On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake hit the Northeast of Japan and triggered a huge tsunami wave devastating numerous coastal towns. The natural disaster was followed by a man-made nuclear catastrophe which TEPCO and government officials called “beyond expectation” despite evidence that it could have been prevented. In the aftermath of the events, Japanese civil society seems to be gaining new ground. Since 2011, we have seen considerable volunteers’ activities in Northeastern Japan. The anti-nuclear movement, too, is growing and supported by intellectuals and artists.
Against this background I will look at the reaction of theater people to the calamity and explore how they engage in the current debate. Right after March 11, there were few performances that did not take the disaster into account at all. Directors changed part of the running production, actors and playwrights organized charity performances in Japan and overseas, and theater companies toured evacuation centers and temporary housings. A few months later, the first plays responding to the disaster were put on stage. How can theater address the catastrophe and its aftermath appropriately and/or provide solace to people who live in affected areas? In my presentation I will tackle these questions by giving an overview of the various forms in which theatre people have been responding to the disaster, and by analyzing some representative plays.
Dr. Barbara Geilhorn is an advanced research fellow and lecturer in Japanese Studies at the Institute of East Asian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. She has a broad interest in Japanese theater and society. Major publications include Enacting Culture (co-ed., iudicium, 2012) and Weibliche Spielräume - Frauen im japanischen Nō- und Kyōgen-Theater (Female Spaces - Women in Japanese Nō- und Kyōgen-Theater, iudicium, 2011).