The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Artist Interview
Playing theater like playing house  The new approach of Yukio Shiba
Playing theater like playing house  The new approach of Yukio Shiba
toi 4th production
Yonshoku no Iroenpitsu ga ArebaHanpuku Katsu Renzoku

(Jan. 2009 at Theatre Tram)
Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku
Photo: Tsukasa Aoki
Shiba note
Shiba note
In that play Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku, a single actress, with the help of recorded voices, acts out the conversations of a large family.
When I was writing situation comedies I was struggling to use bizarre situations or characters to create new stories, but with Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku I wanted to try writing in a new way. Instead of the writing style of taking things that nobody knows and writing about them in simple terms as I had done until then, I decided to take a subject that everyone knows and try writing about it from a different perspective.

In the play Ayumi that we talked about earlier, you used no set at all and had the whole drama develop with women walking constantly in lighting like that of a street light. Here did you get that idea of creating a work based on the act of walking?
When I thought about why Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku was so well received, I arrived at the idea that in the case of a common act that everyone does, such as getting up in the morning and eating breakfast, we might be seeing this act in repetition. I wrote Ayumi on the idea that people might be able to relate to a work that took an act that everyone is used to experiencing but showed it in a way that is different from the way they are used to seeing it. Most people walk in their daily life, and in the work Ayumi I thought to show that act of walking from a different viewpoint.

Four of your works, including Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku and Ayumi combine to constitute the omnibus Yonshoku no Iroenpitsu ga Areba. One of the remaining two works, Hyperlin-kun, takes a computer term as its subject. I don’t think there has been any other playwright in Japan to work a play out of computer terminology.
I think that may be because that terminology itself has not existed until recently (laughs). Lately, using the internet has become a commonplace in our lives, but the origins of today’s internet is actually the World Wide Web (WWW), isn’t it? It was started on the idea of making all the texts in computers available to be shared and thus give us access to all the knowledge in the world. In other words, it created a condition where all the knowledge in human minds around the world would be connected. Thought that was a fascinating concept.
 The scientific and historical development of the human race has always been made possible through the sharing of information in a process of people teaching what they have learned to others. In that sense, it is a natural and commonsense occurrence, but with the advent of the computer, we have been given the opportunity to reconsider and restructure that shared knowledge. Hyperlin-kun was an attempt to explore what phenomenon are taking place through the internet in the medium of actors on a stage.

The fourth work in Iroenpitsu is Junsui Kioku Saiseisochi (Replay device for pure memory), which is performed by four actors acting out stories of meetings and partings of two men and two women, and here again the roles shift between the actors. Furthermore, it involves shifts between the genders with male actors doing female roles at times. The set, in which the whole stage was covered in white paper, was quite beautiful. What was the concept behind this?
With both Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku and Ayumi I had the feeling that people do not remember things simply as they see them. I felt that our memories of things are actually a multi-faceted mix of perceptions, often containing a mix of very strange images. I began to wonder if I couldn’t put that make-up of memories in the head directly onto the stage in some form. At the same time, I wanted to portray the process of memories being lost. The memories that were clear at first gradually fade as the words become more and more ambiguous, and finally they disappear, literally into pure whiteness. That was part of the reason for the white floor.

I have heard that you have a notebook that you write down ideas in and use when creating a work. What is it like?
I think all writers/directors make notes that they work from, and mine is like a book of graffiti. Things aren’t usually written in sentence form but more often in diagrams. For each of my works there will be one or two of these notebooks. Originally I made an independent study of Hollywood script writing technique when I started writing plays, and I guess that because that influence I work with explanations of scenes and use a method where things are divided up into boxes where there is a conflict and the solution. And, when I was writing situation comedies and beginning to feel a limit to my potential in that genre, I decided to try a different type of diagram. That is how I arrived to my present notebook style.
 For example, with Hanpuku Katsu Renzoku, in order to achieve a state where the same story goes on and on, I drew a diagram of arrows with overlaps and directions in an image of one time axis overlapping another. And for the changing of roles between the actors, I made notations like first acting role A and then shifting to A' and finally shifting from A' to A'' in a diagram where it took the form of a single continuous line, and then I transferred that flow into the script.

In terms of the acting method used at Mamagoto, is there an influence of Hirata-san’s methods?
Very much so. In terms of the scripts, there are the influences of Mitani-san and Thornton Wilder that I studied on my own, but in terms of what directing involved, I had no idea at first. When I read Oriza-san’s book Acting and Directing (Engi to Enshutsu) I learned for the first time about a number of things it involves. Still today, the point of origin for most of my methods is clearly Oriza Hirata’s directing method.
 For example, concerning the meaning of “dramatic pause,” he taught us that it is a pause to let the audience imagine the developments of the plot, so I will ask for a pause of a certain number of seconds to be inserted at particular points where it is needed. Basically this is the so-called Seinendan directing method.

So, is there a general rule that the lines are to be delivered as you write them and not changed?
Generally, there is room for the actors to change the lines bit by bit to suit themselves until they have customized lines they are comfortable with. The parts that can be changed are the endings of the sentences and the expressions used, and I have the actors change those freely to suit themselves.
 
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