Nick Offerman knows how to make a scene. When he was studying theatre at Illinois, he got paid to use his woodworking skills in the scenery shop. “That was a great supplement to allow me to earn my keep while I was learning to be a better actor,” notes the star of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.
Two decades after graduating from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Offerman’s woodworking skills are on display on the grounds of Japan House. In honor of his teacher, or sensei, Shozo Sato, Offerman designed and built a gazebo in his woodshop in California and had it shipped to Champaign.
“I feel like my life has been so enriched by Japan House and the program instituted by our sensei, so I’m just thrilled that I can pitch in a little bit, hopefully to provide a spot to meditate on the beautiful views of the garden,” says Offerman.
Professor Emeritus Sato, who was an artist-in-residence at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts from 1969 until 1992, taught the Kabuki theatre class Offerman took his sophomore year. “I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time when Shozo needed some dumb, strapping donkeys to play soldiers in his Kabuki production of Achilles, which was his adaptation of The Iliad.”
Offerman’s design for the gazebo embraces a concept his mentor taught him. “When I was studying theatre at Illinois, I saw Shozo’s designs and was taken with how everything could be considered part of the greater canvas.” He tried to let Shozo’s teaching influence every decision he made while designing and building the gazebo, or azumaya.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the legacy of Shozo and Japan House and to create a token of my esteem for a teacher who means so much to me.”