Campus Interview: Beyond the Stage with Nana Ichikawa

It was a Sunday night when I sat down at Starbucks with my classmate and friend, Nana Ichikawa. Tea in Christmas coffee cups and her 100-page play lay on the table between us, and along with the signature pink headphones that she is hardly seen without. I had known Nana for a little while- we go to the same Creative Writing seminar where her unique stories never fail to captivate - but throughout the period of our acquaintance, this was the first time I had a chance to really delve deep and talk to Nana about her passion for theater. 

Her Campus Waseda (HCW): Let’s start off with the basics, tell us a little about yourself!

Nana: Hi! My name is Nana Ichikawa and I’m a senior at SILS. I was born in Tokyo but I lived in Tanzania (Africa) for 4 years and Islamabad (Pakistan) for 3 years, where I learned English. I’ve always been passionate about theater, mostly play-writing. Since I entered Waseda, I’ve performed in more than 10 plays and musicals, and one of my most recent plays won the first prize in the Tokyo Student Theater Competition 2017. I think that was one of the best memories I have of my student life. 


HCW: What made you fall in love with theater, and how did you get involved in it?

Nana:  I fell in love with theater when I went to see the musical Beauty and the Beast with my mom when I was 15. After I watched it, I cried for hours because I remember being so moved from seeing with my own eyes the absolutely amazing performance put on by real people. I totally fell in love with the combination of singing, dancing, lighting, music, and the beautiful costumes and settings. I think that incident set of a spark in me, and from then on, I was just crazy about theater and started being interested in performing on stage. I started going to an acting school and was taught by a teacher who played Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, which was really cool. 


HCW: So it sounds like you started off acting... what made you want to transition into writing plays instead? 

Nana: I’m not sure where my passion from writing came from, but since I grew up in different cultures with people of different skin colors and religions like I did in Tanzania and Pakistan, I’ve been starting to think about the how people from different backgrounds interact with each other. From there, I found myself really just wanting to write about people. 

So even though when I started being interested in theater, I was really interested in being on stage. But after all those plays as an actress, I felt like I really wanted to try something new and start writing stories and also directing as well.

"This is a picture of a play I wrote for the first time that I acted in too!" 


HCW: What was it like when you first decided to start writing? Did you find it difficult?  

Nana: Not at all! I wrote my first play at the end of Freshman year and it was so fun for me to write. Before I knew it, I wrote my first full-length 2 hour play. I had so much fun creating the characters, to give them life and to have them laugh and cry and feel. Since then, I felt like writing was just something that I was meant to do. 


HCW: Since we’re on the topic of writing, what are your inspirations? 

Nana: Well, I have 2 main inspirations. The first one was like I said before, my background growing up in Pakistan and Africa, experiencing the people and the culture there. I also spent a year in Ohio studying abroad, where I met so many amazing people and had really great experiences. My second inspiration is a guy (laughs). It’s always a guy. A lot of my writings were inspired by a boyfriend or a crush, because I feel like guys have a tendency to make me feel more emotions than others do. Like sometimes they make me feel happy or moody or hurt and that’s when I channel it into writing. 


HCW: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? 

Nana: When I start writing every play, I always first come up with a scene that I wanted to see.

As an example, for one of my recent plays I had an image in my head of girls being violently taken out of a classroom by a teacher, so I expanded on that idea and came up with a 5 minute scene. Then I think about how I can make that scene happen- like what kind of characters or story needs to appear in order for that scene to happen in the play. 

It always takes me a month or two to finish writing a play. But it takes a lot longer for the play to actually be performed on stage, because I would have to talk to a director who then edits the script and there are so many different processes involved that it would be over a year before a play can actually be performed on stage.


HCW: What would you say is the best part of being in the theater scene? 

Nana: You can get to know and work with so many people. Theater happens because of the people making it happen -like the directors, actors, lighting and sound crew and so on- and I think I like the fact that theater is different from the other arts in that sense. Being able to work with people is the thing that’s most meaningful to me. 


HCW: What are your future plans? 

Nana: Right now i’m applying to grad school in the states; because I really want to pursue my passion for playwriting, and in the states, they have so many good programs. That’s what I’ve been busy with these days.

Also my newest play “To Let You Sleep Well Tonight” will be performed in Kyoto in February next year. It’s the first time my play will be performed outside of Tokyo, so that’s also what I’m really excited about. 


HCW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/playwrights/actresses? 

Nana: For people who are interested in writing plays or who want to just do theater, I think an advice I would give is to try your best to make it happen! Because if you’re a student, Waseda has so many good theater-related activities, so as many good opportunities and people around campus. If you want to write or get involved, just do it! 

From "Eyes of the Gypsies, Blue of the Sea", a play written by Nana that was performed this Summer.


HCW: Tell us about your latest play! 

Nana: The most recent play that I was involved in (To Let You Sleep Well Tonight), which is the one that won the Tokyo Student Theater Competition was the only play that I wrote that wasn’t inspired by a guy! It was actually inspired by my grandma and my mom. The play was about three generations of women -a grandmother, mother, and daughter- and how the characters are dealing with the grandmother’s death. This spring, my grandma was diagnosed with a disease which thankfully didn’t really end up being anything too serious. But our family was going through a difficult time, and that’s what inspired me to write this.


HCW: Now a question just for fun, what do you like to do in your free time? 

Nana: Besides going to go see plays, I like to read and to write; but these days I’ve been so surprised to find myself being so excited to write. Because I’m in a creative writing seminar and also a creative writing class, I have to write so much that every time I’m on the train I have my laptop open and writing. I just love it so much! 


HCW: And lastly, what are you working on right now?

Nana: I’m working on a new play right now that’s called “The Layer and the Seasons”, which is a love story about 15 men and women divided into 4 parts according to the seasons. All the different parts are connected to each other, and I’m planning to stage it next summer. I’m very excited about that. 


HerCampus Waseda expresses our sincere gratitude to Nana for participating in our interview. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors and look forward to seeing her plays on the big stage! To keep up with Nana and have a look at her work, visit her blog at wendla777!

All photos were provided by Nana.