Japanese comic storytelling (rakugo) came close to extinction at the end of World War II, but it enjoys a remarkably large following today, mainly in Tokyo and Osaka. Storytellers and audiences interact at live shows, but also through popular media. Actor-audience relationships will be scrutinized.
Japanese comic storytelling (rakugo) came close to extinction at the end of World War II, but it enjoys a remarkably large following today, mainly in Tokyo and Osaka. Storytellers and audiences interact at live shows, but also through popular media. This panel of rakugo specialists (some who are also performers) will explore these actor-audience relationships. Four papers will be presented, then a round-table discussion of the contents, and rakugo scholarship in general, will follow. This has become an area of increased focus in recent years and all of the people on the panel are at the vanguard of rakugo studies. The panel will look at four different aspects of actor-audience interaction. The first treats storytellers breaking character - or breaking the 'fourth wall' - in order to allow for direct interaction with the audience. Many think that the art of rakugo consists of little more than a self-contained narrative, but this is far from the case. For this, rakugo performed from 2000 on will be analyzed. Next, we take a close look at a rakugo 'star' currently active in Tokyo, who performs regularly in rakugo halls (yose), but has also become something of a TV sensation. The methods by which this famous storyteller communicates with his audience extends far beyond the short period of interaction during an actual performance. His regular television appearances have shaped a specific on-screen persona of the performer - a persona that is omnipresent when he emerges onto the stage as a rakugo artist and in all of his interactions with his audiences. Third, we examine the way in which storytellers choose stories prior to going onstage. This process for any given show is rather complex; it involves carefully probing the audience and other performers. Sometimes storytellers even decide what to perform on the spot. This process will be probed and elucidated. Finally, a rakugo magazine will be examined to show ways that storytellers and audiences interact away from the stage, in print. The magazine is entertaining, educational, and sometimes sentimental, but appears to have an hidden agenda: repackaging (or reinventing) rakugo for a new era.