Kunio Shimizu

Kunio Shimizu (清水 邦夫, Shimizu Kunio) (17 November 1936[1] – 15 April 2021[2] ) was a Japanese playwright.[3] Niigata is his hometown, which is located on the Japan Sea.[4] At Tama University of Fine Arts Shimizu was a professor working in the Moving Images and Performing Arts Department.

LifeEdit

Shimizu Kunio grew up in Niigata Prefecture. His father was a policeman.[5] As a student at Waseda University located in Tokyo Shimizu wrote The Signatory in 1958 as well as Tomorrow I’ll Put Flowers There in 1959. These plays were produced in the year 1960 by Seihai, a professional theatre company. After he finished studying at Waseda University Shimizu worked at Iwanami Film Productions, which is a Tokyo firm. There he wrote scenarios for documentaries as well as public relations films. In 1965 he went on to be an independent playwright and left the company. Somewhere around 1968 Yukio Ninagawa asked Shimizu to write a play for him to direct. At the time, Ninagawa was an actor for Seihai. Shimizu wrote Such a Serious Frivolity for Ninagawa to produce, however, even though Ninagawa wanted to produce the play the script got rejected. Due to this incident Ninagawa and some other people who worked with him left Seihai. They made a new company that was called the Modern People’s Theater. Around this time there was a lot of social disruption. Young people across Japan from what was called the New Left started political argumentative meetings. Therefore, Shimizu wrote some plays in order to bring up a sense of the view of the people whose political reform demands were not being met.[6] Shimizu Kunio married Matsumoto Noriko who was an actress. Together they founded a group of entertainers called the Winter Tree Company (Mokutōsha). He also set up the Modern Man’s Theater (Gendaijin gekijō) along with Ninagawa.[7]

PlaysEdit

The plays he wrote include The Dressing Room (Gakuya), Such a Serious Frivolity (Shinjō afururu keihakusa), Tango at the End of Winter (Tango fugu no owari ni), When We Go Down That Great Unfeeling River (Bokura ga hijō no taiga o kudaru toki), and An Older Sister, Burning Like a Flame (Hi no yō ni samishii ane ga ita). Shimizu Kunio went to Waseda University and started writing plays to be performed in the 1960s. His play When We Go Down That Great Unfeeling River (Bokura ga hijō no taiga o kudaro tiki) received the Kishida Prize for Drama for being the best play in the year 1974.[8] Some of the topics Shimizu's plays deal with include reality and illusion, the present and the past, and also memories of the past. His plays incorporate the past as well as the present. Furthermore, memory plays an important role in his plays as there is always the question of which character's memory is correct. These techniques are displayed in the play The Dressing Room two ghosts of two actresses are looking at two actresses who are still living. The plot of this play is based on the memories of these characters.[9] One theme that is in many of his plays has to do with the city versus the country.[10] Another theme that is present in some of Shimizu's plays is memories having power. Also, a longing and an affection for the past are themes present in his work.[11] In many of Shimizu’s plays the dramatic tension centers between siblings and their parents. For example, even though his plays are ironic or comedic, a death often occurs in the end.

In the play When We Go Down That Great Unfeeling River (Bokura ga hijō no taiga o kudaru toki) the main characters are a man, his oldest son, and his younger son. The play is set inside a public restroom. Overall, the play has to do with politics, however, other topics are also mentioned. In the play An Older Sister, Burning Like a Flame (Hi no yo ni samishii ane ga ita) the actor in the play has mental problems due to weird powers that a person who says she is his older sister is putting on him. Due to this he strangles his wife when it has been suggested that a brother and sister have had a child together. Shimizu seems to use the relationships among family members as an important point in his plays. Sometimes these relationships are harmful to his characters. Another thing that sometimes happens in Shimizu’s plays are the personalities change from one character to a different character throughout the play. Another important theme that comes up in Shimizu’s plays is the country versus the city. Shimizu sees the countryside as unsafe. The countryside represents the things that people run away from in their lives.[12]

The Dressing Room (Gakuya) is a play that takes place backstage. In the play there are four actresses who are getting ready for a production of The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov. However, during the play it is learned that everything is not just what it seems. The play has theme of memory not being perfect and memory lasting beyond the body and into death.[13]

Style of Japanese plays in the 1960sEdit

Shimizu Kunio wrote in the time period of the 1960s. Other Japanese playwrights who also wrote during this time period include Shūji Terayama, Jūrō Kara, Kōbō Abe, Minoru Betsuyaku, Shōgo Ōta and Ren Saitō. Like Shimizu these playwrights had memories of the war.[14] The plays of the 1960s in Japan took on a style different style from shingeki, while shingeki strayed away from the traditional theatre of Japan and instead was inspired by the theatre of Europe, the 1960s style of angura, an avant-garde theatre movement, aspired to have a Japanese style. However, even though a Japanese style was a focus, European plays still influenced the plays of this time period. The Japanese theatre of the 1960s also was influenced by the Japanese styles of and kabuki. The body is a focus of plays in this time period. There was an emphasis on the live performance over the text.[15]

