For a Wife/ Meiboku Sendai Hagi
These performances are made possible in part by the Lila Wallace-Readeršs Digest Endowment Fund; The Starr Foundation; The Ford Foundation; and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.
The US debut tour is produced by the Japan Society and supported by The Japan Foundation; the Nissho Iwai Foundation and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture. Transportation is supported in part by United Airlines and United Worldwide Cargo.
YOUKI-ZA is the oldest marionette theater company in Japan, with roots in the sekky-joruri (preaching ballad) style in which the story is related through narrative chanting with musical accoon the shamisen. In the early period of Japanese marionette history, sekkyo-joruri was a musical performance of religious stories, namely the teachings of the Buddha. The style reached its greatest popularity in the mid-17th century.
In the early 18th century, sekkyo-joruri gave way to the rise of gidayu-bushi, a form of dramatic chanting founded by Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1714). This style of chanting is the mainstay of the bunraku puppet theater. Youki-za changed from sekkyo-bushi to gidayu-bushi, becoming one of the foremost companies to perform in this style.
Youki-zašs first theater was at Fukiya-cho in Edo (the ancient capital city and present-day Tokyo), where the company performed in kabuki theater. In 1841, commercial productions of performing arts were banned by the Edo government in reforms advocated by Tadakuni Misuno, one of the shogunšs councilors. When Misuno was forced to resign in 1843, three kabuki troupes and two puppet troupes, including Youki-za, moved to Saruwaka-cho in the Asakusa district and established a government-sanctioned theater quarter there. Later those theaters disappeared, and today only Youki-za maintains an independent traditional troupe system.
Originally, the manipulation techniques of marionette puppets were simple, but later developed into highly intricate forms. Unique to Japanese marionettes, the manipulation board or te-ita (hand board) has two movable sticks inserted into a square wooden board. Usually one puppeteer manipulates a single puppet, although occasionally two or three puppeteers are necessary.
Youki-za uses four methods to present marionettes on the stage. The first manipulation from a platform above the stage with only the puppet (which is attached to long strings) visible to the audience. The second employs a puppet attached to medium-length strings, with the puppeteer standing slightly elevated behind a partition. The third uses the three levels of manipulative positions in the same performance.
The Youki-za troupe has successfully adapted to new performance styles throughout its 360-year history, while maintaining its link to the joruri chanting style. Today, Youki-za is the only traditional troupe in Japan which performs a repertoire that spans classic puppet drama and new works ranging from translations of Western plays to original works. Often puppeteers act as well as manipulate the marionettes. Classical marionette methods and, sometimes, utsushi-e (lantern picture projections) are incorporated into performances. All elements that transcend genres. The company stands on the two legs of its classical and contemporary repertoires, creating a theatrical world unique to Youki-za.