enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Chapter 5: The Spread of the Puppet Theatre

  Modern puppet theatre is constantly taking on new challenges. When one considers the steady spread of the modern puppet theatre through the post-war TV versions of puppet plays, one sees that starting in the 1970s the various puppet theatre companies began to express their own unique characters, and the genre as a whole began to spread in a variety of ways, including in terms of playwrights, the form of the plays, the method used to create the plays, and the venues where they were performed.
  ‘Animeime’, the term consisting of ‘animation’ and ‘mime’, which was first staged by the theatre company Kaze-no-Ko (The Child of the Wind) in 1975, is not really a type of puppet theatre per se. Instead, the actors combine poles, rings, bowls, and other shapes, and move them in ways that make them seem alive. This form of theatre forces puppet theatre performers to face the issue of what exactly the essence of the puppet theatre is.
  Starting in the 1970s, exchange programs with foreign performers, such as in the ‘World Puppet Theatre’ series (started in 1973) that was staged at the Pook Puppet Theatre, began to gain momentum. By the end of the 1990s, the number of works produced jointly with artists from abroad had also increased. The play ‘Four Seasons: Poland’ (first staged in 2016) by the Iida Puppet Theatre Festival Steering Committee, and which is part of this exhibition, is one of these works. It was created as a joint project with Polish puppet theatre actors.
  In some cases, the puppet theatre is used as the centrepiece of community development projects. The ‘Iida Puppet Theatre Carnival’, which was begun in 1979, changed both its name and its content when it became the ‘Iida Puppet Theatre Festival’ in 1999. Currently, it has grown into a major event in which approximately 40,000 people participate. As part of the Festival, local residents are active in creating new puppet theatre works. For example, between 2015 and 2017, approximately 40 residents of the Shimoina district in Iida created and performed a large-scale puppet theatre work called ‘Sansho Uo (The Salamander)’ under the guidance of puppetry theatre artist Noriyuki Sawa.