Performance review : God bless baseball by Toshiki Okada

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Theatre Journal

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The Johns Hopkins University Press


On December 28, 2015, just one month before the Chicago opening of God Bless Baseball, South Korea and Japan reached a “landmark” agreement on the compensation for Korean “comfort women,” or the victims of Japanese military sex slavery during World War II. Secretary of State John Kerry hoped the agreement between the two important allies would work in favor of the United States against rivals like China. Yet, the omission of the victims at the negotiating table suggests that this act was more about state interests and diplomatic convenience than redress for the violence inflicted upon so many bodies. In that sense, Toshiki Okada’s new play, God Bless Baseball, was a timely presentation of a complicated diplomatic situation. Commissioned by multiple public organizations, including the new Asian Arts Complex in South Korea, the play seeks to understand the entanglement of these nations via personal memories that materialize in baseball, a sport popularly enjoyed in all three countries. Invoking Irving Berlin’s patriotic 1918 song “God Bless America,” the title suggests the sport’s symbolic capacity to represent US hegemony, with the United States imagined as both umpire and father figure, and South Korea and Japan as the players and two brothers. However, the politics of framing the three states’ relationship in a homosocial kinship was largely left unquestioned, repeating the omission of “minor” voices incommensurate with official historical moments. The question is whether Okada still managed to recuperate the “minor” through other opportunities created in the play’s relationship with history, corporeality, and the audience.



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Yoon, S. R. (2016). Performance review: God bless baseball by Toshiki Okada. Theatre Journal, 68(3), 453-454. doi: 10.1353/tj.2016.0079