MUSUKO (The Son) is one of Osanai Kaoru’s most famous plays, and a typical example of Shin-Kabuki (New Kabuki) works. It was first published in magazine form in 1922.
MUSUKO is a tale about a night watchman and a wanted young man named Kinjirô. He, it turns out, is the watchman’s son, who disappeared nine years ago. Kinjirô meets his father again, but the watchman does not recognize his son because he has changed so much. Kinjirô keeps his secret to himself, and says good-bye to the watchman. Thus, Osanai describes an unusual relationship between a son and his father.
The play was first staged in March 1923 at Teikoku Gekijyô. The actors Onoe Kikugorô VI (1885-1949), Onoe Matsusuke IV (1843-1928), and Morita Kanya XIII (1885-1932) all performed in the play, drawing a large audience.
In this paper, I focus on two important aspects of MUSUKO as a modern Japanese play. Firstly, it is an adaptation of Augustus in Search of a Father by Harold Chapin (1886-1915). Generally, dramatic adaptations in modern Japan include concepts from the original sources, as in the play Hernani by Matsui Syôyô (1870-1933), and Suisu-Giminden (Wilhelm Tell) by Iwaya Sazanami (1870-1933). Both of these authors considered the original stories very carefully. In contrast, Osanai’s theory of adaptation is unique. He cut a lot of the dialogue and scenes from Chapin’s play, and changed the nature of the father’s character: the father in MUSUKO is as stubborn as a mule.
Secondly, MUSUKO is a new and interesting drama about a father and his son. Needless to say, plays depicting parents and children are often warm-hearted, and emotional. Augustus in Search of a Father is a sentimental play as well. Yet, in MUSUKO, Osanai depicts the father and his son without tearful affection. It is noteworthy that the dramaturgy of MUSUKO is of a very rare type in Japan.
MUSUKO was a well-received play during the Taisyô Era. The audience and critics spoke highly of its stage atmosphere. The set, designed by Tanaka Ryo (1884-1974), left an elegant impression on many people. During the Taisyô Era, the “kibun”(atmosphere or mood) was an important idea for the audience. They praised MUSUKO for its refined sense. MUSUKO was received as an enchanting play at its first performance in 1923.
The first aim of this paper is to discuss “the People’s Theatre” of Jean Giraudoux, a French playwright who wrote in the 1930s, by reading his essays on the theater. I will then show that, when compared with the other theories of “the People’s Theatre” that were presented under the French Third Republic, Giraudoux’s theory was very particuliar.
Giraudoux made his debut in the theater in 1928 when his novel Siegfried was adapted for the stage. This play became a great success and Giraudoux consequently made his name as a playwright. After the success of Siegfried, Giraudoux wrote a number of popular plays. Parallel to his playwriting, Giraudoux also wrote several essays about the theater. There are nine essays in all. These essays are on many topics, such as the situation of the theatre in other countries, the dramaturgies of the classic playwrights, and the relationship between film and the theater. The essays are wide-ranging and we should note that in all these essays, there is a question about the relationship between the French Third Republic and the theater.
In France, the idea that the theater should be adapted for a democratic society appeared in the form of the “People’s Theater” (le théâtre du peuple). It was the philosophers of the eighteenth century, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who first proposed this vision of a new form of theater. In their theories, they insist that the theater after the revolution must refuse the aesthetic of the aristocracy and should be adapted instead for the aesthetic of the people. Meanwhile, the conception of a theater for, and by, the people was further developed by Jules Michelet in the middle of the nineteenth century. However, it was only after the birth of the French Third Republic that a real democracy was born in France, and the intellectual discussion about the idea of a theater for democracy was at its worst.
We can consider that Giraudoux’s essays about the theater connect with the rise of discussions about “the People’s Theater” in the age of the French Third Republic. However, “the People’s Theater” of Giraudoux is something very unique when compared to the ideas of the others theorists of this generation because his is a theory of a theater that can destroy the Republic, rather than a theory of a theater that services the Republic.
