The theatre, which actors/actresses play under a text
written 2500 years ago is a miraculous art. But having a long history
doesn't necessarily mean of great value. We, the people working in theatre
industry must start with the following questions.
"Is the theatre still effective?" and "Does the theatre have the substance
to survive in the future?" It was not in the distant past that the theatre
was the only media to represent something to the mass at once. Those
mass media such as printed types; films, copies, telegrams and cable
networks are quite new rivals to the theatre. The theatre had made only
a little effort until recent years, as there were no rivals. In short,
the theatre industry was a monopoly in a part of entertainment business.
In an extreme view, the theatre industry was a monopoly as a mass media
in the part as a mean to appeal political opinions, and attracted people
by using a specific story as a drug.
If we find the theatre today looses its power, it owes to people working
in theatre industry. Unfortunately, they are satisfied with just telling
the stories thoughtlessly or they go to the trouble of making a play
although an essay can easily do it.
Other medias took over the place of the theatre in most of the functions,
which were monopoly under the theatre. In a sense films, televisions,
videos, and role-playing games have overtaken the theatre completely.
It looks as though new mass media with high technology will keep on
coming up. The power that the theatre possessed has been made inroads.
Thus people have come to have an image, about the theatre, which is
something of old-fashioned, a kind of hobby, luxury, sort of cultivations,
and training for actors/actresses before they make a debut on mass media.
But now, new people working in theatre industry are on rise all over
the world. They keep seeking what the theatre alone can do and what
its last job is. They have brought in new brilliancy into an old art
The quick and restless development of information technology relentlessly
pressed the theatre to die and get reborn. That's why the end of 20th
century was the time of earthshaking change for the theatre. In such
a situation, I have had respect and sympathy and a sense of rivalry
to my contemporaries. They are pursuing what is the quality that only
the theatre can provide, questioning what the theatre is and try to
find out the answers. Tackling this question is to defeat the negatively
thought answer that the theatre is but nothing. Passion that attained,
once they had realised the desperation, makes them shine.
"What is the theatre?" When I think about this particular
question, I think about two key points that make the theatre unique.
One is that the theatre confronts an actual life instead of escaping
from it and the other is that the theatre is a mean to recognise the
difference of the others. These two points are obviously connected to
Firstly, I shall discuss the first point. Let's think
about the fundamental elements that distinguish the theatre from other
form of arts. In my opinion, three elements make the theatre special.
They are words, bodies and groups. This is because any other arts than
the theatre have not all three elements. In the other words, any arts
that contain three elements above could be described as a theatre. These
elements are also essential elements in the real life and people would
never be able to get away from them. These three elements are like an
anchor that ties people to the real life. (When people wish to escape
from the real life, people are actually dreaming of escaping from one
of the elements.) This, in a certain way, shows the limit to what the
theatre can do as the theatre cannot make people dream (or escape from
the real life) when other form of arts, such as music, fine arts and
novels, can do. In addition, neither the theatre nor the real life can
be reproduced. The theatre has a disadvantage of having the same restrictions
to the real life, but at the same time, it is also its strong advantage.
When an artist uses theatre as a mean of representation, he/she can
prove his/her view most directly to the audience. From audiences' point
of view, since the theatre is closely related to real life, theatre
could affect their real life. I am not saying that all theatrical works
can do so but the theatre has the potential to exploit. In short, the
theatre can and should be able to change the audiences' life.
All forms of arts but the theatre are similar to an alcohol
(let's say a pint of beer) in a sense that they all make you escape
from the reality.
Now compare a pint of beer after long day's work to the theatre. Beer
is far superior to the theatre in making people to forget their gloomy
life and beer can easily drive them to "dream". However, when people
sobered up, they find themselves in the same old gloomy life as before.
