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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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Wavering between past & present

Aug. 7, 2017

Renowned Japanese director and playwright Takahiro Fujita, age 32, has won several prestigious performing arts awards. He's celebrating 10 years since the foundation of his famed acting troupe, Mum & Gypsy.

To mark this milestone, the director is taking a look back at his characteristic style and bringing his talent to a new generation of young performers.

A signature element of Fujita's plays is known as the “refrain,” in which the same scene is repeated over and over. As the story develops, the true meaning of the scene is gradually revealed.

The main themes of his plays are the meaning of life and of loss. For this 10-year milestone, Fujita combined 3 works addressing these topics.

He's also tackling these themes with another troupe, a group of local teenagers. He's directing them in a performance of one of his earliest works. The play, “Hello School, Bye Bye,” is about a junior high school volleyball team’s last game, and the end of the carefree days of youth.

He's currently holding rehearsals for the production, which goes up in a little more than a week. Although the cast is amateurs for this play, Fujita still asks them for perfection.

"If you make a mistake, even if it's just one, you should start over from the top. Otherwise, it will be left unfixed," he tells them.

The sets are characteristically minimalist. There's not even a net or a ball. Just like his other works, Fujita leaves it up to the audience to use their imagination and fill out the set.

The preparation reflects the theme of the play, as the students will have to say good-bye to each other when the performance ends. Fujita uses this to get the most from his actors.

“July will be over before you know it, and you’ve already prepared a lot since your auditions. If you don’t treasure every moment you’ve spent together, you’ll regret it in an instant, and I don’t want that to happen. I want you guys to work hard and not be able to forget this," Fujita tells them.

The curtain rises.

The game is shown again and again. The young students' lives outside the court are revealed between scenes from the match.

But as the game nears the conclusion, the audience comes to realize that it was the team's last, meaning also the end of their relationships developed throughout the play. The technique of repeating scenes has allowed Fujita to create a story that weaves through time.

In the final scene, one team member is leaving town, her shadow in the background. It's a typical Fujita scene -- the brightness and darkness of existence in plain sight, with the character, and the audience, going forward and backward through time, to find meaning in life.