enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

Online Exhibition

Lost in Pandemic―Theatre Adrift, Expression's New Horizons

Cancelled/Postponed Performances

February 26, 2020 will go down in the history of Japanese culture. On this day, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a policy of requesting self-restraint regarding the holding of large-scale public events to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under the initial plan, the request would be effective for two weeks. However, it continued until March and beyond. Many performances had to be either cancelled or postponed, a situation that called for an extremely difficult decision. Subsequently, the first state of emergency was declared on April 7, forcing the culture industry to all but cease to function for the following several months.
Since 2020, well over 1,700 performances have been cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic. The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum sought to collect the materials for such performances that would disappear if left alone, and asked theatres and theatre companies for their cooperation. The flyers and posters exhibited here are only a small portion of the materials provided by various organisations. These are just the tip of the iceberg of the enormous number of ‘lost performances’. However, they are proof that each one of these performances should have existed.
If a play is not actually performed, then the work is not expressed at that moment. The cancellation or postponement of performances due to the pandemic deprived these performances of their very existence. The actual events that have occurred are recorded in history. However, what did not happen (even though it could have happened) is removed from history and buried.
People’s thoughts, not only those of the creator but also those of many audience members, as well as the time spent, should not be wiped out as though they did not exist. Instead of leaving this historical vacuum unfilled, we should archive, as a public record, the situation in which nothing was performed, as well as the memories held by each and every one. This is the mission of this museum, or at least our battle cry. Even so, we have a lump in our throat whenever we see many flyers and posters of these lost performances.

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