Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.MM.12.2.17 | PDF

Satoh’s Dance of Angels Darko Suvin

Satoh’s Dance of Angels as a Dramaturgical Discourse Seeking and Doubting the Young Generation’s Revolution

Darko Suvin

To the mem­o­ry of my friends:
— Yamamo­to Gen and Napa
— Sam Noumoff who impelled the beginning
— and her that I call Kazuko, sine qua non

0. Introduction

Reflect­ing deep soci­etal and per­son­al fis­sures scarce­ly vis­i­ble on the sur­face, many forms of art may, at their best, fos­ter through their sen­su­al shapes an estranged way of look­ing at rei­fied pow­er rela­tion­ships and exis­ten­tial quan­daries, thus help­ing per­son­al and col­lec­tive sub­jects to move toward polit­i­cal clar­i­ty (cf. Suvin “What”). Such art oppos­es the prag­ma­tism or fake real­ism of the pow­er­ful and the con­formist that, as the great his­to­ri­an E.H. Carr put it, “excludes four things which appear to be essen­tial ingre­di­ents of all polit­i­cal think­ing: a finite goal, an emo­tion­al appeal, a right of moral judge­ment and a ground for action” (85). The new stance may be elab­o­rat­ed before the polit­i­cal move­ments, as a pre­fig­u­ra­tive prac­tice, or it may hap­pen after them, as an echo or unfold­ing; or indeed, in a most inter­est­ing case, dur­ing the strug­gles, as an imma­nent depth probe or tak­ing stock. This is clear­ly the case of Satoh Makoto’s Kuro Ten­to group in its per­for­mance of Tsub­asa o moy­a­su ten­shi-tachi no butō (The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Wings here­after, Dance of Angels).1 My hori­zon for eval­u­at­ing it is of the kind Ernst Bloch described speak­ing of music: “This world is not that which has already become but that which cir­cu­lates with­in it, which […] is immi­nent only in future, anx­i­ety, hope” (1088).

In a pre­vi­ous pub­li­ca­tion for a spe­cif­ic venue with what I now con­sid­er to be an unclear hori­zon of ‘own’ vs. ‘for­eign,’ I have writ­ten about the dra­matur­gic dis­course of Dance of Angels as com­pared to its trig­ger­ing fac­tor, Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade, and their dif­fer­ing rela­tions to the cen­tral theme of rad­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion. Now, the ear­li­er dis­course about the Kuro Ten­to, which trans­lates as Black Tent The­atre (here­after as a rule BTT) play will be enriched by an insis­tence that this play can be best under­stood through its most inti­mate rela­tion­ship with the great Japan­ese stu­dent and youth rebel­lion reach­ing its height in 1969-71.2 A com­par­i­son with Weiss will only be used at the end as a strate­gic way to appraise and judge Satoh’s play.

To put my cards on the table, my hori­zon for eval­u­at­ing this play is to keep in mind the pos­si­bil­i­ty of human­is­ing pow­er rela­tion­ships of the kind Ernst Bloch described speak­ing of music: “This world is not that which has already become but that which cir­cu­lates with­in it, which … is immi­nent only in future, anx­i­ety, hope.” (1088). I have writ­ten much more about the polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions of a dialec­tics of “pos­si­bil­i­ty”; how­ev­er, in this essay I shall omit my reser­va­tions about Satoh’s sharp notion­al rejec­tion of Hegel, who insists on deter­mi­nate divi­sion and spe­cif­ic oppo­si­tion, “until we come out on the oth­er side – a require­ment that seems to me to dis­tin­guish this dialec­tic from the more absolute skep­ti­cism of decon­struc­tion” (Jame­son 85).

I shall begin with a sketch of some aspects of the Japan­ese angu­ra (under­ground the­atre) stance per­ti­nent to my analy­sis and then dis­cuss the play’s par­a­dig­mat­ics by means of its dra­matur­gic agents, spaces, and mean­ing. The syn­tag­mat­ics of its flow will be indi­cat­ed by means of preg­nant exam­ples with­in a dia­logue with its Japan­ese audi­ences in the midst of the youth revolt, with­out a full blow-by-blow analy­sis. Final­ly, I shall draw a con­clu­sion about the val­ues at stake, ori­ent­ed toward the hori­zon of revolution.

1. The Black Tent Theatre Plays Dance of Angels

Figure 1: Kuro Tento (BTT) Stage image from 黒テント

1.1. In their “Prospec­tus 1970,” the The­atre Cen­ter 68/70 announced a three-months’ tour of their “mobile the­atre car­a­van” con­sist­ing of two 3.5-ton trucks, and sundry oth­er vehi­cles “[which] will car­ry our tent, light­ing and sound equip­ment and a com­pa­ny of 35 peo­ple around the coun­try” (10). The black vinyl tent (from which the the­atre took its lat­er name, Kuro Ten­to 68/71) slung between the two trucks pro­duced a mobile enclosed space of 30 x 15 metres and slop­ing up to sev­en meters high, seat­ing up to 300 peo­ple; anoth­er report speaks of a max­i­mum of 800 peo­ple, includ­ing stand­ing room.

The Prospec­tus announced the per­for­mance of Dance of Angels as “a mul­ti­leveled col­lage based at cen­ter on Peter Weiss’s play [Marat/Sade] and [bor­row­ing] from […] a wide vari­ety of polit­i­cal and oth­er writ­ing” (11). The bor­row­ings ranged from the fan­tas­tic and sur­re­al­ist tra­di­tion begin­ning with Lewis Car­roll, to mod­ern activist writ­ings, and to Sartre­an exis­ten­tial­ism. How­ev­er, this was all insert­ed into Satoh’s Japan­ese ascen­dan­cies and his own idio­syn­crat­ic sys­tem, so that here ref­er­ence will only be made to the rad­i­cal rewrite of Weiss’s his­to­rio­soph­ic frame­work, though I shall men­tion Ben­jamin when I dis­cuss the “Angels.”

An extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high degree of both the­atre infor­ma­tion and the­atre sophis­ti­ca­tion per­mit­ted Satoh and his group to enter into a crit­i­cal dia­logue with Weiss’s play which amounts to a counter-project. In an inter­view with me, Satoh, the dri­ving force in this col­lec­tive “total the­atre,” explained:

Weiss’s play had been a mod­el that moved me. How­ev­er, Marat/Sade placed the nor­mal, non-mad words into a sit­u­a­tion of mad­ness. The mean­ing of these words was seen redou­bled by mad­ness. The basic idea of Weiss’s play is excel­lent. But the mad­house itself is in Weiss his­tor­i­cal­ly deter­mined by the social sys­tem of mod­ern times, born in the French Rev­o­lu­tion. For the actors in Marat/Sade it is the same to play lunatics or politi­cians; these are just roles seen from the point of view of nor­mal­i­ty. Our group took dream instead of mad­ness.” (Inter­view with D. Suvin, Dec. 21 1987)

I shall return to the key con­cept of dream as com­pared to Weiss’s ambigu­ous mad­ness of his­to­ry. Clear­ly, Satoh and Weiss shared the cen­tral pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with rad­i­cal polit­i­cal change to save the world amid the apa­thy of a major­i­ty of cit­i­zens. How­ev­er, the Satoh group also had some cen­tral objec­tions to Weiss, spelled out in his “Com­ment”:

While hav­ing every­thing devel­op in par­al­lel, I also want our uncer­tain­ties, Weiss’s uncer­tain­ties, to remain alive and to actu­al­ly appear on stage. […] [T]o force bour­geois con­scious­ness and pro­le­tar­i­an con­scious­ness off to oppo­site extrem­i­ties of his­to­ry […] is to pre­sup­pose sal­va­tion through his­tor­i­cal dialec­tic.” (21-22)

This final analy­sis of Satoh’s will itself be crit­i­cal­ly exam­ined in this essay. Nonethe­less, it will be tak­en as the state­ment of his very orig­i­nal crit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ty, which can be queried as to its ide­o­log­i­cal hori­zon and con­sis­ten­cy but not as to it self-aware­ness. It devel­oped with­in the theatre’s fun­da­men­tal feed­back between per­for­mance and audi­ence that changes both (cf. Suvin, “Per­for­mance”).

