Singapore Workshop on a Japanese Performing Art 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 24th-26th, 2005
National University of Singapore

Individual Presentation Abstract


Ken Takiguchi
The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur / Malaysian Alliance of Technical Theatre

Japanese Elements in Southeast Asian Theatre

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Full Presentation Paper (Word .doc file)

The theatrical exchange between Southeast Asia and Japan has been neither very extensive nor deep. One of the earliest efforts was made in early 1980s, but it was only after the 90s that many artists started to interact.

In this paper, the ways in which Japanese elements appear in Southeast Asian theatre will be categorized and examples will be given in the first part. Then, the background of the development will be discussed and lastly, the possible area of GloPAD fulfilling the needs in Southeast Asian theatre will be suggested.

Japanese elements can be found in Southeast Asian contemporary theatre in two different ways. One is in the productions created by local artists either with themes related to Japan , using the translated Japanese scripts or writing scripts based on Japanese stories. The other is in the collaboration projects that involve Japanese artists – directors, performers, designers and technicians.

The former has long been in practice. For example, Akutagawa's Rashomon was staged in Malay in as early as 1970s in Malaysia and was re-staged in English in 2003. English translation of Japanese plays are increasingly available – still the number is far from satisfying, though - thanks to the translation project titled “Half A Century of Japanese Theatre” by Japan Playwrights Association which resulted in the publication of seven volumes so far.

While the World War II has been one of the most talked about issues when Southeast Asian theatres choose themes relating to Japan , it was notable that the young generation theatre practitioners started to talk about the World War II in 1990s. WWII was the biggest direct encounter between Southeast Asia and Japan , yet it has not been discussed very openly. It is also interesting that these younger generations' interpretation of the war is from various points of views - not necessarily “accuse Japanese” kind of approach.

The latter is rather new movement which has been tried since late 1990s. Most of early projects were initiated by Japanese with government's support, mainly through the Japan Foundation. More than 10 collaborations between Japanese and Asian countries' artists were done under the Foundation's “Exchange and Study and Training Program for Asian Theatrical Artists” program which was established in 1995 and terminated in 2002. The Foundation participated in even larger multi-country collaborations.

These government-funded projects were rather big and extensive in terms of their structure and hence huge budget was needed. On the other hand, much smaller-scaled projects, initiated by the artists themselves or private theatres and institutes, started to bloom in last few years. Although some projects were started by Japanese,quite a number of projects have been done under Southeast Asian artists' initiatives.

Such shift from the governmental initiative to the artists' or private sector's initiative shows the diversifying and deepening of the relationship among artists of both Southeast Asia and Japan . The reasons of the shift can be attributed to the following three developments.

Firstly, the chances of the interaction among artists have increased. The increasing number of the grant programs has resulted in artists' greater chances in winning grants to pursue his or her projects and researches. And, of course, the Internet has decreased the cost of communication dramatically.

Secondly, the number of private theatres which are keen to international collaborations has increased. In this field, Japan is still taking the lead, but some new theatres in Singapore and Malaysia are starting to take part in international collaborations.

Lastly, a good spiraling process is working in terms of the human relationships. A relationship created in one project inspires a subsequent project. And thus new relationships are continuously formed. The “legacy” of government-funded projects plays big role as the seed of the smaller projects initiated by the artists.

Many contributions can be expected from GloPAD to encourage Southeast Asian artists to work with Japanese counterparts or to use Japanese theatrical elements in their productions. From the experiences in Malaysia and Singapore, three areas seem to be the biggest possibilities namely, i) making it easy for Southeast Asian artists to find their counterparts in Japan, ii) giving practical information about Japanese technical theatre including costumes, lighting and sound. iii) giving information about Japanese system in the theatre including the glossary and the function of each position. Theatre in Kuala Lumpur info site -

Performing Arts Network Japan (a Japan Foundation site) -



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