The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Database
Born: 1961
Function: stage director playwright
Company: Tokyo Sunshine Boys

Mitani was born in Tokyo and graduated from the Department of Theater of Nihon University College of Art. In 1983 he formed the Tokyo Sunshine Boys, a theater company dedicated to orthodox situational comedies with lines delivered in everyday language and distinctive characters. Juninin no nihonjin (The Gentle Twelve), which postulated the introduction of the jury system in Japan, is typical of their light, fast-paced plays in which various problems occur within a restricted space resulting in the confusion and distress of the characters. Mitani is also active outside the theater with projects ranging from scriptwriting for TV dramas to directing movies. In 1994, he announced a 30-years break for the Tokyo Sunshine Boys. In 2001, he won the Kishida Drama Award for his first musical play Okepi! (The Orchestra Pit). In 2006, he wrote his first work for Kabuki, PARCO Kabuki ketto! Takadanobaba (Kabuki Duel in Takadanobaba), and in 2007 he turned his sights overseas with U.K. performance of Richard Harris's English adaptation of Warai no daigaku (The Last Laugh; Warai no daigaku awarded the Fourth Yomiuri Theater Award was for Best Play in 1997).

Photo: Yakou Masahiko
Warai no daigaku (The Last Laugh)
Set during World War II, the play covers the ten days of farcical struggle between a comedy playwright, who has to submit his play to the army censor in order to get permission to perform it, and the priggish censor who can hardly tell the difference between the script and the stage directions. The writer has to wrack his brains to meet the unreasonable demands of the censor and convince him of the appeal of theater. In the end a kind of bond grows between the two as, little by little, the censor comes to understand the importance of “laughter” for people.

First staged: Japanese 1996; English (adapted by Richard Harris) 2007
Acts/scenes: 2 acts, 12 scenes
Cast: 2 (both male)
First staged by: PARCO Theater
[Translation] English: available from PARCO Theater

Photo: Abe Akihito
Konfidanto: kizuna (Les Confidents)
The setting is Paris, 1888. Four struggling artists, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Emile Schuffenecker, are sharing an atelier in a run-down apartment house on Montmartre, not far from the Moulin Rouge. The four behave like close friends, yet rivalry burns deep in their hearts. The equilibrium between them, however, is shaken when student dancer Louise arrives as their model. Issues of trust, vanity, friendship, and jealousy arise as they are no longer able to hide their true feelings, and their friendship is tested.

First staged: 2007
Acts/scenes: 2 acts, 5 scenes
Cast: 5 (4 male, 1 female)
First staged by: PARCO Theater