Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shûji and Postwar Japan, Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei

M Cody Poulton


Poet, playwright, stage director, photographer, filmmaker, novelist and critic, Pied Piper and Peeping Tom, Terayama Shûji’s (1935?-1983) immensely fertile imagination had a profound influence on avant-garde culture in the 1960s and ’70s, not only in his native Japan but on the international scene as well. Together with artist Yokoo Tadanori (who designed many of the posters for his stage productions), Terayama’s photographs, collage postcards, and stage sets (replete with ominous men in whiskers, whiteface and top hats, naked fat ladies and dwarves, diabolical machines, and rising sun flags—all the apparati of a defunct popular culture and a discredited patriotism) helped define the ‘look’ of Japanese postwar underground culture: surrealist, sexy, anarchic, carnivalesque, disturbing, yet paradoxically nostalgic—both distinctly ‘Japanese’ and identifiably international in its sensibilities.

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