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Japanese Traditional Comedy Monodrama in English

Dates & Times
Friday 23 & Saturday 24 August 2002 @ 8.30pm
RM42 (Adults) / RM 22 (students)
The Actors Studio Theatre
For Further Inquiries
The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur

We are very pleased to be able to present the Japanese traditional comedy theatre again, in collaboration with the Actors Studio.

Rakugo has been one of the most popular pastimes of the Japanese for more than a couple of centuries. This traditional theatre is so familiar for us Japanese. This time, the performances, combined with other funny traditional performances, will not be in the traditional mother tongue of Japanese - but in English. It will definitely extend a better understanding to Malaysian audiences towards this traditional performing art.
In order to achieve our aim of creating deeper mutual understanding between Malaysia and Japan, besides providing intellectual exchange programs, we will keep on bringing in more traditional and contemporary performances from Japan.

I hope that you enjoy the performance and admire the uniqueness of our Japanese culture.

Masamichi Sugihara
Director General
The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur

現地スタッフ In the lobby of The Actors Studio Theatre in KL. A picture with performers, staff, and the posters. The posters that the KL staff made were stylish!
MONDAY August 19 2002 / SECTION 2 / 28

Japanese Comedy

Catch Rakugo, a traditional Japanese 'sit-down' comedy, at the Actors Studio Theatre, Kuala Lumpur, on Friday and Saturday.

The Japan Foundation and The Actors Studio once again collaborate to bring you another from of Japanese comedy, rakugo, which will be staged at The Actors Studio Theatre, Kuala Lumpur, this Friday and Sturday at 8.30pm.
Rakugo, a Japanese traditional comedy monodrama, can also be described as Japanese "sit-down" comedy where performers sit on a mattress in front of the audience and act out stories in comic style. These characters converse without a narrator and the challenge for them is to switch from one distinct character to another.
Rakugo, literally meaning Topper Story, has its origins in the 16th century and firmly established itself during the Edo era of the 17th and 18th century. As recently as the late 1940s, Rakugo was Japan's favourite pastime.
Rakugo performers serve as apprentices for three to four years with a master and usually live in the master's house and carry out all his orders. When the apprenticeship is completed, they are given professional performers' name by the master.
There are only few families of rakugo performers in Japan, although there are some five hundred of such performers.
This production features Shofukutei Kakusho, Katsura kaishi and Katsura Asakichi, who will be joined by shamisen player Hayashiya Kazume and MC/producer Oshima Kimie. The performance here will be in English and not Japanese.

会場内、観客の様子 The audience in The Actors Studio. There is a little kid sleeping in the front. In fact, it's 10:30pm at this time. The show starts late in KL. So the little kids having great time during the first half mostly fell asleep in the second half.
MONDAY August 22 2002 / SECTION 2 / 33

The Appeal of Rakugo

Rakugo artists Shofukutei Kakusho tells funny stories in the traditional as well as modern way, both of which have won him popularity as well as global audience.

Hot on the heels of the acclaimed Memorandum by Dumb Type and Umezu Kazutoki KIKI Band jazz Concert comes another Japanese art form called rakugo. Brought here by The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) as part of the ongoing Japan Festival in Malaysia 2002, this is the second traditional Japanese theatre from to have visited our shores after the well-received Kyogen performance in March this year.
JFKL has been actively promoting Japanese arts, including some ancient forms here. For example, The Dolls of Japan - an exhibition of 70 dolls made over the centuries in different parts of Japan - toured Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, in July and August respectively and it currently on show at University Sains Malaysia's Museum and Art Gallery.
Rakugo, or Topper Story in its literal meaning, is a monodrama of funny stories. Best described as a "sit-down" comedy, a typical rakugo has performers sitting on a small mattress in front of an audience and acting out stories in a comical way.
The performer can be a narrator or portray the different characters in the story. In the latter type of performance, the characters converse without the role of a narrator - a challenge for the rakugo showman who has to switch from one distinct character to another.
In typical Asian stylistics, each character represents exaggerated aspects of the human personalities, thus making it easy for audiences to understand them. They even get into the same sticky situations that we find ourselves in everyday! This down-to-earth feel is probably why the ancient rakugo is still quite popular among today's Japanese.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2002 / 10

Puppetry with a Twist

Rakugo, an ancient Japanese comedic puppet show, debuts this Friday at the Actors Studio Theatre in Kuala Lumpur.