1.2. If Dance of Angels is a counter-project to Marat/Sade, it is also the (up to that time) most vivid Japan­ese repu­di­a­tion of the Euro­pean-style, nat­u­ral­ist or ‘real­ist,’ shinge­ki the­atre. Born at the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry as part of the mod­ern­iza­tion of Japan, and look­ing to Ibsen and Stanislavs­ki as its patron saints, shinge­ki appeared to the angu­ra the­atres of the 1960s gen­er­a­tion as not only hope­less­ly out of touch with their prob­lems but also as a major prob­lem itself, pre­clud­ing any pos­si­ble solu­tion. With its closed build­ings, orga­nized but safe­ly pas­sive audi­ences, a vague­ly lib­er­al or rose­wa­ter-social­ist indi­vid­u­al­ist pro­gres­sivism, and a high­ly respectable if small niche in the soci­ety of the bud­ding ‘eco­nom­ic mir­a­cle,’ it was for the young the­atre peo­ple ana­log­i­cal to the cor­rupt­ed father to be over­come in the polit­i­cal psy­chodra­ma that unfold­ed dur­ing the Anpo anti-mil­i­tarist demon­stra­tions of the lat­ter l960s. This was not fair to rad­i­cal excep­tions such as Sen­da Koreya’s Haiyû-za the­atre,3 nor to the his­tor­i­cal achieve­ments and even a pos­si­bly use­ful role of shinge­ki. Yet the claim by the BTT that shinge­ki “has lost its anti­thet­ic élan […]; rather, it has become an insti­tu­tion” (Tsuno, “Tra­di­tion” 11; see also his “Biwa” 9) has a sol­id nucle­us of uncom­fort­able truth about coop­ta­tion into the dom­i­nant “repres­sive tol­er­ance.” Angu­ra was born repu­di­at­ing the shinge­ki hall­marks of 19th-cen­tu­ry psy­cho­log­i­cal real­ism, with ‘round’ char­ac­ters and a lin­ear plot, plus the priv­i­leged sta­tus of hal­lowed writ­ten dra­ma in a per­ma­nent the­atre venue. To the con­trary, angu­ra was a ‘poor the­atre’ in con­stant con­flict with bureau­crat­ic author­i­ties and their egre­gious abuse of fire-laws and san­i­ta­tion codes to pro­hib­it per­for­mances. When choos­ing actors, enthu­si­asm and com­mit­ment out­weighed pro­fes­sion­al train­ing that was very rare; few were paid in cash, work­ing con­di­tions were poor and pre­car­i­ous (cf. Eck­er­sall 41 and pas­sim). While words remained impor­tant for angu­ra, they were in fre­quent inter­ac­tion with music, nois­es (such as the Angels’ motor­cy­cles), dance, and song in flu­id and rapid­ly chang­ing imag­i­nary spaces that empha­sised body-cen­tred­ness. The actor’s body was the same body as in polit­i­cal demon­stra­tions yes­ter­day, it was sup­posed to be more intel­li­gent than the words it spoke. Youth mobil­i­ty claimed the free­dom so far reserved for busi­ness­men and the jet set; the angu­ra pover­ty and wan­der­ing broke out of the loved or hat­ed bour­geois salon of sup­pos­ed­ly real­ist dra­matur­gy, and its troupe collectivism—though often accom­pa­nied by a firm guid­ing nucleus—broke with actor individualism.

Satoh’s gen­er­a­tion had also gone back to the repressed pop­u­lar cul­ture of the century’s begin­ning, in part hark­ing back even to some pre-Mei­ji cul­tur­al tra­di­tions. The “small the­atres” orga­nized around auteur-direc­tors, play­ing in nar­row base­ment rooms, in dis­cos, over cof­fee-hous­es, with­in the precincts of Bud­dhist tem­ples and Shin­to shrines, or under ele­vat­ed super­high­ways, revived some ele­ments of the plebeian—popular or bohemian—theatricality of street enter­tain­ers, sideshows, cabaret or vaude­ville (cf. on man­zai Tsu­ru­mi, chap­ter 4), and impro­vi­sa­tions, which “had nev­er lost their […] spark com­plete­ly” (Buru­ma 4, cf. Raz 36). The bur­geon­ing pop­u­lar music in which their gen­er­a­tion was immersed was graft­ed onto that: Satoh’s Woman Mur­dered in Oil-Hell was a rock-musi­cal adap­ta­tion of Chikamatsu’s pup­pet play, and Dance of Angels is halfway to a rock musi­cal, with music by four com­posers, of which the best known was the protest­ing folk-singer and song­writer Okabayashi Nobuya­su.4 These the­atres had also looked at the re-exhuma­tion of Japan­ese folk­lore, often rather the­atri­cal, pio­neered by Yanagi­da Kunio and Origuchi Shi­nobu, and the atten­dant pho­to-albums of archa­ic feasts and performances.

Final­ly, the angu­ra visu­al écri­t­ure was shaped by two major influ­ences. The major graph­ic influ­ence on the media avid­ly con­sumed by the young was Tadanori Yokō—from comics and graf­fi­ti through posters and oth­er com­mer­cial illus­tra­tions to the immense­ly pop­u­lar yakuza movies; in the­atre, sur­pris­ing con­cep­tu­al­iza­tions of space and lengthy time were first seen in the dance-dra­mas of Hijika­ta Tat­su­mi in the 1950s-60s (cf. Richie, also Watan­abe). In his wake came the poet­ic and grotesque dra­ma the­atre of Ter­aya­ma Shûji, and then the gen­er­a­tion of younger drama­tists and the­atre groups, among which Kara Jurō’s “Red Tent” and the ear­ly phase of Suzu­ki Tadashi were the most cog­nate to Satoh’s col­lec­tive. At this time of mass explo­sion of man­ga in week­ly pub­li­ca­tions and then on TV, the link between comics and activism was well known. Many man­ga, eager­ly read by intel­lec­tu­als and male stu­dents, dealt with past peas­ant revolts and Japan­ese his­to­ry, as well as direct­ly with Mao, the Buraku­min pari­ahs, pover­ty, oppres­sion, class war­fare, and the Anpo move­ment itself (cf. Andrews 129). Man­ga-like bold sim­pli­fi­ca­tions and cin­e­mat­ic cuts were, to my mind, a major com­po­nent of Satoh’s style.

From angu­ra’s found­ing ges­ture, Fuku­da Yoshiyuki’s Doc­u­ment No. 1 of 1960, it was not only “played as a par­al­lel dis­course to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly occur­ring events of the protest strug­gle,” it also aspired to be “a process of mak­ing the­atre from protest, [where] the gap between the human and polit­i­cal dimen­sions of real­i­ty was reduced, and protest activ­i­ty ide­al­ly and sym­bol­i­cal­ly became a form of art and vice ver­sa” (Eck­er­sall 49). While there was no pre­tence that the stage was real­i­ty, real­i­ty often became the­atri­calised; the Ger­man Ide­al­ist con­cep­tion of ‘two real­i­ties,’ the low prag­mat­ic and the high artis­tic one (still observed by shinge­ki), no longer ful­ly applied.

