NINAGAWA Shakespeare Memorial Symposium in London

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Event poster

On October 6, a symposium on the internationally-acclaimed theatre director Yukio Ninagawa was held at the Embassy of Japan in the United Kingdom. Organized by Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute, the Ninagawa Shakespeare Memorial Symposium was held to mark the occasion of “NINAGAWA Macbeth” being staged at the Barbican Theatre. Waseda University’s International Office, Collaborative Research Centre for Theatre and Film Arts, and the Top Global University Project’s Global Japanese Studies Model Unit also took part as co-organizers.

The symposium featured talks by Michael Dobson, a world-renowned scholar of Shakespearean studies and Director of the Shakespearean Institute; Michael Billington, a theatre critic representing the UK; Phillip Breen, an up-and-coming theatre director; and Rosalind Fielding, a doctoral candidate at the University of Birmingham who is studying Shakespearean plays in Japan. Considering how Ninagawa’s Shakespearean plays affected the British theatre world, the symposium reexamined his achievements from multiple perspectives.

Following their talk, Kotaro Shibata, a research associate from the Collaborative Research Centre for Theatre and Film Arts, shared with the audience the overview, exhibition, and research activities taking place at the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum. Furthermore, Kyozo Nakamura, an onnagata Kabuki actor who played the witch in “Macbeth” at the Barbican Theatre, was invited to speak on the legacy of Ningawa’s work, the application traditional Japanese theatre techniques in performing Shakespeare, and the relationship between Japanese classical theatre and Shakespeare. Ryuichi Kodama, Associate Director of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and Professor at Waseda University, served as the interviewer.

A day before the symposium, Professor Kodama and Hiroko Yamaguchi of Asahi Shimbun held a lecture at the Shakespeare Institute, where Waseda University is facilitating collaborative research with. Approximately 80 researchers from the Institute attended. In the lecture titled “NINAGAWA Macbeth & Japanese Classical Plays,” Professor Kodama spoke about how Shakespeare’s plays are received in Japan in diverse forms and about the Kabuki-esque elements seen in Ninagawa’s Macbeth. Yamaguchi, who had been friends with Ninagawa for 30 years, talked about Ninagawa’s life and the characteristics of his works. The lecture closed with an engaging Q&A session.

Aside from these events, Professor Norimasa Morita (Vice President for International Affairs), Professor Kodama, Professor Tetsuhito Motoyama (Faculty of Law), Associate Professor Mikiko Shimaoka (Center for Research Strategy), Assistant Professor Yu Umemiya (Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences), and Reasearch Associate Kotaro Shibata visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and organizations supporting Shakespearean research, and spoke with Professor Michael Whitby, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham. Representatives from both universities discussed the progress made in the collaboration agreement facilitating shared research projects that started in 2016, and exchanged opinions on future prospects. Pro-Vice Chancellor Whitby said, “I hope that Waseda University shares my impression on this, but ever since 2016 when the agreement started, the two universities have realized proactive exchange across many fields, especially in Shakespearean studies.”

Waseda University looks forward to future collaborations in Shakespearean studies and beyond with the University of Birmingham.

ninagawa shakespeare8

Waseda University faculty and staff, Professor Michael Dobson (far left), Professor Michael Whitby (third from left, back row), and researchers from the Shakespeare Institute

Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum

ninagawa shakespeare9Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum opened in March 1928 to celebrate Professor Shoyo Tsubouchi’s 70th birthday and his lifetime achievement of translating all 40 volumes of Shakespearean plays. Ever since its founding, the Museum has been regarded as not only Japan but Asia’s foremost museum of theatre arts, housing a collection of one million items which was collected in over the course of 90 years, and could be regarded as the history of theatre and drama.

Shakespeare Institute

ninagawa shakespeare6The Shakespeare Institute, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born, is an internationally renowned research institution established in 1951 to push the boundaries of knowledge about Shakespeare studies and Renaissance drama. Currently, the Institute is led by Professor Michael Dobson.

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