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January 13, 2003

Performer makes light of disability

From: Daily Yomiuri, Japan - 13 Jan 2003

Yomiuri Shimbun

A young man conquered both his nerves and his disability in his stage debut as a clown at a performance in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday.

Hiroaki Takahashi, 21, of Minato Ward, was born in the United States to an American father and Japanese mother. When he was 1 year old, he contracted cerebral meningitis, which caused brain damage and hearing loss.

After coming to Japan, he entered a school for deaf and mute people in Tokyo. While his outgoing personality was loved by all who met him, he sometimes disappeared after school and once scattered water around at a train platform, causing concerns about his well-being.

When he was a child, Takahashi copied the performance of a pantomime artist whom he saw at a local festival, surprising others with his acting abilities.

Two years ago, Mariko, his 50-year-old mother, urged him to take pantomime lessons before he graduated from school.

A quick learner, Takahashi rapidly mastered various performance skills, including juggling.

Takahashi decided to perform as a clown last spring after he joined the Open Sesame theater company, which gives clown performances.

The duo of Rone Takano, 45, who heads the group, and Chizuko Hashimoto, 34, won first prize in an international competition for clowns held in Britain last year.

Takano said Takahashi "entertained people with his childlike innocence."

In his first performance with 12 other members, the audience enjoyed the performance of the young clown--more than 180 centimeters tall--who wore a wedding dress and juggled skillfully.

Takahashi's fellow performers helped him get his timing right by patting his back at key moments.

After watching her son's debut performance, Mariko said, "He performed well to the rhythm of the music."

Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun