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Friday, Dec. 4, 2009

Edo Period puppet troupe opens 'behind-the-strings' exhibition

Staff writer

The Edo Marionette Theater Youkiza, a traditional Japanese marionette theater, sprung to life this week.

The theater is putting on an exhibition about itself. Objects on display include marionettes, costumes, materials teaching about the mechanics of puppet gestures and a digest of films of their performances.

The Edo Marionette Theater Youkiza is the only remaining marionette troupe from the Edo Period (1603-1867). It was established in 1635 under Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun. According to Youkiza, it has been identified as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the Japanese government.

This puppet company has stayed true to its 375 years of tradition, but also has adapted modern elements. Youkiza collaborates with domestic and overseas stage directors, actors and puppet makers to constantly refresh itself. In addition to Japanese classics, the troupe performs modern pieces and plays from overseas — such as Shakespearean works — incorporating its own style. One striking example of this are the unique set backgrounds, which are painted on a glass board and lit up. Another example is that the puppeteers speak during the dialogues, with actors and puppets performing together on the same stage. The exhibition is running for the first time and gives visitors a chance to see how Youkiza creates its magic.

"A Kaleidoscope on Strings — 375 Years of Edo Marionette Theatre Youkiza" will be held in INAX Gallery 1 in Kyobashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo, from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. starting Dec. 3. The exhibition runs until Feb. 20, 2010. The gallery is closed on Sun., holidays and from Dec. 26 till Jan. 4, 2010. Admission is free. This exhibition is expected to run next year in Osaka from Mar. 6 till May 20; and in Nagoya from Jun. 4 till Aug. 19. For more information, call (03) 5250-6530 or visit www.inax.co.jp/culture/

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