international theatre festival, learned about Theater Breaking Through Barriers in 2014 and invited the company to travel to Japan to present its work. TBTB was the first theater organization from the United States invited to this festival.  Since that time, TBTB has traveled to Japan in 2017 and 2018, each time expanding its presence with additional performances in Tokyo, Nara, and Niigata.  In late 2019, just before the COVID shutdown, Nakashima reached out once again to TBTB’s Artist Director Nicholas Viselli to discuss the possibility of an artistic collaboration between TBTB and the BIRD theatre’s offshoot company, the FREEDOM Theatre, which also integrates disabled and non-disabled performers onstage. Although COVID suspended all international travel to Japan in 2020 and 2021, TBTB continued to develop its collaboration online.  Finally, after over two years, the two companies will finally connect live and in person at this year’s festival. 

TBTB will leave for Japan on September 5, a week before the three-week festival begins, to take part in workshops and rehearse – a first-of-its-kind collaboration, as members of both TBTB and The FREEDOM Theatre will present four original short plays created by TBTB playwrights, Stuart Green, Tatiana G. Rivera and Jeff Tabnick. The plays will be performed by both American and Japanese actors with disabilities and performed simultaneously in English and Japanese. 

The artistic contingent includes Director Nicholas Viselli; Stage Managers Christine Lemme and Arthur Atkinson; Production Manager Eric Nightengale; Playwright, Tatiana G. Rivera; Performers: Scott Barton, Stephen Drabicki, Ann Flanigan, Stuart Green, Bree Klauser, Dionne McClaine-Freeney, Ann Marie Morelli, Pamela Sabaugh, and Gaia Visnar.

TBTB would not be able to make this trip without the generous support of: The Japan – United States Friendship Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation/USArtists International.