With­in this con­stel­la­tion, Satoh and the BTT clear­ly emerged as the most intel­li­gent­ly polit­i­cal unit, at the extreme anti-mil­i­tarist pole of the New Left and youth move­ments of the lat­ter 1960s in which they were deeply involved. As the whole move­ment, they were also strong­ly against exist­ing ide­o­log­i­cal and pow­er hier­ar­chies, thought not with­out ten­sions of their own between ple­beian impuls­es from below and their top pow­er group of writ­ers and intel­lec­tu­als. Satoh him­self (born 1943) had since 1966 writ­ten a tril­o­gy of short plays and three full-length plays; in the fol­low­ing decades he became one of the most ambi­tious and sophis­ti­cat­ed play­wrights, as well as direc­tors and the­atre orga­niz­ers, of Japan. Already in the pre­ced­ing play Nezu­mi Kozō the Rat, his cen­tral pre­oc­cu­pa­tion had been with the coopt­ed fail­ures of ple­beian, poten­tial­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­ver­sion. In Dance of Angels, writ­ten and per­formed dur­ing the hec­tic months at the height of the youth revolt, this pre­oc­cu­pa­tion became the­mat­i­cal­ly fore­ground­ed, and the play grew to be not only the cul­mi­na­tion of his work so far, but the clear­est depth inter­ven­tion of the whole angu­ra wave 1960-71. In this case, the con­sub­stan­tial­i­ty of the­atre and youth rebel­lion took the most inter­est­ing form in which a part of the move­ment being as it were the organ for a crit­i­cism of the whole.

2. Interpretation: Dramaturgic Agents and Their Spacetimes as Metaphoric Structure

Figure 2: Structure of Satoh's Play .

Satoh’s play has a four-lev­el struc­ture. One each is built around his three types of col­lec­tive dra­matur­gic agents—Angels, Birds, and Winds—while the fourth lev­el is the ‘autho­r­i­al voice,’ or inten­tio operis, as man­i­fest­ed through songs with music, and slo­gans pro­ject­ed on the screen at the fur­thest end of the tent.

Figure 3: The Dance of Angels who burn Their Own Wings: The Black Tent Theatre as it was arranged for the 1970 procuction (in Goodman, David G. Japanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s: The Return of the Gods. Sharpe, 1988, 290).

The imag­i­nary spaces are hier­ar­chi­cal inso­far as each has a dom­i­nant and a sub­or­di­nate species: Birds com­mand Angels, and Angels send forth Winds to sound the past; yet the Angels are in rebel­lion, cul­mi­nat­ing in the armed insur­rec­tion of the dis­eased Angel Red. The phys­i­cal space is also care­ful­ly tri-par­ti­tioned into: 1) a cir­cu­lar area at the fur­ther end—as seen from the audience—divided into four mov­able pie-shaped wedges raised to unequal heights, called kichi­gai basha, “Lunatic Lan­dau,” and hous­ing the Winds; 2) a small high area at the oth­er end, over­look­ing the rest of the act­ing and audi­ence space, and called hana no shindai, “Flower Bed,” hous­ing the Birds; 3) the ground in between these two spaces, hous­ing the Angels and even­tu­al­ly their motor­cy­cles. Yet the spaces are not rigid­ly par­ti­tioned but elas­tic; while remain­ing rough­ly tied to a giv­en type of dra­matur­gic agents, they do at some points admit oth­ers. In par­tic­u­lar, the Angels are not only spa­tial­ly but also in terms of plot the cen­tral bear­ers of this play, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with and enter­ing into both oth­er spaces. At least as impor­tant as fixed archi­tec­tur­al space, and prob­a­bly more so, was the space cre­at­ed around the dra­matur­gic agents by their looks, ges­tures, actions, and words. The Angels were dressed in blue jeans with beads until the final scene, when their dress dra­mat­i­cal­ly changes and they sprout white wings. The Birds were in pure white with large wings; they screeched and moved like ungain­ly birds of prey. The Winds were dressed in rags, they had no wings, and enact­ed most of the Marat-Sade con­flict remain­ing from Weiss’s play. Any inter­pre­ta­tion of Dance of Angels has to con­struct the par­a­digm of the play by find­ing a mean­ing for these agen­tial species, and for their rela­tion to each oth­er as well as to the man­i­fest epi­co-lyri­cal lev­el of songs and slo­gans. (Such an inter­pre­ta­tion would final­ly have to be inte­grat­ed by means of a feed­back to the full syn­tag­mat­ic flow of this bal­lad-play, which I can­not do here. Let me only note that the flow was immense­ly appeal­ing in its use of sound and move­ment inter­act­ing with words, yet rather cryp­tic even for its orig­i­nal audience.)

Figure 4: “The Birds dance before their King.” Photo by Mikoshiba Shigeru in David G. Goodman. The Return of the Gods: Japanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s. Cornell, 2010. Cover image credit: Mikoshiba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings. Photograph n.d.

2.2. None of these three agen­tial sig­ni­fiers is easy to read; much would depend on the way they are per­formed. How­ev­er, the Winds are the least dif­fi­cult. In Japan, an open coun­try that tra­di­tion­al­ly depend­ed on winds, their power—clearest in the typhoons—is a tra­di­tion­al theme of his­to­ry (for exam­ple, the kamikaze or Divine Wind that saved the coun­try from Mon­gol fleets) while in lyri­cal poet­ry from the wakas on they have to do with pas­sion. In Satoh’s play, the divi­sion into Red and Grey Winds is to be read as emp­ty and self-destruc­tive pow­er, much akin to the ongo­ing youth revolt fac­tions. The Winds were for Satoh a swirling tem­pest “of pas­sion and delu­sion” (Dance of Angels 310), with the foci of bod­i­ly, indi­vid­ual pas­sion and self-expres­sion on one hand, and the cere­bral, polit­i­cal pas­sion and rev­o­lu­tion on the oth­er (the Red and the Grey). They oscil­late between col­lec­tive and indi­vid­ual enact­ments, so that Sade is prin­ci­pal­ly pre­sent­ed by Red Wind 1 and Marat by Grey Wind 1—the Old Left colour of blood red for rev­o­lu­tion sup­plant­ed by the tired grey of abstraction.

The Angels: there are heav­en­ly fly­ing beings in the Japan­ese tra­di­tion, and in the sci­ence-fic­tion­al Astro Boy in man­ga read by most boys between 1952 and 1968, but not real­ly angels as divine mes­sen­gers. I assume that for the BTT they were sug­gest­ed by and then refash­ioned from Wal­ter Ben­jamin. His Angelus Novus (itself strong­ly rein­ter­pret­ed from a Klee paint­ing) is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of his­to­ry, swept along by the wind that blows from Par­adise, look­ing back­ward at a land­scape of cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly heap­ing rub­ble, which is the unfold­ing past (84-85). The Ben­jamin­ian tem­pest called Progress has caught in the Angel’s open wings, it does not allow him to stop and redeem the dead and the rub­ble; he is car­ried along in hor­ror back­wards toward the future. Satoh’s Dance of Angels is a blend of the US Hells Angels bik­ers (already used in his mod­erni­sa­tion of Chikamatsu—see Good­man “Satoh” 173-79), pop­u­larised as an emblem of counter-cul­tur­al youth through US movies, and of an almost Ben­jamin­ian sense of agents exist­ing with­in cat­a­stroph­ic present his­to­ry and look­ing for a way out—or a way of mak­ing sense—of it.5 They are “mes­sen­gers from hell” (The­atre 11), and hell is where the present gen­er­a­tion (or indeed the whole peo­ple) lives. As com­pared to the Winds, the Angels are the doubt­ing and quest­ing aspect of the youth revolt and the Satoh troupe. A spe­cial role is reserved to Angel Red, who will be dis­cussed later.

