enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


The Children’s Plays of Shoyo Tsubouchi

  Shoyo Tsubouchi is known for having created the ‘New Kabuki’ and the ‘Shin Buyo (New Dance-Drama)’, for his translations of Shakespearean plays, and for his contributions to the New Drama Movement. In his later years, however, he also put a great deal of his energy into what is called ‘performing arts for social reform’. Tsubouchi, who was influenced by the community theatre in the United States, advocated the creation of what he called ‘pageants’, which were a kind of public outdoor drama, and in 1921 he wrote ‘Waga Pageant-Geki (My Pageant)’. In 1923, he published his ‘Geijutsu to Katei to Shakai (Arts, the Household and Society)’, which focused on the role of the household. His research into and activities in the field of children’s theatre identified the roles of the performing arts and the household as existing for the purpose of social reform.
  Tsubouchi’s efforts in the field of children’s theatre, however, were restricted to the years 1921 to 1925, which was the period of the most intense activity of the Taisho Era (1912–1926) Performing Arts Education Movement. Taking his cue from the Children’s Educational Theatre of Alice Minnie Herts in the United States, Tsubouchi published several of his own books on the children’s theatre during this time period. One of these is a theoretical work entitled ‘Jido-Kyoiku to Engeki (Children’s Education and the Performing Arts)’ (published in 1923). In this book, he cast doubt on actors commandeering fairy tale plays and children’s plays. That is to say, he was sceptical of the idea of plays created by adult actors and performed by them for an audience of children. Instead, he argued that one way that could be used to create a performing art out of what happens in the household would be to observe the kind of pretend play that children spontaneously engage in at home, make rules based on this type of activity, and then refine what they are expressing into an art form. He thereby emphasised the importance of plays created and performed by children themselves. He then published his collections of dramatic works ‘Katei-yo Jido-Geki (Children’s Plays for the Home)’ (in three volumes, published 1922 to 1924) and ‘Gakko-yo Shokyaku-Hon (Short Scripts for Use at School)’ (published in 1923) as examples of how his theories could be realised.
  Tsubouchi also started publication of Kateiyo Jido-geki, while putting on productions of children’s dramas. At the first production, which was staged on the 25th and 26th of November 1922, students at the Performing Arts School of the Imperial Theatre where Tsubouchi had taken over as advisor appeared at the Yuraku-za Theatre in seven productions written by Tsubouchi, including ‘The Country Mouse and the Tokyo Mouse’, ‘The Fly and the Spider’, ‘The Bad Friend’, ‘Sukunabiko’, and ‘Orochitaiji’. Subsequently, the Children’s Theatre Company, whose performers were students at the same school, put on productions under the direction of Tsubouchi in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and other locations around Japan.
  Thus, Tsubouchi’s activities in the children’s theatre were made widely known through his collected scripts that were based on his theoretical ideas as well as repeated performances of the scripts.