Singapore Workshop on a Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center
シンガポール シンポジウム ・日本舞台芸術リソースセンター
June 24-26, 2005
National University of Singapore

Generously funded by The Japan Foundation

Individual Presentation Abstract


Nikolai Pesochinsky
St. Petersburg Academy of Theatre Arts, and Russian National Institute of History of the Arts

Resources in the St. Petersburg and Moscow Museums and Libraries

pdf version

  Russian avant-garde art through the 20th century was especially attracted by the Japanese performing traditions as a way to overcome the conventional models of mimetic representation on stage, a way to symbolic theatricality, and to a synthesis of arts. Materials that will be part of the GloPAD database may demonstrate the influence of Noh and Kabuki styles in the productions by prominent Russian directors from 1900s through 1950s (Vsevolod Meyerhold, Sergei Radlov, Sergei Eisenstein, Nikolai Okhlopkov and others), up to the contemporary period (Anatoly Vasilyev at his School of Dramatic Art and his disciples, Do-Theatre by Yevgeny Kozlov; many successors of Butoh dance like Anton Adosinsky with his Tree Company etc.). For example, Meyerhold's idea of the movement of actors on stage is distinctly influenced by the Japanese tradition as well as the Biomechanic techniques of movement that w ere developed in his theatre. There are dozen s of visual materials to demonstrate and to research this influence in the collections of Bakhrushin State Theatre Museum in Moscow, in St.Petersburg Museum of Theatre and Music Arts (both have agreements with the GloPAC to display their materials in the database), and also in the magazines of the first half of the 20 th century (that are not subject of copyright, and thus open for reproducing). Students of Meyerhold Theatre School in 1920-30s had to study some basic ideas of Kabuki, and we may refer to their papers (kept in the Central State Archives of Literature and the Arts). Even before that Meyerhold himself translated Takada Idzumo's play (farce) Terakoja, or The Village School and it was produced at Liteiny Theatre in St.Petersburg in 1909. The original type set of this script with Meyerhold's notes is preserved at the St.Petersburg Theatre Library.

After signing the historic diplomatic convention between Japan and the USSR (1925) there were several important cultural exchanges. Oda N o buna ga was produced at St.Petersburg Academic Theatre in 1927 by the prominent director Sergei Radlov , and some posters, programs and pictures from this production survive . Other materials cover the presentation of Japanese parts by famous Russian actors such as the part played in the 1960s by the famous actress Maria Babanova in Marimoto's play The Stolen Life , which was directed by the young Japanese theater maker educated in Moscow Yoshiko Okada.

As a resource center, the database should cover miscellaneous productions of the Japanese pieces in the Russian theatre . F or example currently in St.Petersburg we may see long runs of productions based on the texts by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, by Kobo Abe, by Yukio Mishima, by Koki Mitani and various Japanese folk tale s . The productions may be documented with posters and programs, photographs, designs of the set and costumes, reviews in the mass media, with audio and video recordings.

We should represent costumes of Japanese characters in Russian performances (drama, opera, ballet), from as far as Marius Petipa ballet production called Mikado's Daughter . Some costumes were stylized in the Japanese style, such as the costumes for Meyerhold studio (in 1914-17) designed by Rykov. There are several examples of set design s for productions with action located in Japan , or just set design in Japanese or Oriental stylization created by the Russian designers : we should discuss the space concept of Meyerhold's productions The Forest , 1924 and Bubus the Teacher , 1925.

The database might also include reviews , by Russian theatre people, of the tours of theatre companies from Japan (Noh, Kabuki, Bunraku, Kyogen, Kagura styles). The first Japanese theatre troupe to tour the West starring Sadayakko, was acclaimed in Russia as well as in all Europe in 1902, and the reviews and analysis are available in the press of that time ( such materials are preserved in the libraries, like St. Petersburg State Theater Library), and in the theoretical papers of Russian directors, like Meyerhold. For example, Otojiro Kawakami participated in this 1902 trip, prior to creat ing the shimpa style of theatre . The next important tour of Ganako O ota in 1909 also had a long research resonance and influence on Russian theatre. Some posters of th ose tours are preserved and may be scanned for the database. After one of the visits of Kabuki (in 1960s) some presents were given to St.Peteresburg Theatre Museum from the company, like props, costume elements, umbrellas, obi, special towel for cleaning the makeup and so on , and all that collection was exhibited and photographed. The photographs made during these visits show meetings of Russian and Japanese theatre makers. There is also some documentation related to the performing arts in the museums of history, ethnography and fine arts, like presents made to the Royal family, objects of arts brought from the trips to Japan . In the broader view the database may trace the documentation of Japan-Russian theater exchange including tours of the companies, and the productions made in Japan by the Russian directors, and in Russia by the Japanese directors. There may be also some documentation of the Master Classes of the acting teachers from Japan who have visited Russian Theatre schools (like Sayoko Nishimiya who visited St.Petersburg Academy of Theatre and Music Arts for several years in run).

There is a special private archive in St.Petersburg that contains materials of the work of famous film director Sergei Sokurov in Japan . Sokurov made his feature film The Sun about Emperor Hirohito with Issei Agato in the leading part, and there are miscellaneous photographs, letters, designs covering the period of film shooting in Japan . Sokurov also created 3 documentaries about Japan : The Eastern Elegy , The Submissive Life , and Dolce . The same archive contains materials of another film director Semyon Aranovich who created the documentary The Islands about the Northern territories . The film covers the visit of a group of old people from Japan to the Islands where they find the graves of their relatives.

Unfortunately not much of visual documentation of Japanese performing arts is available now in the form of books for Russian researchers, students and theatermakers. So JPARC is due to become the most important source of the materials of this kind. Its use in theatre education will be very significant for people working in the Russian language .





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