ROUND TABLE 3: Mr Shintaro Fujii

​Reconsider the mission of the Japanese public theatre

Mr Shintaro Fujii described his study of the transition of the modern dramaturgy by focusing on the theatre and its environment public and cultural policies.

Fujii spent his student days in the 90s when many new public theatres were born in Japan, like the Shizuoka Performing Arts Centre, the Setagaya public theatre, the New National Theatre Tokyo, and so on. He worked as a part-time student at the Setagaya public theatre (Sept) founded in 1997 in Tokyo. Then he experienced the period of the first theoretical and practical attempt how the Japanese public theatre can define their “publicness”, in particular the Sept explores the way how the theatre can contribute to the society and change the local cultural environment. Indeed, the Sept became the first theatre in Japan where introduced a role of a curator of the theatre. They also published the theory magazine for theatre called “PT” that refers to initial characters of “Public Theatre”. These activities aim to cultivate and promote the social meaning of the theatre in Japan. Fujii recalled the 1st edition of the International Art Festival in Kanagawa organized by Kanagawa Arts Foundation in 1994, which programmed the production giving a new perspective to the audiences like Philippe Decouflé, Jan Fabre, and William Forsythe. The Dumb type presented “s/n” which gave a big impression on the Japanese audiences by raising the issue of the AIDs, gay and disability openly in Japan.

The initial attempts in the Japanese public theatre in the early 90s were ambitious. However, the today’s their activities and programs have become more conservative. The accountability for the federal funds became claimed loudly, more and more the public theatre discouraged and began relying on the ordinary program by the star performers that can contribute the tickets sales. The people working in theatre became less considering what the idea of the "public", and discussed it only in a relationship with the public money.

Fujii concerned that they caused the Japanese public theatre to lose their appeal and motivation to create the new audience members and works. "Create theatre then break it." − once the Japanese avant-garde theatre director, Mr Makoto Satoh said. Fujii believes that we again need to have the courage to break the theatre to renew it.

The transformation of the dramaturgy reflecting contemporary society

The dramaturgy in theatre has expanded its meaning in the modern age. At first, there is the dramaturgy in the drama texts. It only meant how the drama texts were structured and how the readers interpret it. Next, in the period of Bertolt Brecht, people consider more how to transform the dramaturgy in texts to performance. In the process, every member of the theatre company read the plays to understand the dramaturgy and discussed how to perform it. By the middle of 20c, the dramaturgy in drama texts has had some analogy to the dramaturgy in performance. However, after the WWⅡ, the new style of the theatre came up like the drama without texts and the production not performed in the theatre. The dramaturgy in this kind of works doesn’t rely on the texts but focuses on the structure of the performance itself.

In 2013, Fujii initiated and directed a pilot project "Training Programme in Dramaturgy” at the Waseda University. It was inspired by the words of French theatre theorist and practitioner, Bernard Dort. He mentioned that dramaturgy is a state of mind, which is linked to the whole part of the performance and shared by all the participants in a theatre production. So in this project, Fujii intended to foster not only the professional dramaturges but rather the dramaturgical awareness of everyone working in theatre to consider the relationship between texts and performance, history and present, and society and theatre.

Mr Naoya Fujita pointed that it seems that the dramaturgy has shifted the function in assembling fragmented elements of the artistic practice by collecting from many others. It initiates a new paradigm to create the art not by the creator’s top-down, but by the participant's bottom-up. This role change also is happened among art curators and directors of the exhibitions/festivals in contemporary art.

Then we also discussed the dramaturge as the role to design the relationship with the audiences. Fujii told that historically the relationship between the production and audiences has been so flexible than the other art genre like the literature and the film. Nowadays "the relationship" even became the most significant element in theatre. In the contemporary art, as Nicolas Bourriaud's" Relation al art" tells, we can design and transform the relationship of the artistic practices and the viewers with more creative way. Fujii said that once an American art critic, Michael Fried criticised that the art will be declined when it became like theatre, but ironically after "Relation al art", the art has been more theatrical and expanded a possibility to involve in the society.

Finally, Fujii introduced the season program of MC93, a French public theatre. The theatre is located in the poorest area in the suburb of Paris. Last year a new program director, Ms Hortense Archambault was appointed. She was the previous director of the Avignon festival. She featured not only famous artists like who appeared at the Avignon Festival, but also the artists from the young generation of the immigrants from North Africa, Asia, and Southeast Asia. Moreover, she has started a new ticketing system, in which people can see any theatre for one year by 10 euros.

Fujii mentioned that it is a new attempt so doesn’t show the result yet if it works or not, but the experimentation of MC 93 how to reflect the immigrants’ community surrounding the theatre could be a good example of what the Japanese public theatre can do for their community.

Photo: Ryohei Tomita

* See AGENDA for personal biography