My Thoughts on the Performing Arts
Abstract of the lecture
Today, I would like to talk about how I became involved in the performing arts.
Let me begin by sharing my thoughts on “acting.” As a child, I would often behave like someone else, imitate others, or become some other person according to how I interpreted the impression that he or she had made on me. I think that this was my main motivator to “act.” However, at that stage, I had no desire to become a professional actor. When I succeeded to the name of Tamasaburo Bando V at the age of 14, my foster father told me, “From today on, you will be a professional.” It was at that point that I first realized that I would become a professional actor. To be a professional, one needs to learn about the historical processes through which the craft has passed to arrive at today’s contemporary style of acting. In other words, a professional must know how a certain form of acting has changed through each distinctive period attaining the form in which we know it today. And, to become an onnagata, or an actor who plays female roles, one must master kabu ongyoku, or Japanese music and dance, among other things. To be a good Kabuki actor, it is also important to be able to recite lines as if one were singing. Kabuki actors need to be able to play musical instruments too. Moreover, they must have mastered proper manners so that they can effectively represent, in a professional manner, the classical lifestyles that one often sees in Kabuki plays originally created in the Edo period (1603-1868). And, of course, Kabuki actors are required to learn about stage settings, costumes, hairdressing, makeup styles, and the historical background of each play, so that they know how to play the role in a manner that chimes with the milieu of the time.
However, when you come right down to it, one might say that the very essence of actors and actresses in general and, indeed, the original craft of acting is to behave as if you were a different person and – although impossible in reality – to feel that you have become someone other than yourself and can step into different places and time periods. I did not have a clear understanding of this concept in my younger years; rather I came to learn it after I was given opportunities to perform in front of audiences as a professional. That said, isn’t it the case that what we actors present to the audience through our performances on stage is not our own acting but a world that lies far beyond the performance itself? I believe it important that the audience comes to feel illusions, ideals, and imaginings through the theatrical space.
I also believe that to become what your imagination creates as you act is to become something that is not yourself, which can then develop into a state where you vanish from this world to become free and something that is beyond merely human, or to become assimilated into space, a scent, or a part of nature. My interpretation of the performing arts is something that originates in childhood play – be part of the flow of water, a cherry tree, perhaps a frog, and then a monkey – but gradually becomes more sophisticated, such as being able to express a literary idea or something that is culturally profound. In addition to what I have described thus far, I believe that the single most important goal from both my perspective and that of the audience in viewing a work of art is to fly out of the everyday and allow one’s soul to wander freely.
I will be discussing these matters from various perspectives, including the fundamentals of acting and characters.