Final­ly, and most puz­zling, what of the Birds—iron­i­cal­ly defined in Mar­cuse­an terms as “the forces of benev­o­lent repres­sion” (“The­atre” 11)? Clear­ly, they are the hyposta­sis of exist­ing social hege­mo­ny as expe­ri­enced by Satoh’s New Left sen­si­bil­i­ty: beau­ti­ful on sur­face but a quite neg­a­tive power—if them­selves beset by prob­lems (cf. also Yamamo­to inter­view). Birds have strong asso­ci­a­tions to a super­nal, not earth­bound, pow­er. Pos­si­bly, their space­time and pow­er dom­i­nance over the Winds and Angels are a laici­sa­tion of Japan­ese kami (numi­na), who are tra­di­tion­al­ly dan­ger­ous (they may be benev­o­lent and/or malev­o­lent) and who, in the tra­di­tion derived from one kind of folk the­atre, min­zoku geinō, descend onto the per­former (Raz 10-16). But what are the Birds par­a­dig­mat­i­cal­ly, with­in the play? The answer may per­haps be best found if one exam­ines the rela­tion­ship of the agen­tial space­time lev­els to the implied time-hori­zons.

[2.3.] This play is based on a metaphor­ic or ana­log­i­cal log­ic, where—in the post-Sur­re­al­ist tradition—anything may meta­mor­phose into any­thing else if suf­fi­cient­ly but­tressed by con­no­ta­tions brought along by the solicit­ed audi­ence. With­in this meta­mor­phic log­ic, the semi-numi­nous spaces of the­atre (cf. Suvin, “Per­for­mance” 15-17) have since Mod­ernism ceased hid­ing their undoubt­ed links with numi­nos­i­ty. None of this implies reli­gious faith by author or per­former: it implies, how­ev­er, the recog­ni­tion that major ques­tions of col­lec­tive sal­va­tion have in past human cul­tures been imag­i­na­tive­ly artic­u­lat­ed (and also bent) as the­o­log­i­cal ques­tions. The Japan­ese cul­tur­al and the­atri­cal tra­di­tion is per­haps the major endur­ing case of links with numi­nos­i­ty. Par­tic­u­lar spaces or points can even become—indeed, in Eso­teric Bud­dhism the cen­tre of everybody’s being can be reborn into—a puri­fied abode of the divine (Gra­pard 199, 208, and passim).

Figure 5: “Red Wind embraces Red Wind 6” Photo by Mikoshiba Shingeru in David G. Goodman. The Return of the Gods: Japanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s. Cornell, 2010. Cover image credit: Mikoshiba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.

As to tem­po­ral­i­ty, I accept David Goodman’s analy­sis that the Angels’ posi­tion on the ground level—at the end they roar in and then out of the tent—signifies that they are root­ed in the same his­tor­i­cal space­time as the audi­ence; in brief, they show forth his­tor­i­cal, goal-ori­ent­ed time in the present moment. They come into and go out of the play search­ing for “the weath­er­man,” invert­ing the US stu­dent revolt song “You don’t need a weath­er­man / To know which way the wind blows,” but also con­not­ing its activism. If they do not find a way out of their—and the audience’s—hell, they might be con­demned to cycli­cal­ly revolve with­in it for­ev­er (anoth­er topos of the Japan­ese reli­gious tra­di­tion). Good­man also right­ly notes that the Winds are deputised to present the past. The his­tor­i­cal time of the French Revolution—or oth­er anal­o­gous rev­o­lu­tions since, most notably the Russ­ian and Chi­nese ones, as well as of the Sec­ond Anpo protest movement—is seen as a dead-end, and this kind of rev­o­lu­tion (at least) as past, in all the sens­es. How­ev­er, the inter­ac­tion in which the Angels con­stant­ly manip­u­late, deride, and deval­ue the already ambigu­ous enact­ment of his­to­ry by the Winds, seems to leave the Angels with no way out either: his­tor­i­cal time as a whole has appar­ent­ly run into a dead end. This con­cept is phys­i­cal­ly per­son­i­fied in the appear­ance of the most impor­tant dra­matur­gic agent, Angel Red. He is the only one dis­tin­guished from the oth­ers (called Angels 1-5) by name, by a half-mask, and by using a drum or trum­pet to some­times func­tion as Weiss’ priv­i­leged Her­ald-com­men­ta­tor. Angel Red is thus both “the image of the labyrinthine con­tra­dic­tions of the rev­o­lu­tion” (Good­man, “Rev­o­lu­tion­ary” 119) and, as in Scene Six, sug­ges­tive of a help­less hibakusha (vic­tim of an atom­ic bomb­ing, cf. the Fuji­mo­to quote in 3.3). The grotesque half-mask shows him as “the vic­tim of an incur­able dis­ease […] his move­ments are slow and painful: his gaze wan­ders aim­less­ly in space. With the pas­sage of time, his con­di­tion will grad­u­al­ly wors­en and his [red] spots will increase in num­ber and vir­u­lence” (Dance of Angels 305).

The events of the play show that the three agen­tial types are both com­men­su­rable and dif­fer­ent. They are sim­i­lar inso­far as they are all fly­ing sym­bol­i­cal fan­ta­sy types, derived as much from com­ic strips of the Flash Gor­don kind or man­ga as from any ‘high’ tra­di­tion (for exam­ple, Aristo­phanes’ The Birds, Shakespeare’s The Tem­pest, or Mod­ernist poet­ry). But they are dis­tin­guished by degree of pow­er and by his­tor­i­cal hori­zon. Winds and Angels are (to dif­fer­ent degrees) the ruled: the Winds are ruled more by their own blind pas­sions than by exter­nal dic­tate of the Angels and Birds, the Angels seem ruled more by the exter­nal dic­tate of the Birds than by their also undoubt­ed­ly present con­fu­sion. The direc­tion of the Angels’ search may be unclear or even wrong, but the neces­si­ty of the search for a bet­ter cli­mate is nowhere put into ques­tion. (Indeed, like the Angels, even the King of the Birds com­plains con­stant­ly that he is cold.)

Figure 6: “Scene Seven: Angel Red is restrained by the Birds” Photo by Mikoshiba Shigeru in David G. Goodman. The Return of the Gods: Japanese Drama and Culture in the 1960s. Cornell, 2010. Cover image credit: Mikoshiba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.

