Cleaning Up Litter Never Looked So Cool

Video came across my social media last month about the litter picking samurai of Tokyo.  These theater performers call attention to the trash dropped in the streets of the city to generate a sense of responsibility and pride in keeping things clean.  Some commenters to the video wonder if they set things up for the performance given the timing and spacing of some of their movements. That may have been the case to create some drama for some of the shots, but I found other videos of them cleaning and sorting the trash they collect before disposing of it so it appears they are committed to putting in a full effort.

During Covid the arts community has become thoughtful about ways in which they can contribute to change in the world. These folks in Japan seemed like a good example of how performance skills can be employed in informal settings, (as opposed to performance spaces), to model positive actions.

Additionally, since there is so much uncertainty and tentativeness regarding the status of events and the return of audiences, the format of these types of performances can help the arts remain relevant and visible in communities.

Not to mention emphasizing the fact that the arts can be used in efforts to solve problems.



Similar efforts can be intentionally employed to achieve a specific goal. Back in 2014 the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Sojourn Theatre partnered on a project to call attention to the fact that crosswalk signals were timed too short to allow senior citizens to traverse intersections.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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