Asian Theatre Journal 1.1 (2002) 250-252
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Tokyo of the 1960s and 1970s is David G. Goodman's Paris, his "moveable feast." Experiencing Goodman's CD-ROM, Concerned Theatre Japan: The Graphic Art of the Japanese Theatre, 1960-1980, is like dining with him and being well satisfied. I suspect that many theatre scholars have been either too busy or too entrenched in traditional methods to make better use of new electronic media in teaching and in presenting their research, especially in light of what may be the most attractive and effective way to convey information for the use of students and other scholars. Goodman presents a shining example of what to emulate and build upon. He and his digital team have created a beautifully graphic and informative digital record, a work of art in its own right that will provide others with not only an excellent reference work but a tool for the expanded classroom experience.
Seven years in the making, this CD-ROM--inspired by the short-lived but memorable journal Concerned Theatre Japan, which Goodman founded and edited--features a collection of more than seventy posters documenting modern Japanese theatre of the 1960s and 1970s. These posters were a component of the touring exhibition of the same name as the CD, originally mounted at the Krannert Museum of the University of Illinois during the winter of 1998. The works represent modern Japanese art itself: visually stunning designs indicative of the zeitgeist of postwar Japan and issues of postmodernity. In these iconic posters, images of pop culture, rock music, consumerism, Japanese history, and American political and commercial hegemony--as well [End Page 250] as advertising strategies, obsessions with the West, and the essential loss of Japanese spiritual identity--are all woven into stunning tapestries of paper and ink. Concerned Theatre Japan as an interactive CD-ROM continues Goodman's work on documentation and analysis of this period with layered images, video clips, text, essays, and a lavish virtual museum of poster art of the Japanese underground theatre (angura).
The experience of entering this CD-ROM is quite dramatic. That is to say, it embodies the hushed excitement and expectation of attending the theatre. A deep black frame fades into a textural brown that opens elegantly, with bold taiko (drums), a woman singing "I fell in love with a man with no chin," and her stage whisper: "cheezu o hitosara (a plate of cheese)." Then comes a stentorian silence. With a wave of the cursor, the left-hand contents unscroll.
The obvious first choice seems to be to click onto an overview of the period. The viewer learns that the 1960s in Japan was a time of unprecedented theatrical renaissance. At the cutting edge of the avant-garde was angura, rebellious spawn of the shogekijo (little theatre movement) and gutai (artistic forerunner of American "happenings"). It was a time of remarkable collaboration. Members of Suzuki Tadashi, Betsuyaku Minoru, and Ono Hiroshi's Waseda Little Theatre; Satoh Makoto, Kushida Kazuyoshi, and Saito Ren's Black Tent and Freedom Theatres; Kara Juro's Situation Theatre; Terayama Shuji's Tenjo Sajiki; Maro Akaji's Dairakudakan--all shared their political and artistic aspirations in close camaraderie with graphic designers Yokoo Tadanori, Tomita Shin'ichiro, Kushida Mitsuhiro, Hirano Koga, Oyobe Katsuhiro, Uno Akira, and others. Although the posters had little marketing effect for the productions they advertised, they were performances in themselves--stunning montages of alternating social imagery and historical moment, East and West, eroticism and the agonized flailings of the impotent. Their posters are alive with color, text (as in newspaper ads), and movement. There is no shying away from the grotesque, masochistic, and misogynistic themes of the art and the theatre of the period.
After years of subversive social exploration, Japanese theatre groups were ideologically dismayed when large new corporate-sponsored venues (such as the Seibu...