Dr. C & Elwood Sing the ADHD Song in Japan

I was fortunate enough to be invited to conduct a workshop at the first ever Japanese Ventriloquist Festival in Tokyo this November 17th and 18th. Therefore, on November 14th, my wife, Mary, and I took off for Narida, Japan.

The festival was organized by Mr. Takeshi Ikeda, president of the newly formed Japanese Ventriloquist Association. About 150 ventriloquists attended the festival and considerably more people attended the the shows which were open to the public. I must admit that Ikeda San, for his first festival, did a marvelous job. I’m sure that all who attended would agree that they not only profited by the experience but also enjoyed it a great deal.

Americans participating besides me were Randel McGee, Kerry Summer, Buddy Big Mountain, Richard Paul, and Richard’s two sons. Stevo was there from Germany and acted as the emcee and also performed. Last but not least, Dennis Chan was there from Canada. Dennis has attended every single Las Vegas Festival to date and so decided that he didn’t want to miss this historical event.

There were too many highlights to mention them all, but I will write about a few. On Friday night there was a welcoming party and all of us were given beautiful fleece jackets as gifts. On Saturday we started with workshops and shows.

Many of the Japanese vents were excellent, with superior lip control. Unfortunately, large segments of most of the performances, both in Japanese and English, were not translated. The performers apparently felt that translation broke their rhythm. Hearing a lot of performances in a foreign language helped me to appreciate what our foreign guests experience when they come to the American festivals and conventions. At least at the Japanese Festival, some attempt was frequently made to translate between Japanese and English.

The audience appreciated the songs and physical humor but had a much more difficult time with the English dialogue since most of them did not understand English. We English speakers, on the other hand, had a difficult time with long dialogues in Japanese.

Noboku Kawakami’s Saturday night show was excellent. In addition to vent, it included humorous mime which we all could understand. The pro show that evening included Kerry Summers and Buddy Big Mountain.

Kerry combines ventriloquism with magic, music, and his Elvis impersonation. He was very entertaining and appreciated by the Japanese audience. They particularly liked his Elvis impersonation. As he walked around the audience, women, young and old, were spontaneously kissing him. I guess I am in the wrong business! He performed two different shows during the festival.

Buddy Big Mountain’s show is both interesting and unique. He also performed twice. His ventriloquism is very well done, and his act is humorous.

Besides ventriloquism, Buddy has made marionettes of Indian dancers. He had six of them with him and he used them to perform Indian dances. This was without a doubt a highlight for everybody. At the end of the sixth dance, his younger brother, Buffalo, came on stage in full costume, much to the surprise of the audience. He danced briefly, and it was a great climax to a superior act.

Buffalo’s wife is an air force pilot stationed in Japan. Both Buddy and Buffalo grew up in show business, performing Indian dances with their parents in theme parks and other venues. Bill Boley was Buddy’s mentor.

A highlight on Sunday was Randel McGee’s performance in Japanese. The children and adults loved it and appeared to understand most of what he said. I always enjoy watching Randel and Groark perform, even though this time I did not understand any of it.

Another highlight was Nick Paul, Richard’s 14 year old son. He performed a magic show entirely in Japanese. He had been working on it for over 2 months. He studies Japanese at school in Michigan. Again, the Japanese audience was appreciative of his effort and appeared to understand him.

Workshops were on topics such as the business of ventriloquism (Richard Paul), entertaining children (Randel), Life of Ventriloquism (Noboru Kawakami), and finally my workshop on using ventriloquism to educate and counsel young children.

At this point it is necessary to mention Dr. Kinoshita, our translator. He worked well with all of the American workshop presenters and made it possible for us to be more successful.

I thought that my workshop was quite well received. I performed part of one of my vignettes on ADHD, and Dr. Kinoshita translated throughout. Maybe because I am not a professional performer, I was less interested in the rhythm of my performance and more interested in communicating. Dr. Kinoshita and I even rehearsed before my workshop.

I thought that the highlight of my performance was when I taught Dr. Kinoshita and Elwood the ADHD song. I would sing a phrase, Elwood would repeat it, and then Dr. Kinoshita would sing it in Japanese. Hopefully I will be able to get a video of this segment since it is probably the most fun I have ever had performing. You can view the ADHD Song elsewhere on this website.

I also showed some clips from my ADHD videos on a huge movie screen. Because of the size of the screen, I decided to show my puppet, Elwood, tap-dancing. No translation was need for this segment.

Finally, I premiered some public service announcements I have made with my puppets which are designed to help children who are having reactions to the terrorism. It was the first public viewing of these 1/2 minute PSAs which should soon start playing on Tucson TV stations.

There were other workshops and performances in Japanese, but it is difficult for me to comment on these since I didn’t understand them. I was aware, however, that most of the Japanese performers were excellent.

The festival concluded on Sunday night when we had one last party to celebrate a very successful event.

Besides being invited to participate by Mr. Ikeda, I was also invited to lecture and perform for parents of retarded and autistic children. Dr. Hara, a pediatrician and special education professor, not only invited us but also hosted me and
My talk to the parents and some children was a bit tricky. First the two translators told me that they did not think that they were proficient enough to translate. This did not help my confidence. Next, when I tried to play some video, the equipment did not want to work. Therefore, I decided to perform with my puppet Elwood.

I brought the children up to the front much to the surprise of the parents who had them way in the back so that they would not disturb anybody. Besides performing, I also demonstrated some concepts using the children. I was lucky that they responded, and after that the audience was more open to my talk. Even my translators decided to translate.

By the end of my presentation, many in the audience were quite moved. These parents don’t often have an opportunity to share their burden, and I felt gratified that I was able to spend some time with them.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed my first Japanese experience and hope it will not be my last one.

Be Sociable, Share!