Kakashiza Shadow Play Theatre: An Interview with Shuichi Iida

Kakashiza Shadow Play Theatre is the first professional theatre company of modern shadow play in Japan and has produced various works that lead people into the world of drama, inventing original drama styles that refresh the shadow play. We spoke with director and performer, Shuichi Iida, about the history of the company, current performances and his passion for shadow play.

Kakashiza has been in operation since 1952.  How did the company begin? Kakashiza was established in 1952 as a dedicated theatre company for NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). At first I was doing shadow theatre live on TV. At that time, we played shadow puppets on the background of paper cutting arts with many layers of “washi” paper and tracing paper, called halftone silhouette. From the 1970s, we started to perform at elementary schools all over Japan. Then, in 2009, we started performances abroad with performances using hand shadow techniques. Currently, there are about 270,000 spectators on 1,200 stages a year.

What type of work does KAKASHIZA shadow play theatre do?

Kakashiza can support various activities related to shadow art:

  • Planning, production, directing and management of shadow performances.
  • Performances of shadow play.
    We have performances that combine shadow puppetry and actor’s performance, including: “Treasure Island”,“Puss in Boots”,“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”,“The Three Pigs” and “Little Red Riding”. We also have performances that are staged with hand shadows only, including: “Hand Shadows ANIMARE” and “Once upon a Dreaming”. In these performances we create over 100 motifs with hand shadows. They’re nonverbal and are mainly done abroad.
  • Workshops on shadow art (on how to make and perform with hand shadows and shadow puppets.)
  • Planning and production of “Halftone silhouette”.
  • Production of shadow animation.
  • Appearances on TV and PV (promotion video).

When did you join the company?  What is your role?

I joined Kakashiza in 1992. I’ve been working for 25 years as an actor, and have performed in over 30 stage performances with over 5,000 performances! Currently, I’m also in charge of direction and management, and sometimes I’m on the stage as an actor. Shadow play is my life’s work. Everybody can have their own image in the shadow. In addition, spectators can see and reflect their present, past and future in the shadows that appear on the stage. After realizing that such a mysterious nature exists in the shadows, I decided to make this work a life’s work.

Where has Kakashiza performed? Who have you worked with and where will you be performing next?

We have had performances in Asia, Europe, Russia and South America. We’ve mainly been touring our “Hand Shadows ANIMARE” show. We’ve performed all around the world at festivals and the main ones include “Titirimudi Festival (Spain), MATEŘINKA Festival (Czech Republic), SESI BONECOS (Brazil), and Fidena Festival (Germany).

In March 2019, we made a collaborative work with the Korean puppet theatre ArtStage SAN. It is a non-verbal play with various puppets and hand shadows. The title is “Ruru Island Mystery”. It is a story of a girl who came to the island where time is a place, “Ruru Island”, and a black cat and an old man who live there. The performance with shadows and puppets is very unique.

From August to October 2019, three weeks of performances at the Seoul Arts Center will start, and tours will be held in Korea. Then “Hand Shadows ANIMARE”, a KAKASHIZA performance, is scheduled for a performance in Shanghai in November in 2019.

Interview with Emma Windsor

To find out more about Kakashiza Shadow Play Theatre Company , visit their website: https://kakashiza-en.com/

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