How­ev­er, if there is some clar­i­ty as to the ori­en­ta­tion of the ruled, the tem­po­ral hori­zon of the rulers is not clear­ly artic­u­lat­ed. With­in the play’s metaphor­ic log­ic, the Birds are the most mate­r­i­al and least fan­tas­tic beings on a scale on whose oth­er end are the Winds, while the poly­va­lent Angels are ambigu­ous­ly in the middle—quite earth­bound as today’s bik­ing Hells Angels, quite alle­gor­i­cal or tran­scen­den­tal as seek­ers for a way out of the hell of our soci­ety. Thus, while the Birds can and do order the Angels about as their ser­vants, they are not onto­log­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from them, nor are they unreach­able god­heads. It is most impor­tant and reveal­ing that Angel Red can at the end of Scene Sev­en with­out any absur­di­ty attempt to assas­si­nate the King of the Birds: the attempt is sim­ply foiled by the guards, in strict par­al­lel to an abort­ed ple­beian rev­o­lu­tion. I would there­fore dis­sent from the the­sis of Good­man, this play’s most mer­i­to­ri­ous and knowl­edge­able first inter­preter, that the Birds are whol­ly super­nal numi­na or that they dream all the oth­er agents (Eck­er­sall 76). They are prob­a­bly homo­log­i­cal to the kami, as lungs are to gills or Godot is to God; but it is dan­ger­ous to reduce anal­o­gy or homol­o­gy to iden­ti­ty. Rather than divine or meta-his­tor­i­cal, they seem to me an image of a pow­er­ful and (in Japan for the last sev­en cen­turies) unde­feat­ed upper-class hege­mo­ny. Their his­tor­i­cal hori­zon is nei­ther the present nor the past but per­ma­nence or dura­tion: in the BTT’s main the­o­reti­cian Tsuno’s dis­cus­sion with me, he saw it as the cycli­cal time of rul­ing tradition—Benjamin’s endur­ing return of the same but appar­ent­ly new. Thus, Goodman’s argu­ment that the King of the Birds is God (Jeho­vah) seems to me unfound­ed.6 That monarch has instead, to my mind, con­no­ta­tions of an ide­al-type Emper­or (ten­nō), and Tsuno agreed with that: “We [BTT] hat­ed such a recur­rence and cast about for ways of destroy­ing it.” If so, it would be strange if Satoh (whose play Nezu­mi Kozō is a fero­cious attack on ten­no­ism) were to agree that the Emper­or is divine, onto­log­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from the strug­gling and fal­li­ble peo­ple rep­re­sent­ed in Winds and Angels. No ontol­ogy need be: the knife bites into the Birds, the tea of the Mad Hatter’s party—or of the tea-ceremony—feeds them, nor do they lack politi­co-exis­ten­tial prob­lems (the motif of “who’s that behind me?”). They are not nec­es­sar­i­ly eter­nal or divine, nor are they more imma­te­r­i­al than either Winds or Angels, they are simply—but very weight­i­ly—long-dura­tion upper-class pow­er.

2.4. In this inter­pre­ta­tion, at the end of the play the future is epis­te­mo­log­i­cal­ly unclear but onto­log­i­cal­ly open (while oppres­sion by super­nat­ur­al pow­ers would have implied the pre-estab­lished clo­sure of clas­si­cal tragedy). The future is, as always, con­tin­gent: as Aris­to­tle put it, “it is not nec­es­sary that [a sea bat­tle] should take place tomor­row, nei­ther is it nec­es­sary that it should not take place, yet it is nec­es­sary that it either should or should not take place tomor­row” (182). The rev­o­lu­tion­ary past is seen as an awful mis­take and fail­ure; the present is so far also a mis­lead­ing fail­ure. Pes­simism dom­i­nates, but noth­ing is for­ev­er pre­de­ter­mined. At the end, after a full anni­hi­la­tion of the Winds and the abortive rebel­lion of Angel Red: “One entire side of the tent sud­den­ly opens onto the out­side world. The Angels come roar­ing out of the dis­tance on their motor­cy­cles and dri­ve into the tent in a cloud of exhaust smoke and dust. They are clothed com­plete­ly in white” (Dance of Angels 344). They dance and sing “The Lunatic Lan­dau Rock.” Since that Lunatic Lan­dau (kichi­gai basha), derived from Weiss’ Lunatic Asy­lum (kichi­gai), had been the scene of the total col­lapse of the Winds play­ing at Marat and Sade; since that ener­getic song is “an unabashed paean to youth­ful opti­mism” (Good­man, “Satoh” 270); and since—as their final gesture—Angel 1 picks up Angel Red’s dropped knife, a clear impres­sion aris­es that a bat­tle has been lost but the unde­cid­ed war goes on.

Yet, final­ly, the play remains ambigu­ous: the “audi­ence ‘release’ is then in its turn can­celled” by “a return to our mis­er­able real­i­ty and to the begin­ning of the play” (Satoh, Inter­view), sym­bol­ised by its first and last slo­gan “THIS ISDREAM,” now “flash[ing] on and off” while the com­pa­ny sings the high­ly ambigu­ous final song “So Long For Now” (Dance of Angels 344-45). The play as a whole clear­ly shows forth not only a painful con­tin­gent defeat but also the col­lapse of the myth and hori­zon of pre­de­ter­mined, lin­ear pro­gres­sion toward rev­o­lu­tion, shared in Satoh’s space­time by the Old and the New Left. Their kind of strug­gle, linked with col­lec­tive and/or indi­vid­ual ter­ror­ism, can­not be won. For Satoh, “The play has two aspects: 1/ writ­ing it meant we [the BTT] didn’t go out and throw bombs, which we prob­a­bly would have done oth­er­wise; 2/ it was designed to over­come our socio-polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion or con­di­tion” (Satoh, Inter­view). If the Angels, still wait­ing for an updat­ed Car­rol­lian “weath­er­man rab­bit” (Dance of Angels 344), have learned noth­ing from the expe­ri­ence with the Winds, defeats will go on. This is pos­si­ble, but remains to be seen.

3. Revolution, Dramaturgy, and a Historical Lesson

Final­ly, what is the his­tor­i­cal les­son to be drawn from Dance of Angels?

3.1. Dis­alien­ation and Pol­i­tics: The Invo­lu­tion of Revolution

My hori­zon is one of human cre­ativ­i­ty as eman­ci­pa­tion, a dis­alien­ation that piv­ots upon self-deter­mi­na­tion and self-gov­ern­ment lead­ing to direct democ­ra­cy. I would argue that to a large extent “the move­ment for ‘stu­dent pow­er’ […] is a nat­ur­al descen­dant of [the rev­o­lu­tion­ary tra­di­tion of work­ers’ coun­cils]” (Sted­man Jones 52). I have come to some insights about that tra­di­tion in a book diag­nos­ing ‘social­ist’ Yugoslavia, and I briefly present here what may be of gen­er­al valid­i­ty (see much more in Suvin, Splen­dour 298-317 and pas­sim). Mat­ters of polit­i­cal eco­nom­ics, pow­er, class con­flicts or regroup­ings, and ide­ol­o­gy are to my mind means of human lib­er­a­tion, an exo­dus from bondage. As Marx told us once and for all, the titan­ic forces of pro­duc­tion called up by cap­i­tal­ism are fet­tered by polit­i­cal pow­er rela­tion­ships, which are in the age of world wars increas­ing­ly enforced by the cap­il­lary State in the ser­vice of by now main­ly destruc­tive cap­i­tal. Very sim­ply, cap­i­tal means the pow­er of com­mand over labour and its prod­ucts, wrote Marx in many vari­ants (for exam­ple Cap­i­tal 1, chap­ter 11): the eman­ci­pa­tion of labour, the dis­alien­ation of our lives, means that labour com­mands itself. All of us pro­le­tar­i­ans, liv­ing from our work, asso­ciate to com­mand our­selves. The hori­zon to be striv­en for may also be defined as free­dom as cre­ativ­i­ty (cf. Kosík 67–68 and 124–25)—that is, a mar­riage of work and poet­ry.

