Accepted paper:

Decision Processes on the Yose Stage


Sarah Stark (University of Ghent)

Paper short abstract:

While other Japanese stage arts announce the plays staged far in advance and follow scenarios, rakugo performances are mainly improvised - even the stories given are often decided in the first minutes on stage, through audience interaction. This paper explores the performer's decision process.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will try to explore the decision process of rakugo performers in the first minutes on the yose stage. Choosing a "hanashi" for any given show is a very complex process which - among other factors - includes careful probing of the audience. For special solo shows, the performer might have decided which story to give well in advance, but in most cases, when performing with colleagues - choosing a story is a process that often happens on the spot. Unless specifically announced to the audience in advance or requested by the organizer, the performer always decides his "hanashi" in the first moments on stage. Before he starts out with the actual story, in an improvised part called "makura" the performer tests the waters. Season or weather might limit his initial choice, but size and atmosphere of venue, audience composition, general atmosphere and previous rakugo knowledge are important factors. Short stories or episodes/ anecdotes from his life help him to see how the audience reacts - depending on the reaction, he will chose a different story. This particular process is different from performer to performer - his/her selection process also depends on position in the program, relationship to other performers, age, experience and even popularity.

panel S4b_04
Actor-Audience Relationships in Japanese Comic Storytelling (Rakugo)