InfluencesEdit

There are works of Shimizu that have become postwar theatre classics. He wrote that Kōbō Abe influenced him as well as being an example to him. Shimizu has recurring themes in his plays such as a frustrated search for a personal identity and madness. Furthermore, another common component of Shimizu’s plays are having the central drama come from siblings and their parents. Shimizu also makes use of other literature, which usually comes from drama as well as poetry in the West. He uses these works in order to make his scenes more powerful. For example, An Older Sister, Burning Like a Flame (yō ni samishii ane ga ita) used the works of Othello by Shakespeare. Shimizu also appears to have a similar style as Anton Chekhov, a Russian playwright, in terms of how Chekhov uses a mixture of light humor as well as an intense feeling of wanting something. However, there are some differences between the works of Chekhov and Shimizu. For example, the characters of Chekhov are not capable of bringing out the energy and sense they need to change their lives. The characters of Shimizu, however, express a lot of energy. Also, in the works of Chekhov, usually the main character is alive in the end while in Shimizu’s works the main character usually does not end up living.[16]

Shimizu wrote many plays as the collection of his plays add up to forty-three. Another one of Shimizu’s plays called When we go Down that Heartless River (Bokura ga Hijô no Taiga o Kudaro Toki) was first performed in the year 1972 is an example of an extended metaphor. In the year 1978 his play An Older Sister, Burning like a Flame(yō ni samishii ane ga ita) was written. The play is about the main character that has to deal with their past. In the play a main character is an actor who becomes tired of being in Othello, a play by Shakespeare. The main character then returns to his homeland that he has not been to since he was little. A motif that occurs in Shimizu’s plays include the contrast between the city and the country. This is also present in Chekhov’s work. For Shimizu the country is dangerous and the country is made into a metaphor to represent the things that humans run from in their lives and the things that humans are unable to deal with.[17]

Another one of Shimizu’s plays The Dressing Room is a little over an hour long. Shimizu uses a collage in order to indirectly convey his thoughts. This type of collage done in drama was created by Tadashi Suzuki.[18] However, the whole play is not a collage. The Dressing Room is a play about an actress and three other actresses who died without ever getting fame. The three dead actresses are in the dressing room and wait so that they can be characters in a play that they will never be asked to take on.[19] Shimizu’s play Tango at the End of Winter goes back to the motifs and techniques that were used when he first began writing plays. In this play Sei tries to get freedom by performance however, the character ends up stuck in a movie theatre that is falling apart. The character chooses a ghost to be his partner. He dances a tango with a ghost, the ghost of his past. The other people cannot see who he is dancing with while he is able to see a peacock which is something he finds optimal, which he has chased ever since he was young.[20]

Being born in the country also had an influence on Shimizu's work. Having lived both in the country and the city, he was able to compare both ways of life. His hometown in the country was an influence on his hometown memories and gave him inspiration in his writing.[21]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Kunio Shimizu".
  2. ^ 劇作家の清水邦夫さんが死去 若者の苦悩描く (in Japanese)
  3. ^ Rimer, J. (2001). Japanese Theatre and the International Stage. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill. p. 300. ISBN 90-04-120114.
  4. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 421. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  5. ^ Rimer, J. Japanese Theatre and the International Stage. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. p. 303.
  6. ^ Rimer, J. Half a Century of Japanese Theatre. Shibuya-ku, Tokyo: Kinokuniya Company Ltd. pp. 319–325. ISBN 4-314-10156-3.
  7. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 421. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  8. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 421. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  9. ^ Jortner, David; McDonald, Keiko; Wetmore, Kevin (2006). Modern Japanese Theatre and Performance. New York: Lexington Books. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9780739111529.
  10. ^ Jortner, David. Remembered Idylls, Forgotten Truths: Nostalgia and Geography in the Drama of Shimizu Kunio. p. 169.
  11. ^ Jortner, David. Remembered Idylls, Forgotten Truths: Nostalgia and Geography in the Drama of Shimizu Kunio. p. 178.
  12. ^ Rimer, J. Japanese Theatre and the International Stage. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brille NV. pp. 302–303.
  13. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 421. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  14. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Theatre. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 315–316. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  15. ^ Rimer, J.; Mori, Mitsuya; Poulton, M. (2014). The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Drama. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-0-231-12830-8.
  16. ^ Rimer, J. Japanese Theatre and the International Stage. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. pp. 310–311.
  17. ^ Rimer, J. (2001). Japanese Theatre and the International Stage. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. pp. 299–311. ISBN 90-04-120114.
  18. ^ Senda, Akihiko (1997). The Voyage of Contemporary. Honolulu Hawaii: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 81.
  19. ^ Senda, Akihiko (1997). The Voyage of Contemporary Japanese Theatre. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 82.
  20. ^ Senda, Akihiko (1997). The Voyage of Contemporary Japanese Theatre. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 214.
  21. ^ Jortner, David. Remembered Idylls, Forgotten Truths: Nostalgia and Geography in the Drama of Shimizu Kunio. pp. 170–172.

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