Kishida Rio: her impact in Japanese avant-garde theatre and beyond.

 
Faculty of Arts
Siyuan Liu
Vancouver (East Van!!!)
Canada
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

My dissertation research focuses on the theatre practice of contemporary female Japanese playwright and director KISHIDA Rio (1946-2003). Kishida was the only woman writing plays in the first wave of the 1960s-80s “angura” (avant-garde theatre) movement in Japan. My project aims 1) to show the importance of Kishida’s work within the Japanese avant-garde movement; 2) to analyse the ways in which she provided a vehicle for the bodies and voices of female performers; and 3) to define her impact on women in contemporary Japanese theatre.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

In the general sense of being a “public” vs “private” scholar, it means to fully share my research with the public and to engage with communities other than those that are purely academic. More specifically, to be a Public Scholar and part of the Public Scholars Initiative means that my goals to work practically and publically with the community I am researching/learning from, are validated and valued. Being a Public Scholar also offers me ways to share my work more deeply and with more people here in Canada though avenues outside publication.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I think the networking and collaborative emphasis of the PSI pushes the boundaries of the PhD experience. My work within a community of artists also makes me think differently and more openly about the impact and significance of my research. It makes me want to do better and to make sure my work reaches a broader spectrum of people!

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

I envision my PhD research leading to opportunities to direct Kishida’s plays, work as a guest scholar/artist specializing in the Japanese avant-garde and in Kishida’s work in particular, and potentially leading to an academic career that would include the practical teaching of theatre performance and creation as well as theory and literature

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

I will be working in studio with a group of theatre artists who are personally connected to Kishida Rio. By rehearsing and performing with them, I will be able to learn viscerally about their work with her and their years of performing her texts. My research will also bring Kishida’s texts to students and actors here at UBC and Vancouver through staged readings and possibly performances.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

One of my primary goals is to help establish Kishida Rio’s work in the canon of contemporary theatre texts and to make sure she is never again left out of a published compilation that includes Contemporary Japanese theatre. The artistic community I am working with in Tokyo have been keeping her plays and her work alive in Japan, and I hope to extend that to English language scholarship and theatrical production. Knowledge of strong female writers and artists will (I hope) encourage balance, international understanding and better intercultural communication. This was a goal of Kishida’s in her later work – and I honour that as an artist and as a scholar.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

A few years ago I wrote reviews for two different play compilations of contemporary Asian theatre – neither of which contained much (if any) writing by women. I was furious that in the 21st Century any book could be published with this kind of gross imbalance and omission. I was complaining about this to Siyuan Liu (now my advisor) and he literally challenged me to do something about it. So here I am.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I am based in Vancouver, and UBC has a terrific theatre department and an amazing Asian Language library.

 

One of my primary goals is to help establish Kishida Rio’s work in the canon of contemporary theatre texts and to make sure she is never again left out of a published compilation that includes Contemporary Japanese theatre. Knowledge of strong female writers and artists will (I hope) encourage balance, international understanding and better intercultural communication.