The four papers published here are the revised versions of papers that were read and discussed at the panel session “Aspects of Acting in Eighteenth-Century European Theater,” which was held as the regular meeting of the Society of Comparative Theatre at Seijo University on October 13, 2012.
This panel session was originally inspired by a collaborative research project, “Aspects of Eighteenth-Century Drama,” which was conducted at Seijo University for three consecutive years beginning in 1984. This research was a critical and comprehensive discussion of several aspects of eighteenth-century European drama, which had not received much attention in Japan, and the detailed records from the research have since been valuable sources for scholars in this field. In this research, however, one subject had remained untouched — the aspects of acting. For this reason, we chose “acting” and “theories of acting” in eighteenth-century European theater as our themes for the panel session.
A pre-panel session was held at Meiji University on July 7, 2012, as preparation for the main session. At that time, five speakers read papers concerning topics that not only discussed some concrete aspects of acting and theories of acting in eighteenth-century European theater, but also outlined their development in European countries throughout the century. The papers read at the pre-session (except for Ms. Osaki’s which is published here) were published in the third volume of Nihonbashigakkan University’s booklet, The Development of Acting in Eighteenth-Century European Theater.
The panel session in October was then based upon and developed from the results of the pre-session.
In the eighteenth century, the importance of an actor’s sensibility in acting was a topic of debate in Europe, mainly in France and England. The Italian actors Luigi Riccoboni and his son Francesco have been generally thought to hold completely contrary theories about actors’ sensibilities. Luigi was a proponent of emotionalism, believing that actors should act out the emotions they actually feel on behalf of the characters. In contrast, Francesco was a proponent of anti-emotionalism, believing that actors should control and imitate the emotions of the characters. At first glance, their theories on acting seem contradictory, but when we examine the differences in their motives and the aims of their writings more closely, we will find that they are not.
In his Dell’arte rappresentativa (1728) and in Pensées sur la déclamation (1738), Luigi insists that there is no formal method or technique for acting and emphasizes the importance of the actors’ natural sensibility. On the other hand, Francesco, in his L’art du thé?tre (1750), states that there is a method for acting by which, through diligent study and practice, actors come to express the emotions of the characters without actually feeling them.
There is, however, a paradox in Luigi’s theory. In his books, he admits that actors are “imitating” while acting and that this is the essential technique in acting. He recognizes the duality of the actor and the character. As an actor himself, Luigi may have experienced this duality. However, because emotionalism was popular in those days, in order to protect his reputation as a theater critic, Luigi may have simply agreed with the popular idea. In contrast, Francesco was more at liberty because he published his book as merely the opinion of an individual actor.
Existing research has not previously mentioned that their books were aimed at different readers. Luigi’s Dell’arte rappresentativa was written for professional actors, whereas Francesco’s was for beginners in acting. Luigi focuses on the actor’s attitude and state of mind, so his books are essentially manuals on the mental theory of acting. Francesco’s book, by way of contrast, provides practical instructions for the actor’s movements and gestures. Thus, these books are written from different points of view by two actors with different backgrounds and with different readers in mind. Their theories on acting need not be regarded as contradictory. Their books should be read as complementary texts — one emphasizing a mental theory, the other a practical theory.
After the death of Louis XIV, the Théâtre-Italien, an Italian theatrical company, was invited by the regent, the Duke of Orleans, to Paris in 1716. Directed by Luigi Liccoboni, Italian actors began to work with French playwrights despite the problem of language. Marivaux was one of the major writers who contributed to the Italians, whose acting style was inherited from commedia dell’arte.
Italian actors had already performed in France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Hence, their traditional style of acting, which used such aspects as improvisation and physicality, were gradually weakened, but they did not abandon their stereotyped characters in the eighteenth century.
The Italian company attracted the audience in Paris, especially through the performance of Thomassin (as Arlequin/Harlequin) and the actress Silvia. Their acting style was called “naive acting (le jeu naïf)” by their contemporaries. Italian actors were obedient to playwrights and attempted to assume their rolls naturally. Silvia was admired especially for this type of acting and Arlequin-Thomassin for his acting and naive character.
