enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


The 1970s and 1980s

In 1970, the protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty stalled, and the student movement fizzled out. Against this backdrop,
a new common thread emerged among playwrights: farce and irony. Playwrights of the 1970s sought to capture the public’s disillusionment with the failed idealism of the 1960s as well as the grim realism and cynicism that replaced it. One such playwright was Tsuka Kohei. Tsuka’s works attracted many young audiences, and when he staged “Atami Satsujin Jiken” (熱海殺人事件) at Kinokuniya Hall, people camped out through the night to buy advance tickets. Theatre was becoming mass entertainment, and the 1980s saw a small-theatre boom.

During the 1980s, theatre companies like Noda Hideki’s Yume no Yuminsha (夢の遊眠社) and Kokami Shoji’s Daisan Butai
(第三舞台) were pulling in crowds like never before. The plays presented audiences with a dynamic time and space in which the actors used verbose dialogue and animated movements to depict the lives of people who were searching for something they lacked amid the “zeitgeist” of materialism and overconsumption. During the asset price bubble of the late 1980s, these theatre companies expanded their activities even further. For example, they entered into tie-ups with large corporations to stage performances in large venues. They also participated in festivals overseas.

The rise of women playwrights
The late 1970s was also a time when more women were becoming playwrights and leading theatre companies. One example is Watanabe Eriko (now known as Watanabe Eri), who headed Gekidan Sanjumaru (劇団3○○). Other examples are Kishida Rio, who headed Kishida Jimusho + Rakutendan (岸田事務所+楽天団), and Kisaragi Koharu, who headed NOISE(劇団NOISE). This period also saw the emergence of Gekidan Aoi Tori (劇団青い鳥), which featured collective improvisational pieces performed entirely by women. Women-dominated theatre companies became even more active in the 1980s. Examples include Nagai Ai and Oishi Shizuka’s Nitosha (二兎社) and Iijima Sanae and Suzuki Yumi’s Jitensha Kinqureat (自転車キンクリート).

Inoue Hisashi
Another notable playwright from this period was Inoue Hisashi, who founded Komatsuza (こまつ座). Inoue began his career as
a playwright with the play “Nihonjin no Heso” (日本人のへそ), and he was highly prolific throughout the 1970s.

Note: On the panels, as for the order of the name of the Japanese person, their family name is written first, and then their given name.