SATOH’S DANCE OF ANGELS AS A DRAMATURGICAL DISCOURSE SEEKING AND DOUBTING THE YOUNG GENERATION’S REVOLUTION (2018, 10,350 words)

No full version of this essay has been published. One insufficient aspect dealing with the parallels to Weiss but not with its position in Japanese youth revolt was published in a book by various hands in the 1990s.

Part 1 analyses how the Black Tent Theatre (BTT) played Satoh’s Dance of Angels in 1970-71 on the basis of the text and staging data available in translation and interviews with its prominent members. It was a counter-project to Weiss’s Marat/Sade, radically changed by the feedback with the mainly youth-revolt audience within an angura stance refusing the shingeki theatre, so that words interacted with music, noises, dance, and song in imaginary spaces emphasising body-centeredness in the tradition of political demonstrations, the repressed popular culture of the early 1900s, manga-like bold simplifications, and cinematic cuts. The consubstantiality between theatre and youth rebellion took the form of a part of the movement being self-deputised to become an organ for a criticism of the whole. Part 2 is a detailed interpretation of the play’s dramaturgic agents and their spacetimes as a metaphoric structure with four levels, visible both on the enclosed stage sketch and the depth graph. The differing agents (Birds, Angels, and Winds) represent power levels intimately shaped by a specific time sense and a relation to the threatening revolution. The play enacts not only a painful contingent defeat but also the collapse of the myth of predetermined, linear progression toward revolution, shared by the Old and the New Left. The ambiguous ending is left open.
Part 3 is about the historical lesson to be drawn from the BTT 1970-71 tour, whose audience is analysed. The values at stake centered on the horizon of revolution, thus the section “Disalienation and Politics: The Involution of Revolution,” discusses the BTT’s perceived analogies between the salvational monolithism of tennoism and Stalinism as opposed to self-management. The Dance of Angels performances aimed to articulate and unfold this syndrome in the youth movement, and especially its activist factions — many still engaged at the Sanrizuka protest or in violent city and university conflicts – as to its possibilities and costs. A further section analyzes the audience of their 65 performances and the BTT’s black diagnosis of a “Japanese passive dreaming.” This explains their incident with the Chûkaku faction’s, which severely criticized the play snippets performed as esthetic indulgence and irony about the revolution. A third section faces Satoh’s dream metaphor, oscillating between a view of Japanese political ontology as such and of the youth movement’s general failure to awaken the population. Satoh final question was whether the messianic time of a Revolution now sick unto the death could be reconciled to this dreaming Japanese “tennō time” of eternal return. To face it, he took over the thematics of Marat/Sade, expanded his syntactics of circles within a circle, but everted his semantics.  Half a dozen years after Weiss’s play, amid the failure of a great political upheaval, Satoh had even fewer certainties and lower hope than Weiss, but perhaps more experience and patience for a long analysis. His summation was: “1970 was the year when the traditional Old Left in Japan expired. It was also (in retrospect) the beginning of the end of the New Left.”
Part 4 is A Final Question for Us. It argues that the ruling Powers-that-Be, pivoting on the State apparatus, imply a huge and repetitive use of word formulae insofar as the Word guides latent or patent Violence. Whoever wishes to contest today these Powers must find new, liberating formulae in the wake of 1968 to spark the dissident imagination. At its best, the art of a Peter Weiss, Satoh Makoto or Akasegawa Genpei can be an exemplum of how to avoid the extremes of brutality for its own sake and “weak thought” words bereft of political force and power. Here we might need the concept of counter-violence as legitimate self-defence (see Suvin, “Words”).

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