Japanese Magic Lantern: The Minwa-za Company of Tokyo and the Art of Utsushi-e

In April 2011, the University of Chicago community welcomed the Minwa-za Company of Tokyo for a series of events celebrating the uniquely Japanese magic lantern tradition of utsushi-e. This was a week of free workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and performances that recreated utsushi-e in the original theatrical manner, using reproductions of lanterns and slides of the Edo era.
During Minwa-za's visit to the University of Chicago, the company presented their 200-year-old Japanese Magic Lantern performance, utsushi-e, in a series of events from April 19-23 at the Japan Information Center, International House, the Film Studies Center and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. All events were free and open to the public.
 

Schedule

Tuesday, April 19: 6:30pm Doors Open; 7:00pm Welcoming Remarks
WELCOME & PREVIEW
Japan Information Center
737 North Michigan Avenue #1000, Chicago, IL 60611
 

Wednesday, April 20, 1:00pm
FAMILY MATINEE PERFORMANCE
International House, University of Chicago
1414 E. 59th St. Chicago, IL 60637
 

Thursday, April 21, 7:00pm
LECTURE-DEMONSTRATION & SHORT PERFORMANCE
More details here.
Film Studies Center
5811 S. Ellis Ave, Cobb Hall 307, Chicago, IL 60637
 

Friday, April 22, 7:00pm
PERFORMANCE
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Chicago, IL 60637
 

Saturday, April 23, 7:00pm
PERFORMANCE
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Chicago, IL 60637

View a slide show of the performance from backstage.

Magic Lantern: The Origins of the Moving Image

The magic lantern was introduced to Japan in the 18th century by the Dutch, and it remained the dominant form of projecting still and moving images until the beginning of the 20th century. Utsushi-e began ca. 1800 as a traditional Japanese magic lantern show based on back-projection. Directly influenced by Asian shadow and puppet theater, an utsushi-e show is a group performance, founded on interpreting well-known popular stories, tales, and comic episodes from Edo-era entertainments, such as Kabuki, Bunraku, and Rakugo, in a multi-media combination of images, narration and music.

View a slide show illustrating movement using slides.

The Artists: Minwa-za

Minwa-za is a Tokyo-based Japanese performance troupe specializing in utsushi-e. Founded in 1968, the company began by staging shadow-puppet shows. In the late 1970s they discovered the lost art of utsushi-e and devoted the next 15 years restoring slides, researching performance techniques, and producing new material. As a result of the acclaim generated by their first public performance in 1993, Minwa-za’s director, Fumio Yamagata, was granted the prestigious title of 'Tamagawa, Bunraku.' In 2008, Minwa-za visited the United States, debuting their revived utsushi-e performances at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and in 2010 they were featured in the internationally broadcast NHK series, Last Artisans.

Sponsors

Organized by Artemis Willis, Ph.D candidate, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, in conjunction with Professor Tom Gunning’s Seminar on the Moving and Projected Image.

Sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Japan Studies Committee of the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies, the University of Chicago Arts Council, the Japan Information Center, International House’s Global Voices Program, and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.