Love, Please is a memoir of a timeless love story between a man and a woman from opposite sides of the world. They meet in Tokyo when she is there on tour, and each immediately realizes they are soul-mates. Their story unfolds over a period of seventeen years, from the mid seventies to the early nineties, chronicling the extraordinary adventure of their lives together. Satoru Oishi is a architect and sculptor who works with Jasper Johns and Phillip Johnson. Susana Hayman-Chaffey is a soloist with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The backdrop is their Manhattan loft, from which they travel around the world making a living any way they can, and learning about life through dramatic, often humorous, ups and downs.
It is a voyage of love between two people, their families, friends and children. It encourages and inspires us to keep faith in the midst of what seems to be an impossible life journey, proving that, with courage and determination, anything can be accomplished. It is a human story told simply and honestly about life and love.
I heard Satoru Oishi sing before I heard him speak. It was in the winter of 1976, when I was a soloist in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. An English artist I knew invited to me visit the loft where Satoru was living and working. Hiroshi, Satoru’s friend, had invited him to New York from Tokyo to manage his Simca Prints Company. They made silk screen prints for many of the foremost artists of the 20th Century. Two were Jasper Johns and John Cage, who were both part of Merce’s Company. Jasper, was his artistic director, and John, his Music Director. Satoru was up in an open loft area singing a hauntingly beautiful song for his friends. I remember how amazing he looked and how beautiful his singing was; he stopped while we were being introduced. With a charming, very appealing smile he asked me, “Are you wearing a wig?” His words, though, I found to be at odds with my perception of Japanese manners. I had recently, on a whim, had a permanent; so I found his question slightly disconcerting. However, I remember I liked Satoru’s unique mix of fragility and strength and his slightly tilted smile. He was very handsome, but as a result of his comment, I thought no more about him. He would later prove to be the person who would change my life forever. Yet at that moment I was unaware of his extraordinary role in it. I have often thought that our destinies take shape long before we actually become aware of what is to come. We move forward often at a loss wondering why we feel a certain way, not knowing that soon everything will change and make sense. In the spring, I left with the Company on tour to Los Angeles, Australia and Japan. It would be a long tour that I was very much looking forward to. After Los Angeles we went to Perth and continued to Sydney, performing at the spectacular Sydney Opera House, the Adelaide Festival and Canberra and then on to our last stop, Japan. Excitement washed over me. Japan was the land that, growing up, I had heard my mother talk so much about. She had dreamed of going there sometime; I would be fulfilling her dream. We had a four-hour layover to change planes in Tokyo, before going on to Kyoto, our first stop. A press conference had been programmed that we would all attend, after which we were each put in charge of our baggage and check in to Kyoto. We had enough time to eat something so we all headed to the airport restaurant, looking forward to our first Japanese meal. It was a feast we all enjoyed, and a nice break between all the flying. I was the first to leave and went up to pay but, mysteriously, someone had already paid for me. I asked my companions if any of them had, but none of them was responsible. So I looked around me to see if there was a sign as to who might have given me this generous present, only to realize that a little magic had just touched me. It gave me the first inkling that something special was happening. On my way out, as I was searching where to go, an elderly Japanese gentleman, seeing me in doubt, asked if he could help. I told him I was looking for the Kyoto check-in counter. He, gently, with beautiful Japanese manners, took my suitcase and me to the counter and checked me in. I thanked him gratefully and he graciously bowed and went on his way. These wonderful events, in my first few hours in Japan, felt like what Carl Jung explains as “synchronicity.” I was so excited to be in Kyoto, that as soon as I had put my bags in my room, I ran out to get a feel for the city. As I was walking and window shopping, a very nice young man invited me to tea, in the tea house I was looking into. He said he would like to practice his English. We had a lovely conversation; he told me all about Kyoto, its history and temples. I was fascinated. As dusk fell, I had to get back to the hotel to which he kindly accompanied me. As I was walking into the hotel, Merce and John Cage were there with some journalists who had just finished interviewing them. They were on their way out to dinner, and asked me to join them. Since this was a very rare thing for Merce and John to do, I accepted immediately. We went to a marvelous restaurant for a wonderful meal. All this on my first day in Japan! I was stunned and wondered what kind of enchanted spell I was under. The next morning, we had rehearsals in the theatre and, in the evening, gave our first performance. On the program was Signals, a very special piece Merce had choreographed for us. He made my first leading solo and a beautiful duet for Mel Wong and me, just two years after I had joined the company. It was a choreography that Merce created outside of the formal foundation planning and was homemade, as it were, so that he could do it quickly without restraints. He designed the costumes and the set, and John Cage composed the music. Rick Nelson, the company lighting designer, came up with special lighting and a ravishing orange spot for me. It was premiered in Paris at the Theatre Odeon on June 5, 1970. I vividly remember Merce and me sitting on two chairs, part of the set, waiting for the curtain to go up. He leaned over to me and said “Let’s pretend we are in the Bois de Boulogne having a nice afternoon.”
Susana Hayman-Chaffey left her native England at an early age to travel the world with her parents. At nineteen she became a soloist with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and has taught his technique and repertory all over the world. She has written six prose poetry books and currently teaches her Inner-Being Retreats in Los Angeles and Italy. She is the recipient of a Merce Cunningham Fellowship for 2012.