Japan Street Theater Festival 2001

Hamamatsu Festival

Streets are open spaces accessible to every person, young and old, rich and poor alike.

Today, what we see mostly on the streets are solicitors handing out pocket-size tissue papers with ads on them, businessmen and shoppers hastening to their destinations, and young adults just "hanging out". Neatly re-developed urban streets have become somewhat alienated spaces which no longer have the liveliness once generated by the intermingling of people meeting, exchanging, and then parting.

What would happen if we were to put on a street show where the cheerful voices of children, artful hawking of street vendors, and the crying and laughter of people are no longer heard?

Costume Prapde

Some of us favor going to the theater and enjoy watching favorite dramas and actors from a safe, comfortable audience seat. Street theater, on the other hand, does not offer cozy seats, but can provide a lot of opportunities for unexpected encounters and discoveries.

Let us take the scenes from Mexican street theater for example. Squares, parks, and other public spaces are filled with the sounds of drums and flutes calling for the attention of passers-by. While most performers still use masks, stilts, acrobatics, pantomine, and other traditional props and techniques, the themes of their shows are quite contemporary and full of satire.

A comedian, while performing a handspring, makes ironical remarks about the garbage problem. A student group portrays and questions male-dominant society. A grand historical drama played by a professional troop sheds some light on modern issues that have roots in ancient times. Even children living on the street organize a performing group to show the sketches of their lives.

Dramas played by these people are not only festive and artful, but also extremely valuable in terms of social education. Audiences exposed to such scenes will probably experience a slight culture shock and may cross (or redraw) their boundaries.

Mexico City 1999

Street theater is a relatively unfamiliar art form in Japan. By hosting the Japan Street Theater Festival in April 2001, we can perhaps rediscover a different aspect of theater, the joy of reconnecting with the community at large through humor and laughter.

Tokyofs Setagaya-ward and Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture will set the first stage for this endeavor. We will invite Mr. Guillermo Diaz, who has been the leader of the Mexican Street Theater Program for the last ten years, along with his associates. Mr. Diaz's group, together with street performers and social drama artists from Japan and abroad, will jointly and individually give performances. Workshops on social dramas, movement art, and theater production will also be held during the festival, and the participants will present their results. In addition, a symposium will be held inviting speakers from the educational and social-welfare sectors to explore various possibilities of utilizing public space using theater as a medium.

Let us open the gate of the 21st century by setting a theatrical stage of encounter for men, women, the young, the elderly, the handicapped, foreigners working in Japan, street people, businessmen, child-rearing parents, and people of all walks of life.