The casual cultural observer will be delighted to learn what the avid Japanophile has always known: that the Land of the Rising Sun has more than Noh theatre and Kabuki performances to offer the culturally curious.
There's also the less known comedic Rakugo puppet show. Featuring a performer on a sparsely set stage - seated only on a cushion - the rakugo master tells humourous stories and, often assumes different personalities with the use of hand-held puppets.
On the backseat that Rakugo has taken compared to Noh and Kabuki, Kakusho has this to say: "Rakugo is comedy, and therefore it is seen as a lower art form. Hence, it does not travel as much as Noh and Kabuki." But, he adds, things are changing as people are now perceiving Rakugo as a valid form of entertainment and, in fact, are taking the performances seriously.
The stores are often centuries old, and newer stories created by past masters are often handed down. As the repertoire of stories is vary wide, Rakugo masters have the privilege of selecting which stories they want to tell their audiences.
Kakusho is currently based in Singapore and says that he travels at least once a month to stage his performances overseas, in countries like Thailand, Australia, Canada, Korea, Germany and even Hungary.
Audiences in Kuala Lumpur will finally get to see a Rakugo performance - part of a 400-year old tradition - to see why it is a cultural export from Japan that is fast gaining favour with the cultural elite around the world.
Even more interestingly, the Rakugo performances here will be staged in English for greater accessibility by the Kuala Lumpur audience.

ポスター用写真の撮影 Taking a picture for the poster. By this time, we were so used to walking around the cities of different countries in Kimono costume. After the rain, the town of KL was cooled and freshened up.
15AUG-28AUG 02


Tickle yourself with traditional Japanese humour that became the favourite 1940's pastime of the people from the land of the rising sun.

If you're a fan of the traditional Japanese arts, you'll be pleased to know that the Japan Foundation of Kuala Lumpur (JFKL), in collaboration with The Actors Studio, will be bringing Rakugo to our shores as part of the three-month-long Japan Festival. No worries if you don't understand Japanese - JFKL wants all Malaysians to share the jokes, so this performance will be in English.
For those who are less familiar with Rakugo, this is best described as a Japanese sit-down comedy. During the show, the audience will see the performers witting on a mattress and acting out comical stories and monodramas.
Putting up Rakugo isn't all fun and games, however. To be a Rakugo performer means training and living with a master for three to four years, doing everything the master asks and sacrificing personal privacy. Upon completing the apprenticeship, performers will be given professional names (which reflect their artistic lineage), adapting their master's Rakugo "family name," plus one syllable from his first name.
This showcase of comedy - featuring everyday goings-on, from noodles to ninjas to bamboo blinds - will see three Rakugo performers, Shofukutei Kakusho, Katsura Kaishi and Katsura Asakichi, and a shamisen (a three-stringed lute-like instrument) player Hayashiya Kazume, in action. These esteemed entertainers have performed in the USA, Australia and Singapore and the performance marks their fifth international tour to Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

楽屋の様子 Dressing room. The straw mat on the floor makes us feel home. The air conditioning worked as good as refrigerator. This is a country of everlasting summer.
Thursday, August 15, 2002

A yen for funny stories

Rakugo may not be as stylised as Kabuki or Noh, but its simplicity is central to its appeal

This time around, it will be Rakugo, or Topper Story. Rakugo is actually a monologue featuring a number of funny tales. Not only will the upcoming Rakugo performance be held in English for the benefit of the local audience, but we will also get to enjoy the complete Yose (Rakugo setting) experience that comes along with it.−中略−
In terms of costumes and props, the cast and crew have to travel with a fair amount of equipment such as kimonos and musical instrumentals like Shamisen, fue (Japanese flute) and drums. In between each act, there are also other performances such as paper cutting and balancing plates on a pole, among others. Hence, this by no means is a simple production.

クアラルンプールの公演会場 The Actors Studio in Kuala Lumpur. A high school student came up on the stage to get an art piece from "paper cutting art". He is the winner!
Copyright 2002 Kimie Oshima