The term ‘dramaturgy’ has been considered within the geographical and artistic framework of ‘German speaking’ ‘Theatre’. Although its usage tends to become more fluid, transboundary and interdisciplinary, this change itself can be properly researched with a special focus on the relationship between the change of production process and the change of dramaturgy in German theatre after the 1980s.
As represented in Liquid Modernity by Zygmunt Bauman, modern society has changed from its former state of a solid modernity to a more liquid one. In accordance with this transition, the theatrical organization structure varies from a conventional tree-like model at repertory theatres with their own ensembles to a rhizomatic model influenced by the current circumstances around theatre, that is, the increased number of festivals. For instance, some characteristics of festivals are reflected also in current productions at theatres. Even, so-called production theatres co-produce projects with agents of festivals. Because of their fluidity and mobility, such new form of theatres are going to play as much an important a role for the contemporary theatrical culture as conventional repertory theatres.
In this essay, I investigated also practical aspects of changing dramaturgy in German theatre, analyzing the activities of several dramaturgs functioning not only at theatres but also at festivals. Here I stress that the working philosophy in creating theatrical works has transferred from the so-called ‘concept dramaturgy’ to the so-called ‘process dramaturgy’.
In this paper, the possible authority of a text for its performance is discussed through an analysis of Nassim Soleimanpour's White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (2010). Soleimanpour included rigid instructions requiring actors to not know anything about the play before each performance and for the text to be given to them on stage. In such conditions, the play becomes a semi-improvisation; thus, the dramaturgy of the text appears to dominate the performance. Indeed, the text orders the actor and audiences to perform exactly as it instructs, so it even claims its authority. However, the writer intentionally leaves a lot of space for ‘play’, since he cannot become involved with the participants (actors and audience) in the text. This reminds the audience of the fact that it is not the author who creates a performance but themselves. In other words, it problematises authority and authorship in the theatre. Therefore, the dramaturgy of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit attempts to foreground the authority of the text and construct new relationships between text and performance and writer and participants. Through the study of this play, we can perceive new possibilities of textual dramaturgy for contemporary theatre in which the relationship between text and performance diversifies.
The theory and practice of a chorus in the German contemporary theatre, for example productions of Einar Schleef, have created another model of playing than traditional mimesis. The narrative structure of chorus doesn't represent a certain personality but has a direct influence on the audience. Collectiveness, musicality and narration of chorus emphasize the performativity of theatre, that is to say a co-creativity of actor and audience, rather than the plot. It is an important task for the “productive dramaturgy” of German theatre to collect theoretical and practical results of each topic and to create a unique dramaturgy.
89/90 at Schauspiel Leipzig is a good example of productive dramaturgy by the form of the chorus referring to a way of describing history. The group of singers and the other actors repeatedly express agreement and disagreement , taking on the form a chorus. The chorus embodies anonymous collectiveness on the one hand, and makes the specific personalities visible on the other hand. However, their linguistic, musical and physical narration don't describe the story but conveys and reconstruct the story as a chaotic situation in the historical epoch of 1989/1990. This is neither representation nor re-enactment of historical events. Historical narration of the chorus is narration as a history at the same time.
To sum up, the productive dramaturgy of 89/90 is therefore to transform historical events into the performative space and time by means of the collective narration of the chorus to make a fictional history tangible. This unique function of the chorus in the play can influence further dramaturgy in German theatre.
Tsukiji Little Theater (TLT) was one origin of the professional dramaturg in Japan. Yoshi Hijikata, one of the founders, studied theater history and direction at Deutsches Theater (DT) in Berlin before TLT was established in 1924 as the first theater building for shingeki, Japanese theater modeled after Western contemporary theater. The model of the building was DT's smaller playhouse, and regarding dramaturgy - as a strategy for the theater to become recognized in society, developed by a staff member called “dramaturg” - was also adopted by TLT, which seems to have practiced that dramaturg function of DT.
The staff of TLT who took the role of dramaturg worked in the Bungeibu (literary section). They gave proposals and opinions which were taken into account seriously when the dramas were selected, and they advised directors when arrangements of the dramas were required. In addition, they edited brochures to be sold at TLT and bookstores that introduced the dramas and provided pages for opinion exchange with readers/audiences.
The tasks of today's dramaturgs in Japan are similar to those mentioned above. While TLT's Bungeibu staff struggled against strict censorship - one of the staff, Sakae Kubo, compared the latter role to that of a politician. However, in contemporary Japan, too, dramaturgs should perhaps perform sometimes as a politician because cultural politics by municipal/governmental organizations seem to have become more and more conservative so that (self-) censorship can easily occur.
This paper explores Hideki Noda's view on the state through an analysis of Nodaban-Kokusenyakassen (The Battle of Coxinga, Noda Version, 1989), which is an adaptation of Kokusenyakassen by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. Based on the original play, Kokusenyakassen, Noda recreated the third century national founding story of Yamato in Nodaban-Kokusenyakassen. He created many works related to the nation state, and Nodaban-Kokusenyakassen is one of the earliest of these works. Despite its significance, this work has not been a subject of much analysis.
The play offers two perspectives. While Noda created a story to build the origin of the state, he also emphasized that the origin of the nation was insubstantial and that the national founding story was fictional. I consider the meaning of this structure, based on materials from Noda's diary and interviews and comparisons with his other works. It becomes clear that Noda felt that the Japanese were unable to share a common image of the nation and needed a national founding story to look back to the origin of their state. I argue that Noda may have realized that the origin of the state could only be reconstructed as fiction at that time. Moreover, there are indications that he intended to make people look back to the origin of the nation, even though it was insubstantial.
With the end of its isolation in 1854 and fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868, Japan moved towards westernization. Following the new government's policy, an ambitious theater manager, Morita Kan'ya, became involved in an attempt to westernize Kabuki. In 1879, Kan'ya produced a new Kabuki play, The Wanderers' Strange Story: A Western Kabuki at his theater in Tokyo. This unusual Kabuki play dramatized the progress of a Japanese group travelling throughout the United States and Europe. In Paris, the main characters visited the Opéra and watched The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein by Offenbach, Daughter of the Regiment by Donizetti, and The Daughter of Madame Angot by Lecoq.
Unfortunately, this production was a commercial failure because the Japanese audience, who had never witnessed any theater other than traditional Kabuki, could not appreciate operatic singing.
A troupe known as the Royal English Opera Company performed these operas as plays within a play. The troupe's leader, Howard Vernon, and the prima-donna Elcia May were from Australia. Before coming to Japan, the troupe visited British colonies. After their productions in Tokyo, Vernon and May returned to Australia and in 1880 appeared on stage at one of Melbourne's major theaters. Newspaper reviews indicated that their performance was well received in British colonies including Melbourne, Australia's theatrical center.