The insur­gent youth of the 1968 moment thus to my mind right­ly felt that spon­ta­neous ple­beian democ­ra­cy is the only way to coun­ter­act not only the deep phys­i­cal mis­ery of the man­u­al work­ers, but also the “moral and civic” mis­ery of all those work­ing with­in author­i­tar­i­an and hier­ar­chi­cal organ­i­sa­tions (Supek 139 and pas­sim). The con­cept of self-man­age­ment, in French auto­ges­tion, was the only one that could link the New Left goals of self-real­i­sa­tion and direct democ­ra­cy in col­lec­tive deci­sions, new lifestyles, and new ways of exer­cis­ing pow­er with min­i­mum or no vio­lence (cf. for Europe Gilch­er-Holtey 120). Here we can­not do with­out the les­son of Gram­sci (cf. Suvin, “Com­mu­nism”). To him, pol­i­tics is “the cen­tral human activ­i­ty, the means by which the sin­gle con­scious­ness is brought into con­tact with the social and nat­ur­al world,” since in it “under­stand­ing the world and chang­ing it are one”; and this applies to rev­o­lu­tion­ary attempts at lib­er­ty and sol­i­dar­i­ty as well as – per­haps more than – any­where else (Hob­s­bawm 321). Yet just here the Left had large­ly got mired into a malig­nant muta­tion: Stal­in­ism as a struc­ture of feeling—which was, as argued ear­li­er, for Satoh and some of the fac­tions a lay anal­o­gy to ten­no­ism. Its belief in nec­es­sary progress was by Gram­sci scathing­ly called a “[fatal­is­tic] ide­o­log­i­cal aro­ma […] rather like reli­gion or drugs” (Selec­tions 336). Stalinism’s mono­lith­ic cen­tral­ism, with one-way traf­fic from top to bot­tom, is a par­o­dy of Marx­ism and com­mu­nism, or their per­fect­ly alien­at­ed form (cf. Petro­vić, U potrazi 219 and “Human­ism” 2-3). This inner organ­i­sa­tion of the increas­ing­ly restric­tive Par­ty and its State was, as Mladen Laz­ić wit­ti­ly notes, an image and alle­go­ry of the very struc­ture of a new oli­garchy as a new col­lec­tive rul­ing class (42; cf. also at length in Suvin Splen­dour, Lessons, and “Com­mu­nism”). Mono­lithism abhors sup­ple medi­a­tions and leads to despot­ic sup­pres­sion of con­tra­dic­tions, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to ad hoc com­pro­mis­es tram­pling on principles.

Thus all rev­o­lu­tion­ary sit­u­a­tions of the half cen­tu­ry after Lenin’s death have been caught in what I have analysed in Splen­dour chap­ter 6 as the cen­tral com­mu­nist con­tra­dic­tion of eman­ci­pa­tive dis­alien­ation and pow­er alien­ation. Exam­ples of this abound in the Japan­ese 1968 moment, where the youth fac­tions’ refusal of Stal­in­ism and of the very par­tial Lenin­ism in the Com­intern tra­di­tion was organ­i­sa­tion­al­ly con­sti­tu­tive but ide­o­log­i­cal­ly only par­tial. As Stal­in liked to recall, his type of par­ty was in some ways an army (see Suvin, Splen­dour 306); as he did not say but prac­ticed, it was also a Church. This sal­va­tion­al mono­lithism was bequeathed to the Third Inter­na­tion­al and all of its par­ties. Prob­lems of a group inter­ven­ing into pol­i­tics as if it were an army with a Church core, and a dou­ble mys­tique of mil­i­tan­cy and tri­umphal­ism, were to return with a vengeance in most 20th-cen­tu­ry rev­o­lu­tion­ary sit­u­a­tions and movements.

Yet any such self-pro­claimed van­guard par­ty aim­ing to con­quer State pow­er faces at least two ini­tial prob­lems. First, knowl­edge of the real con­tra­dic­tions in and around it can­not be arrived at with­out free debate with all groups of peo­ple work­ing to clar­i­fy them, which debate the cler­i­cal pre­tence of par­ty omni­science tends to sti­fle. To the con­trary, it is essen­tial to dis­man­tle the trini­tar­i­an mon­ster State-Par­ty-Ide­ol­o­gy (cf. Althuss­er 122), espe­cial­ly per­ni­cious when offi­cial the­o­ry is sup­posed to be iden­ti­cal to real­i­ty, as in Borges’s sto­ry “On Exac­ti­tude in Sci­ence,” where map becomes ter­ri­to­ry. This would include expung­ing from any van­guard par­ty all traces of a monothe­ist Church as guardian of a sta­t­ic Truth and inquisi­tor into here­sies. Knowl­edge and learn­ing wilt under author­i­tar­i­an meth­ods, but quick­en and thrive in a polypho­ny of voic­es, a com­rade­ly com­pe­ti­tion. Sec­ond, the mil­i­tarism with­in “the [Par­ty] organ­is­ing struc­tures, copy­ing those of the [bour­geois] State” (Althuss­er 123), led to very cost­ly mis­takes, and to a sour­ing and haem­or­rhage of often the best activists. To para­phrase Marx’s The­sis 3, the edu­ca­tors have to be educated.

Satoh and his group’s nucle­us knew most of this well: all shades of the then cur­rent youth move­ment abhorred Stal­in­ism, many sym­pa­thised with a spread between exis­ten­tial­ism and Trot­sky.. It is this syn­drome in the youth move­ment, and espe­cial­ly its activist fac­tions, that Dance of Angels aims to artic­u­late and unfold as to its pos­si­bil­i­ties and costs. It does so more in lyri­cal sug­ges­tions and a not ful­ly clear alle­go­ry about revolt and pow­er than in what Satoh called “to make straight­for­ward state­ments about those things to which straight­for­ward state­ments are inap­pro­pri­ate” (“Com­ment” 21). This is why he refused what he—I think not quite rightly—saw as Peter Weiss’s pro­gres­sivist pseu­do-dialec­tics of an upward march of his­to­ry, with­in which prob­lems such as the per­son­al vs. the polit­i­cal, or indeed killing in the ser­vice of high­er aims, can be jus­ti­fied. Sym­met­ri­cal­ly opposed, in Satoh’s play not only do all of Weiss’s pro­tag­o­nists, exem­pli­fy­ing the vary­ing shades of rev­o­lu­tion (Marat, Sade, and Cor­day), fail and meet a non­sen­si­cal death, but all these fig­ures become face­less Grey or Red Winds. At the first cul­mi­na­tion of their debate, in Scene Two of Dance of Angels, Sade seduces Marat into a homo­sex­u­al anal pen­e­tra­tion dur­ing the latter’s fren­zied rev­o­lu­tion­ary speech: the vio­lent mock­ery of the gap between say­ing and doing is what Satoh some­what defen­sive­ly called a “phys­i­cal­i­sa­tion” that deval­ued both ide­ol­o­gy and all sur­face real­ism. As he put it to me,

The words ‘his­to­ry,’ ‘rev­o­lu­tion’: such con­cepts do not fit the [Japan­ese protest] events. The New Left is in this respect iden­ti­cal to the Old Left, their action was dif­fer­ent but they use the same words; the New Left does not have its own, new words.” (“Inter­view”)

Thus he had a prob­lem of scenic écri­t­ure, and invent­ed his whole new grunge out­look based on strange and estranged dra­matur­gic agents.

Refus­ing the impor­tance of Weiss’s oppo­si­tion between polit­i­cal and sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion­ary, the very notion of revolution—its char­ac­ter and components—is being unpacked for behav­iour­al inspec­tion: per­haps sex and rev­o­lu­tion can fuse, but only in ster­ile fren­zy that is nonethe­less a kind of sui­ci­dal self-affir­ma­tion? It would then be a col­lec­tive cousin of, say, Ōshima’s Ai no korī­da (Empire of Sens­es) movie, with­in a fre­quent Japan­ese equa­tion of eroti­cism with death, and Satoh wrote in 1973 a play on this famous sto­ry, Abe Sada: A Com­e­dy. This equa­tion seems also to have been a dark under­cur­rent of the New Left struc­ture of feel­ing at least in France, from Sade to Bataille, Genet, and the very Parisian Weiss, col­laps­ing Eros and Thanatos (on that tra­di­tion in the­atre and France, cf. Gritzn­er ed.).

