Okinawan Theater: Live Excerpts of Okinawan Life and History, Connecting Past and Present

Up to the 1970’s and early 80’s,there were numerous local theaters in Okinawa which housed traveling “shibai” groups who brought Okinawan language plays to the community. The plays usually portrayed historical events, or historical fiction. For may of the older audience, it gave a connection to a past they had experienced or had some sort of attachment. For the younger audience, it was a window to the past, and seeing what their kupuna experienced or what was connected to the stories they passed down. The dances and plays actually brought the audience into the realm of the story being told, and a mysterious experience of sharing…exchange of emotion happened. For some of the historical dramas, it brought closure or comfort to some of the problems Okianwans faced through history. The theater brought the performers and audience together. The audience, especially, became one in understanding and experience, whether poor or wealthy. It kept the Okinawan heart alive. It was easy to understand each other’s suffering, celebrations and events. Something which is now being lost in Okinawan theater due to loss of focus in purpose of the stage. The separation of community has also assisted in the slow demise of real Okinawan performing arts. We can still try to bring real Okinawan theater back. However, its a small window thats available to us at this time to do this, since the elders who can help us, are in decline due to health and age. If there is any time to do this…its NOW. If you have not experience real Okinawan shibai..get in touch with someone who has video or tapes.