David Shih, left, Ryan Nebreja and Kris Bona in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere play “Sumo.” Photo by Rich Soublet II.

By Lisa Sanaye Dring 
Originally co-produced by La Jolla Playhouse and Ma-Yi Theatre Company
September 26 – October 22, 2023


"True victory is victory over oneself."

Entrenched in an elite sumo training facility in Tokyo, six men practice, eat, love, play and ultimately fight.

Akio arrives as an angry, ambitious 18 year old with a lot to learn. Expecting validation, dominance and fame, and desperate to move up the ranks, he slams headlong into his fellow wrestlers, especially Mitsuo, the highest ranked fighter. With sponsorship money at stake, their bodies on the line, and their futures at risk, the wrestlers struggle to carve themselves – and one another – into the men they dream of being.

“Welcome to the dohyō. Where the national heroes of Japan are made. These men are not gods, they are sumo. But sumo wrestlers were once gods.”

Artistic Statement: La Jolla Playhouse and the Edgerton Foundation share a deep commitment to the development of new work. We are truly grateful for their support that provided crucial additional rehearsal time for Sumo by Lisa Sanaye Dring. The funding for an extra week of rehearsal allowed us to take the time needed for the Cultural Consultant/Fight Choreographer and Intimacy Coordinator to nurture the actors’ trust and develop their skills during the wrestling sequences to ensure authenticity in the art and sport of sumo. - Christopher Ashley, the Rich Family Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse

Grant Statement: La Jolla Playhouse’s 2023/24 Season of six productions featured all world premieres. It is through the support of the Edgerton Foundation that the Playhouse is able to consistently provide the extra time, care, and intentionality required to develop each of these new works in preparation of its first foray in front of an audience. We are grateful for the Edgerton Foundation’s dedication to expanding the American theatre canon. - Debby Buchholz, Managing Director of La Jolla Playhouse

Creative team:

Director: Ralph B. Peña
Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin
Costume Designer: Mariko Ohigashi
Lighting Designer: Paul Whitaker
Sound Designer: Fabian Obispo
Projection Designer: Hana Kim
Wig Designer: Albert "Albee" Alvarado
Intimacy & Fight Director: Chelsea Pace
Cultural & Martial Arts Consultant: James Yaegashi
Dramaturg: Alice Tuan
Casting: tbd casting
Casting: Stephanie Yankwitt/Jacole Kitchen
Assistant Director: Isabel Rodriguez


Kannushi 1, Rikishi: Kris Bona
Understudy: Victor E. Chan
Kannushi 2, Rikishi: Michael Hisamoto
Shinta: Earl T. Kim
Kannushi, Tate Gyoji, Rikishi: Ryan Nebreja
Mitsuo: David Shih
Fumio, Boss: Miller Tai
Akio: Scott Keiji Takeda
Ren: Adam Tran
So: Viet Vo
Taiko Drummer and Composer: Shih-wei Wu 吳士瑋

Additional funders:

Production Sponsors
Silvija and Brian Devine
Playhouse Partners