3.2. The Audi­ence, Japan­ese Pas­sive Dreaming

In Satoh’s ide­o­log­i­cal debate with Weiss, he opposed his cen­tral vision or macro-metaphor of dream to the German’s mad­house. If the play was not only for the nec­es­sary per­son­al and group self-under­stand­ing, who was the play ide­al­ly for and who real­ly inter­act­ed with it as audi­ence? The play was being writ­ten in 1969, at the height of the protest move­ment in the uni­ver­si­ties, and it toured, being con­stant­ly adjust­ed by Satoh, from Octo­ber 1970 to Jan­u­ary 1971, imme­di­ate­ly after this high­est wave. It was writ­ten main­ly for the poten­tial young audi­ence, gen­er­al­ly under 30 years old (see Yamamo­to, “Inter­view,” and Yoshi­da), many of whom were still engaged at San­rizu­ka or in vio­lent city and uni­ver­si­ty con­flicts. In places, it adopt­ed some of the protest modes, such as yelling slo­gans through a micro­phone. Tsuno and Yamamo­to believed the num­ber of Dance of Angels per­for­mances was around 45 in 1970 and around 20 in 1971; in 1970 the play was in reper­toire for about four months, with two major stretch­es of play­ing every day and two major inter­vals of pause. The num­ber of spec­ta­tors at a per­for­mance var­ied between 20 and 400 with an aver­age of around 200, or per­haps a total of 13,000 spec­ta­tors. The young audi­ence con­sist­ed of: 1) those who enjoyed the rock-music atmos­phere, some­times joined by famous jazz or rock singers; 2) a bet­ter informed and more intel­lec­tu­al group with a very strong inter­est in all kinds of cul­tur­al nov­el­ty (music, the­atre, movies); 3) final­ly, those inter­est­ed in pol­i­tics, except that at the time this includ­ed a cul­tur­al rev­o­lu­tion (Tsuno, “Inter­view”). To the rebels the play said tua res agi­tur: What is the sense of your strug­gles? Can you win? Are they real­ly pure as the activist fac­tions believe? What time-hori­zon of the pop­u­la­tion as a whole are you act­ing with­in, favourable or unfavourable to our project of rad­i­cal change?

David Good­man puts it precisely:

Instead of Peter Weiss’s question,”Marat or Sade?” the ques­tion raised by Satoh and his coau­thors is, “If not Marat-Sade, then what?” If rev­o­lu­tion con­ceived along the lines of the French mod­el can­not be accept­ed, then how is rev­o­lu­tion to be con­ceived? Is it real­ly a pos­si­bil­i­ty? […] One of the things that made The Dance of Angels an intense the­atri­cal expe­ri­ence, bring­ing thou­sands of peo­ple out into the bit­ter cold of win­ter nights to sit for near­ly four hours in an unheat­ed tent, was the way this gen­er­al philo­soph­i­cal theme was tak­en up as an urgent issue for the the­atre.” (“Dance” 293)

A most reveal­ing event occurred when the Chûkaku fac­tion invit­ed the BTT to par­tic­i­pate in a ral­ly-meet­ing of theirs at Hibiya Park, as recount­ed to me:

There the first song of Dance of the Angels,”The Bal­lad of Fall­en Birds,” was sung. Also, the Kuro Ten­to joined with “Brain Police,” a rad­i­cal anar­chist rock-group who sang the “Song of the Red Army Sol­dier” (derived from the young, anar­chist Brecht and meant there for [quite a dif­fer­ent] Red Army of the 20s but in Japan applic­a­ble to the fac­tion just devel­op­ing then). The songs were severe­ly crit­i­cized by the Chûkaku stu­dents (in fact fist-fights broke out at the meet­ing) on two lev­els: 1) we are fight­ing by putting our bod­ies on the line, while you (the Kuro Ten­to) are only singing and danc­ing (this main­ly about the Dance of the Angels song); 2) you are being iron­i­cal about the rev­o­lu­tion (about both songs).

The Kuro Ten­to felt that a rev­o­lu­tion should be new, they were simul­ta­ne­ous­ly deny­ing and renew­ing the con­cept of rev­o­lu­tion. The denial was what angered the Chûkaku fac­tion.” (Tsuno, “Inter­view”)

I should add this is one ret­ro­spec­tive and incom­plete account. Anoth­er eye­wit­ness wrote me he saw no fist­fights but vig­or­ous and invig­o­rat­ing ple­beian argu­ing on impor­tant mat­ters between stage and audi­ence” (Lum­mis, e-mail to DS of Aug. 30, 2021).

The play’s moment of inter­ven­tion was well cho­sen. In ret­ro­spect it seems clear, just as the Satoh group sus­pect­ed, that by rough­ly 1970 the Japan­ese New Left, because of “repres­sion, fatigue and dis­il­lu­sion­ment” (McCor­ma­ck 133), ceased ani­mat­ing a broad­ly based mil­i­tant move­ment and became navel-gaz­ing. The activist fac­tions decayed to iso­lat­ed grou­pus­cules, not rarely to proac­tive vio­lence includ­ing mutu­al mur­ders; its even­tu­al cul­mi­na­tion in the so-called Japan­ese Red Army inter­nal mur­ders and the Anti­japan­ese Front turn to ter­ror­ism, which ful­ly inter­nalised the mur­der­ous ten­nōist and Stal­in­ist time hori­zon, came to con­firm Satoh’s doubts in spades. They marked the sor­ry end of this youth move­ment, dove­tail­ing with the con­sumerist “thor­ough­go­ing depoliti­ciz­ing effect” of antic­i­pat­ing the ben­e­fits of pros­per­i­ty, how­ev­er lim­it­ed (Marot­ti, Mon­ey 312) after the first Anpo protest wave.

Thus, Satoh’s cre­ativ­i­ty was extreme­ly sen­si­tive, indeed clair­voy­ant, about nuances in his generation’s struc­ture of feel­ing and imag­i­na­tion; but he was not much inter­est­ed in a cause-and-effect sto­ry with iden­ti­fi­able real exis­tents. Since in his expe­ri­ence events in the phe­nom­e­nal world did not lead to sig­nif­i­cant changes, it is onto­log­i­cal­ly and more­over eth­i­cal­ly deval­ued: only the cor­rupt shinge­ki and oth­er com­mer­cialised enter­pris­es delve into such ‘real­is­tic’ nuances. Indi­vid­ual dreams or night­mares of groups with­in the col­lec­tive stu­por of the Japan­ese nation­al imag­i­na­tion or sub­con­scious pro­vide two cir­cles in this descend­ing vor­tex. They can be seen as cor­re­spond­ing to the Angels under the Birds. It only remains for some Angels—deputised by the BTT—to stage a ‘thought exper­i­ment’ using Weiss’s play, as one dis­sects a corpse’s organs to find the cause of its demise, in order to envis­age and per­haps exor­cise a sim­i­lar fate for one­self, and we have the three agen­tial lev­els of Dance of Angels. Adding to this an iron­ic self-reflec­tion in the lyric mode (rock songs) and epic mode (slo­gans pro­ject­ed on the screen) com­pletes the whole Chi­nese-box struc­ture of this play.

