It is not often that one meets an individual who is ambitious, talented and pursues the arts after mastering a Ph.D. in another language as Kae Fujisawa has done. Indeed, academia didn’t satisfy Kae. She went on to pursue a dramatic arts career in New York City, which many hesitate to do once they discover the difficulties. Kae Fujisawa, who was born in Hokkaido, Japan, is Japanese. She speaks English with an ever-so -slight charming accent which nearly has disappeared since I met her in 2017 at HB Studio. And I can say unequivocally that she is a “Triple Threat.”
I have seen Kae’s excellent directing work at HB Studio in 2018 and 2019. At HB she took classes and workshops with some of the finest teachers in New York City. The first production I saw her direct was a scene from a full-length play The Rules of Unspoken Words. The scene was included in a collection of scenes from longer plays presented by the HB Studio Playwriting and Directing Division. At the HB Studio’s Playrights Theater, I enjoyed her excellent direction of the full-length comedy 7 Shitty Hombres by Ellen DeLisle. The humorous play, the actors and Kae’s direction received plaudits from the packed house as well as from her peers and teachers.
Kae’s talents directing live theater were made known to me with one of her earliest directing gambits she initiated, which she also produced via her unregistered company Theatre Borderless at the Jefferson Market Library Auditorium in 2018. The short one-act play by Anton Chekov, Swan Song, featured two actors who she shepherded so beautifully through the difficult piece, that I was impressed. I am a Drama Desk reviewer and have been an entertainment journalist for over a decade. Kae’s work struck me because Chekov can be difficult; the language is archaic. But this wasn’t a problem for her or for the actors. As a result of her direction, one of the actors gained the confidence to try out for more classical theater and after her guidance landed Shakespearean roles.
Other live theater she directed I was able to see before COVID-19 shut down New York City for almost two years. These included a Greenhouse Ensemble play that won its entry into the Greenhouse Play Festival. The playwright John Patrick Bray’s Fix was chosen for Kae to direct. With ingenuity, she was able to convey the snowy setting which amazed me. And the actors once again delivered fine performances because of her diligence and efforts.
Kae believes in doing a lot of rehearsals if the actors’ schedules permit this. Importantly, they always are willing to accommodate the rigorous rehearsal schedule because of her easy manner, subtle discipline and high standards. Though she works very hard, she has the personality to gently guide her actors toward excellent results with great good humor and grace. I have seen this with other live productions, Therapy by Susan Jane McDonald and Lullaby by Nicole Gut. Both plays were presented at the New Short Play Festival in the John Cullum Theater. In a span of over one year Kae accomplished a tremendous amount of work and then the pandemic hit.
That did not stop Kae. She has been even more industrious in creating opportunities for herself streaming live films and performing and directing Zoom Theatre and film. I saw her virtual streaming live productions of Falling Awake by Matthew Davis which she self-produced, Prime Real Estate by Joseph Cox for Greenhouse Ensemble and Sketches of Happiness which she wrote, cast, directed and presented for Crossways Theatre. Each of these productions revealed the same level of diligence and perceptive teasing out of the skills of the actors with delightful and profound results.
Because she had directed Lullaby the film, based on the play version, she easily negotiated presenting other productions on Zoom which is a smaller screen, but a screen nevertheless.
Oftentimes, it is more difficult, because you are not always assured that the actors in their own residences have the same WiFi receptivity. So when there is live streaming, one must give attention to additional technical aspects like sound and connectivity, as well as editing, and shot composition.
Kae’s enthusiasm to work in any medium allowed her to get into directing film. In film she brought the same diligence and prodigious effort that she brings to whatever artistic endeavor she accomplishes. I have never seen her efforts not pay off. The film Lullaby was nominated for a number of awards and won an award for Best Short Suspense Film at Culver City Film Festival. She also won a Best Director award for her Zoom film production of Manifesto for Manhattan Rep’s Short Film Festival.
In fact the production won Best Zoom Theatre Film, Best Actress, and Best Ensemble Awards in addition to the Best Director Award. Kae also edited the film, doing a yeoman’s job.
When Kae is not busy directing or writing, she is acting. Most recently she appeared in The Program (Falconworks Theatre), a play, and the movie Mid Autumn (director Rraine Hanson, post production). I have not been able to see her performances except for Sketches of Happiness which she wrote and directed. She was wonderful. Her performance showed nuance, sensitivity and balance.
What continually amazes me about Kae is her energy and her love of all things performance, theater, music, opera, film. The only time she was not herself occurred after she took her Moderna vaccine. In fact it was her acute description of how she felt after the vaccines that largely directed me to take the Pfizer shots for COVID. Otherwise, that is the only time I have seen Kae redirected away from her ebullience and love of the dramatic arts and film.
Currently, Kae is working on a few projects. One of them is to direct scenes from The Berglarian, a full length comedic play which I have written inspired by true events. If things eventually settle down with the pandemic, Kae, I and the exceptional actors will continue to workshop it, do readings and perhaps pitch it to producers.
I am expecting great things from Kae Fujisawa during COVID and after. She is continually originating work and creating opportunities with others in the entertainment arts. A tremendous asset to the theater arts and film community in New York City and beyond, she will continue to be a “triple threat!”