enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館



  The Otojiro Kawakami Troupe was the first in Japan to stage ‘Otogi-Shibai (Fairy-Tale Drama)’ (i.e. children’s theatre, or theatre for young audiences) in 1903. Since that time, dramatic works on the theme of children and youths (the word ‘children’ will hereinafter be used to refer to both) has expanded in a variety of ways in terms of objective, content, form, and target audience. In the 21st century, these developments entered a new phase.
  The rapid transformation to an information-based society, the increase in part-time workers, increases in social inequality, population decreases, a society characterised by a low birth rate and increasing numbers of elderly persons, the depopulation of rural areas, and many other issues have led to major changes in the lifestyle of children in the 21st century. Children use the latest technologies to expand their personal networks, obtain a wide variety of information, and come into contact with new value systems. If they so desired, they could take full advantage of their personal creativity and become active not only in their own country but indeed on a worldwide scale. However, the widespread availability of digital media has led to phenomena such as the loss of a sense of reality, weakening of relations with others, excessive fascination with one’s own mental world, and a deepening of personal isolation. At the same time, problems such as violence at school, bullying, refusal and inability to attend school, domestic violence, drug use, and child abuse persist. These issues not only appear in dramatic works, but they also influence the way in which drama is presented to children.
  Against the backdrop of these complex social changes, it has become necessary for adults to examine how they interact with children. Works of modern theatre that target an adult audience include those that examine the difficulties that women face as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, raising children, the poverty often experienced in single-parent households, children with disabilities and their parents, elderly people and children, and the situation faced by parents of children who are bullied and commit suicide.
  Thus, this exhibition is focused on the relationship between children and contemporary society – and in particular the social problems that children are faced with – and simultaneously displays dramatic works and drama-related activities on the theme of children in a variety of ways. 2019 marks thirty years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; thus, the exhibition has been designed as shown on the left with the ideas of ‘the right to life’, ‘the right to grow up’, ‘the right to be protected’, and ‘the right of participation’ in mind.
  The first display is devoted to the history of the children’s theatre in Japan based on materials related to previous children’s theatre productions and materials related to the children’s plays of Shoyo Tsubouchi. Here, visitors can get a sense of the characteristics of the children’s theatre that existed in several time periods, and they can view important materials and artefacts that are in the collections of this institution, as well as a variety of theatre companies.
  Second, the exhibition features works of the modern theatre, mainly created by professional theatre companies that take up the theme of ‘children’. Here, there are not only works that target children but also those that are aimed at an adult audience. Through this presentation of the material, we hope that we can all – those with children and those with no children alike – think about these various problems. We also focus on works produced by modern theatre companies that have their roots in the little theatre
whose activities became much more the focus of attention in the 21st century, as well as theatrical works that will be created in the future by new theatre companies and children’s theatre experts.
  Third, the exhibition takes up works of the modern theatre on the theme of ‘children and social inclusion’. Although children have traditionally had a weak social standing, the existence of children in even more vulnerable positions, such as children in hospital, children with disabilities, and foreign-heritage children, has become a social problem. Thus, this portion of the exhibition is focused on how dramatic works have treated such children and what sorts of dramatic works have been created for such children and those around them.
  Fourth, the exhibition examines drama-related activities in local communities and schools. Although children have long been afforded the opportunity to experience drama in their local communities and schools, in the 21st century, a wide variety of organisations – not only theatre companies and theatres – have produced high-quality theatrical programmes for children. Part of the impetus for this was the implementation of the Basic Act for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts in 2001 and the implementation of the Act on the Vitalization of Theaters and Halls in 2012. Another important impetus was the adoption of the new curriculum (implemented in 2002) that included the cultivation of ‘life skills’. These developments have led to a large number of groups making theatre productions on the theme of ‘children’ a major part of their programme of activities. It is for this reason that the exhibition examines what kinds of groups produce what kinds of theatrical programmes.
  Theatre consists of watching and creating a theatrical performance, and both contribute to the cultivation of children. By participating in plays, children gain a better understanding of the society in which they currently live; they have contact with a world that differs from the one they normally experience and with people that they may not otherwise have an opportunity to meet; and as a result they broaden their view of the world and their sense of values. At the same time, they gain a wide range of knowledge, skills, and techniques, and in so doing they are able to grow in potential.
  People involved in dramatic works on the theme of children pay respect to the unique feelings, thoughts, and worldviews of children, and at the same time produce theatrical activities that are based on a belief in the potential of children. We hope that the various theatrical works and activities covered in this exhibition will inspire us all to think about the hopes for the future that children may have.