[#KeepgoingTOGETHER] Vol. 56 The Three Forms of “FunaBenkei” - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

[#KeepgoingTOGETHER] Vol. 56 The Three Forms of “FunaBenkei”

Akihiro Yamamoto|President of Yamamoto Noh Theater

1. Impressions of your online distribution

Until now, it has been understood that performing arts must be experienced live, in a space and time shared with the performers. Of course, the “live” experience truly cannot be compared to anything else. However, these innovative online streaming services allowed us to present the performances in a new and exciting way, and I felt that we were able to successfully convey the appeal of the traditional performing arts to our online audience. Furthermore, this online streaming technology allows the show to be presented not just once and at a single location – thanks to its online archive, our performance can be enjoyed by a large number of spectators all around the world at any convenient time. The overwhelmingly positive reaction of our spectators has convinced me that this new medium has the power to effectively capture the magic of our performing arts, and I would like to continue investing efforts into further exploring its potential. I feel that online streaming has introduced a new layer of engagement between the audience and our art, thus imbuing the traditional performances of Noh with new values and aesthetics.

Kodan(Storytelling) “From the Rise and Fall of Genpei Taira Tomomori and the Battle of Dan-no-Ura”

2. Fruition and Challenge Acquired through Online Activities

It was a great opportunity for our shows to be enjoyed not only by a Japanese audience, but also by spectators from all over the world. The English subtitles and explanations made the Japanese traditional performing arts accessible for a much larger number of people, and lead to an overwhelmingly positive feedback from our online audience. The production of English subtitles suitable for the performances of traditional arts, however, has proven to be effort and time-consuming, so the staging of further online performances of this kind remains a challenging task.
Japanese viewers also answered that they were very satisfied because the English subtitles were easy to understand.

Noh Plays “Funa Benkei” (The battle between the ghost of Tomomori and Benkei on the ship)

3. Utilization and Development of Online Live Streaming for Forthcoming Activities

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the online presentation of various performing arts that would otherwise remain confined to their spacetime reality has become increasingly popular. One of the main issues that yet remain to be tackled, is the problem of creating a bridge between the “actual reality” of the live performance and the “virtual reality” of the online performance. Audience members who have already seen a live performance before will be able to enrich their experience of the virtual performance by drawing from their past experiences of a live play. However, as a person whose life is dedicated to performing arts, I must stress how important it is for those of our viewers who have only experienced the “virtual reality” of performance to also be able to experience the “actual reality” of a live show at least once.
In the “Age of COVID-19,” the application of virtual reality technologies has opened up many great opportunities for the performing arts. As a firm believer in the future of this innovative medium, I would like to continue exploring the possibilities of the online distribution of performing arts. Mr Chiriac, the general director of the Sibiu International Theater Festival, made the decision to hold the theater festival in 2020 online instead of cancelling it. The online festival was a great success, with over 1 million viewers tuning in. In the words of Mr Chiriac: “We need to believe in our future, and appreciate the power of theatre, dance, music and literature to calm us down and give us strength now than ever before”. However different, all people in the world live under the same sky and feel the same emotions. This project has convinced me that in order to connect those people and deepen the intercultural understanding and tolerance that may one day lead to world peace, we need to make the best of the opportunities afforded to us by the online presentation of the arts.

Bunraku Puppet Theater “The ghost of Tomomori
(Tomomori who was supposed to be dead lived and became the owner of the inn near the sea to defeat Benkei)”


The Three Forms of “FunaBenkei”

  • Date:  12~14 June 2020
  • Contents: This performance presents the story about the late Heian period general Taira-no-Tomomori through the lens of three distinct traditional performing arts – Noh, Bunraku and Kōdan
  • Promotion tool: Facebook
  • Distribution tool: YouTube
  • Number of the audience: 1125 (As of 29 June)