In one of Marivaux’s early comedies written for Italians, La Double Inconstance (1723), Arlequin’s and Silvia’s characters appear as naive villagers. Through their naive actions, they find that a new world — the royal world — is full of luxury and vanity. Here, their frank opinions function as social critique. However, once they become part of this high society, they are integrated into it without noticing. Their unconscious actions defamiliarize the society as well as their own selves. Thus, because the naive acting of Italians had an influence on Marivaux’s dramaturgy, his comedy needs this kind of acting.
Furthermore, La Dispute (1744), performed by French actors, shows that the influence of Italian actors had deeply penetrated Marivaux’s dramaturgy even when he wrote for French actors. In La Dispute, naive characters function similarly to Arlequin and Silvia in La Double Inconstance, appearing as the “specific characters” of this comedy. Thus, although the acting style of Italians was not the mainstream style in eighteenth-century France, it played an important role in the history of French theater.
Samuel Foote (1720-1777) was a comedy playwright and actor whose plays were considered to be representative of eighteenth-century English theatre. However, these days, Foote is largely neglected by academia. My study of the Primitive Puppet-Shew reveals that the second marionette show Foote performed in his later years showed him performing with an unconventional casting that involved him and life-size wooden marionettes. Foote, who had a wooden prosthetic leg which he greatly depended upon, created a highly impressive production that raised questions regarding the boundaries between the human body and the marionette. A study of Foote’s first marionette show, Tragedy a-la-Mode, which he staged before the horse-riding accident in 1766 that cost him his leg, clarifies that Foote was aware of the significance of these questions even at that time.
What exactly was the origin of Foote’s awareness of the significance of the body in experimental tragedy enacted using life-size pasteboard marionettes and a human actor? I attempt to answer this question through an exploration of Foote’s theatrical activities during his early to middle period, which can be regarded as the preparatory stage for his later marionette plays. Two of Foote’s theatrical essays are first analysed from his early period, “A Treatise on the Passions” and “The Roman and English Comedy Consider’d and Compar’d,” to clarify his attitude towards acting. In particular, I survey how Foote viewed Garrick’s “natural” style of acting, which the former examined in the two theatrical essays, and demonstrate that Foote intended to develop an acting technique that could compete with Garrick’s. I also elucidate Foote’s reaction to Garrick’s acting in his theatrical essays and how Foote’s concept of the body played an important role in his future theatrical activities as an actor and comedy playwright. Through an analysis of the character of Mrs. Cole in Foote’s masterpiece, The Minor, I clarify how he developed his concept of the actor’s body and subsequently applied it in his marionette plays.
In Germany, the movement to establish theater whose production was based on scripts began to replace improvisational theatre in the eighteenth century. The process naturally presupposed ensemble acting as an ideal of acting, which required all the actors and actresses to share an understanding of the script and to work cooperatively according to a certain artistic principle.
In the history of theater, it has generally been said that ensemble acting was established in the second half of the nineteenth century by such theater companies as the one in Saxe-Meiningen under Georg II or the Moscow Art Theater under Constantin Stanislavski. However, we can find the beginnings of ensemble acting in late eighteenth-century Germany.
To prove this, in this paper we use theater laws as the main historical documents, and analyze the ideas and practices of Conrad Ekhof (1720-78), who pioneered ensemble acting. We clarify that his ideas of ensemble acting were taken over by the theater companies of his disciples and sympathizers such as those in the Mannheim National Theater and Hamburg Theater, whose theater managers also required their actors and actresses to do systematized rehearsal for ensemble acting. Indeed, by the end of the century, ensemble acting had become necessary because playwrights began to depict individual characters with multiple psychological layers. In addition, playwrights and theater managers needed to overcome the traditional system of “Fach,” or typical roles, and the players were also required to react to the other characters’ words and actions with appropriate gestures and facial expressions even when the scene was silent.