There are no paths that connect the "dream" and the real life. In contrast,
the theatre hardly drives people to dream, but when it does so, there
may well be paths that connect two different worlds. When someone got
driven into the "dream" which was created by the theatre, he/she could
take a piece of it back to the real life and it slowly but surely will
influence his/her life. The theatre is most likely to bring you a "dream"
that is comparable to a real life even though the theatre is most unlikely
to drive you into "dream". What I want to say is that the "dream" brought
by something restricted is most influential. If the "dream" to be influential,
it is important that the "dream" was created from all three elements
of the theatre. The theatre is very ineffective at driving people into
"dreams" but if the theatre is to improve its ability to make people
dream, the easiest way is to escape from one of its three elements.
However, by doing so, the "dreams" becomes nothing but ones that other
form of arts and media can easily provide to people.
Now I shall talk about the second point, which I mentioned
earlier that the theatre is a mean to recognise the difference of the
Since the industrial revolution, amount of information that the individuals
have to deal with, soared up at incredible rate. People now are living
in information flow, which is overflowing.
However, I feel that while the amount of information is escalating,
chances of meeting others are diminishing. This is a huge problem in
the modern world.
To give up an example, let's have a look at the changes in the process
Until a hundred years ago, or even less, in Japan, whenever people needed
to do shopping, buyers and sellers had to face each other and gather
the information through communication and from body languages and appearances.
That is, people had to encounter the different characteristics of others.
But nowadays, especially in catalogue shopping and Internet stores,
we never encounter the others. Here the consumer and the supplier must
have the same physical characteristics and never receive information
from each other's appearances or body languages. As the information
about goods is the only criterion, it can be dealt quite easily even
though amount of information is massive.
The amount of information has increased by leaps and bounds every time
the system lost a sense of difference of others. This kind of social
system is very critical. That is, even at school or at home, quite a
lot of people cannot understand the existence of others and cannot accept
the difference. It is not a problem for the young people only, but for
all age groups.
Thus we, as the people working in the theatre industry, must give people
of today, the opportunity to meet the different characteristics of others
and hope they would learn joy of it. The theatre is an art in which
real human tries to represent some thoughts to the real human (audiences).
The relationship among actors/actresses and co-actors/actresses, directors,
staff and audiences influences the performance, and the result would
depend on how sensitive each other can feel the "information from other".
This information is analogical information like the nature
and is at the extreme opposite to the digital one.
Actors/actresses must start with having a sense of incongruity against
co-actors/actresses and directors. As this sense of incongruity will
deteriorate if nothing is done, this must be kept polished. Most of
training and advices from directors are inevitable to do so.
As far as I am concerned, it is our duty to make audiences feel the
sense of incongruity before they feel the sense of familiarity. This
is because, if actors/actresses can represent their unique physique,
then the audiences should, as first impression, feel sense of incongruity.
Therefore, if an actor/actress on stage does not give out the sense
of incongruity, it would be described as a failure of representation
of his/her unique character and physique as a different individual.
Generally, the existence of others gives us the feeling of astonishment
and that is when we recognise the others as different individuals.
When audiences meet excellent actors/actresses on stage, they would
firstly be in the state of amazement and incongruity.
The sense of incongruity is making both actors/actresses and audiences
more sensitive about themselves and is making them more self-conscious.
Thus, sense of incongruity does not last long at the same state. It
develops to a tool that can be used to make people to realise that all
of us are the same at the bottom line.
(We all are the same human beings.) However, this tool cannot be used
effortlessly and the process of realisation would be very difficult
for people living in the modern world. Therefore, we must stick to this
magnificent activity at least within the theatrical works. If this is
not done, then some sort of new religious groups might do it in much
easier ways instead.
To meet others is to be astonished at the differences and then to try
to search for the similarity and then at the end astonished at the similarity.
The theatre at its peak will be able to provide all the above. First,
the audiences astonish when they meet unique actors/actresses and the
they will try to find the similarity. At the end, they will be astonished
to the fact that they are the same human being.
The marvellous thing is that the audiences can take their astonishment
back into their real life as a cure to the modern day social disease.
After all, we call the theatre "THE MIRACULOUS ARTS".
(translated by Kazuko Kawamoto)