The Buddha in the Attic

by Julie Otsuka

  • Theatre
  • Show
The 2018 archive

Richard Brunel

Valence / Created in 2018

The story of thousands of Japanese women who believed in a new life in the United States.

The Buddha in the Attic © Christophe Raynaud de Lage


In the early 1920s, thousands of Japanese women left for the United States, where they were reunited with their husbands and dreamt of an idyllic life in the country of the Gold Rush. But those hopes were quickly dashed... The novel by Japanese-American writer Julie Otsuka is about those arrivals, and the disappointments that ensued. From the everyday details of those “new poor lives,” the writer weaves a story that ties together two continents until the Second World War, and tells of the stigmatisation of an entire community, which turned invisible in response. Director Richard Brunel, moved by this tragedy, decided to adapt this text for the theatre. To give voice to those diverse stories brought together by their similar outcome, he has surrounded himself with actresses and actors, with all their differences, and leads them on the way to becoming a collective “we” to better highlight those successive disappearances, both individual and collective, and to explore an American landscape which absorbs as much as it rejects. Starting from a little-known piece of History, The Buddha in the Attic presents us with the fates of women who dared to believe in a new life somewhere else.

Richard Brunel
Richard Brunel is an actor and director, and head of La Comédie in Valence. After learning from such prestigious masters as Krystian Lupa, Bob Wilson, Peter Stein, or Alain Françon, he led dramatic projects tackling both the canon and contemporary plays, literary adaptations and philosophical texts, and even opera. He likes to explore the journeys of individuals who, faced with society's pressure, become invisible. This is Richard Brunel's first show for the Festival d'Avignon.

Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka is a Japanese American writer. The reception by the Japanese American community of her novel When the Emperor was Divine and the personal stories she was told led to the writing of The Buddha in the Attic, published in 2011. Her incantatory, musical, and polyphonic style was the perfect match for Richard Brunel's musical sensibility. She received the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction for The Buddha in the Attic, which was awarded the Prix Femina étranger in France


With Simon Alopé, Mélanie Bourgeois, Youjin Choi, Natalie Dessay, Yuika Hokama, Mike Nguyen, Ely Penh,
Linh-Dan Pham, Chloé Réjon, Alyzée Soudet,Kyoko Takenaka, Haïni Wang

Text Julie Otsuka
Translation Carine Chichereau
Adaptation and direction Richard Brunel
Dramaturgiy Catherine Ailloud-Nicolas
Stage design Anouk Dell'Aiera
Costumes Benjamin Moreau
Sound Antoine Richard
Lights Laurent Castaingt
Video Jérémie Scheidler
Assistant direction Pauline Ringeade


Production La Comédie de Valence Centre dramatique national Drôme-Ardèche
Festival d'Avignon, Théâtre des Quartiers d'Ivry Centre dramatique national du Val-de-Marne
With the support of  l'école du Nord et pour la 72e édition du Festival d'Avignon : Adami, Spedidam, Fondation Raze
In partnership with France Médias Monde

Practical infos



Read more