3.3. Final Ques­tions for Satoh’s Play

Before the tour, the BTT “Prospec­tus 1970” (see The­atre) not­ed bit­ter­ly: “…we have crum­pled, dusty plans for rev­o­lu­tions of vary­ing pro­por­tions stuffed away in the secret cor­ners of our minds. But we have been atom­ic-bombed and noth­ing changed. We have been occu­pied by a for­eign army and noth­ing changed. We have orga­nized demon­stra­tions of lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of our cit­i­zens and noth­ing changed” (10). Japan­ese his­to­ry after 1945 looked to them ship­wrecked on the rock of a huge­ly inert pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion. Thence the cen­tral macro-metaphor of dream. In the inter­view with me, Satoh concluded:

If one want­ed to catch, if one could trans­late, the Japan­ese youth move­ment at the time, it would be a dream and not mad­ness. Dream has no lin­ear time, only a present: every­thing is simul­ta­ne­ous. As for me, when I direct­ed the play, I found the Red Angel dreams most deeply. Weiss asks”Who is right?“; we ask”Who dreams most deeply?” At the time, we felt that dream and con­scious­ness are not opposed concepts.”

This thumb­nail sketch of Japan­ese his­to­ry 1945-70 in terms of an over­whelm­ing­ly stag­nant pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion under­ly­ing any seem­ing­ly sig­nif­i­cant sur­face changes is con­firmed in a scene of Satoh’s Nezu­mi Kozō play, the pre­de­ces­sor to Dance of the Angels, allud­ing to Hiroshi­ma with the iron­i­cal title of “Dream.” All the major BTT ide­o­logues agreed with this notion (cf. Tsuno, “Of Baths” 142-43, or Yamamo­to, “World” 218). The dead end is con­veyed by Fuji­mo­to, when she notes that nei­ther two atom­ic bombs nor “mod­erni­sa­tion” have changed

the dream­ing habits of the Japan­ese peo­ple. It is for this rea­son that [BTT] drove so relent­less­ly through the ‘cause­way of dreams’ toward an answer to the ques­tion of just exact­ly who we are […] [Today], the fact that there was a war and the fact that it end­ed with the drop­ping of the atom­ic bomb have all but been for­got­ten. […] For us, his­to­ry is nei­ther repet­i­tive nor evo­lu­tion­ary […] [It] only rep­re­sents a bad dream soon to be for­got­ten. […] [We] remain in eter­nal pur­suit of our own, indi­vid­ual dreams. Then those dreams called night­mares are real­ly dreams with­in a dream, and noth­ing has ever hap­pened. But real­ly?” (140-41)

Satoh’s over­ar­ch­ing metaphor of dream seems to me here to be oscil­lat­ing between a char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of Japan­ese polit­i­cal ontol­ogy as such, and of the youth movement’s gen­er­al fail­ure to awak­en the peo­ple. It is thus a fair­ly loose epis­te­mo­log­i­cal metaphor—similar to Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus exclaim­ing that his­to­ry is a night­mare, but now with­out a pos­si­bil­i­ty of wak­ing up—rather than a rigid onto­log­i­cal denom­i­na­tor (for its tra­di­tion cf. Righter). Not by chance “dream” is also by far the most pop­u­lar and abused word in Japan­ese pop­u­lar sen­ti­men­tal songs (Mina­mi 119), and prob­a­bly also in the the­atre, from Nō plays to angu­ra.

The final ques­tion for Satoh was, then, whether the kairos or mes­sian­ic time of a Rev­o­lu­tion now sick unto death (the Red Angel) could be rec­on­ciled to the dream­ing Japan­ese time of eter­nal return, the “ten­nō time [that] can orga­nize both the depths and the sur­face of his­to­ry” (Tsuno, “Inter­view”).

The vision of Weiss’s Marat/Sade (see Suvin, “Weiss’s”) is one of an arrest­ed and at that epoch defeat­ed revolution—though still supreme­ly nec­es­sary and nev­er quite giv­en up for lost. The nihilist Sade directs the play in an asy­lum and the activist Marat sits in a bloody bath­tub with skin dis­ease; the bour­geoisie is in pow­er and rea­son has failed to change real­i­ty. The rev­o­lu­tion has failed because it was hap­pen­ing in a mad­house-cum-prison world, and we are left with a blend where a post-mortem psy­chodra­ma dom­i­nates over ten­u­ous, if still exist­ing, expec­ta­tions of future revolt. Satoh took over Weiss’s the­mat­ics, expand­ed his syn­tac­tics of cir­cles with­in a cir­cle, but evert­ed his seman­tics. As he put it: “our emo­tion for the Red Angel pro­vides the main ener­gy of the play; it is also a good­bye to the Red Angel” (Satoh, “Inter­view”). And fur­ther: “We tried to join the Euro­pean con­cept of rev­o­lu­tion as lin­ear break to the con­cept of the cir­cle from which they [the Angels] strive to be released; but nobody can be released.” Half a dozen years lat­er, amid the fail­ing of a greater polit­i­cal upheaval in a coun­try of stronger ‘dreami­ness’ than Ger­many or Eng­land, Satoh had even few­er cer­tain­ties and low­er hope than Weiss, but per­haps more expe­ri­ence and patience for a long analy­sis of such a wan­ing. His sum­ma­tion was: “1970 was the year when the tra­di­tion­al Old Left in Japan expired. It was also [Satoh says he under­stands this now, in ret­ro­spect from 1987] the begin­ning of the end of the New Left” (ibid.).

4. In Lieu of Conclusion: A Final Question for Us

To con­clude this sur­vey, leav­ing it open for fur­ther dis­cus­sion: the old Hegelian and Marx­ist prob­lem of how to rec­on­cile the arrow and the cir­cle into the con­tra­dic­to­ry but not arrest­ed spi­ral of his­tor­i­cal advance­ment towards human­i­sa­tion remained before the Black Tent The­atre. The prob­lem was inher­ent in this group’s very con­sti­tu­tion and whole devel­op­ment, in the form of the ten­sion between the fur­thest hori­zon of Marx­i­an self-gov­ern­ment and the role of a charis­mat­ic leader.7 It remained with Peter Weiss too, from The Inves­ti­ga­tion through Hőlder­lin to his final Aes­thet­ics of Resis­tance. And the prob­lem remains for all of us between the vio­lence and the per­for­mance of words: not as archive, but as assign­ment and hori­zon of work towards a self-pro­duc­tion of embod­ied and effi­ca­cious sub­ject­hood, per­son­al and col­lec­tive. In which, as Marx’s third the­sis on Feuer­bach has it, there would be “a coin­ci­dence of the chang­ing of cir­cum­stances and of human activity.”

This analy­sis thus needs arrives at the cru­cial prob­lem of “Words and Vio­lence” (the well-cho­sen title of the Lei­den work­shop on 1968 for which this essay was redone): 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 (cf. Lefeb­vre 72 and pas­sim). It is char­ac­ter­is­tic of such appa­ra­tus­es in all of the many States in which revolts hap­pened dur­ing the 1968 moment, that none has so far even attempt­ed to pub­licly draw a fair and respect­ful account of them. Who­ev­er wish­es to con­test them, 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 Màko­to, or Akasegawa Gen­pei (as explained in the bril­liant book by Marot­ti), is here a portable exem­plum of how to avoid both bru­tal­i­ty for its own sake—which would mean capit­u­lat­ing to the rulers’ stance and dogmatism—and ‘weak thought’ words bereft of polit­i­cal force and pow­er. The first avoid­ance seems to me best for­mu­lat­ed in the slo­gan of the Chûkaku and Kaku­maru fac­tions: hanteikokushu­gi, han­sutārin­shu­gi (against impe­ri­al­ism and against Stal­in­ism), which we should try to actu­alise for our times. Here the con­cept of counter-vio­lence as legit­i­mate self-defence might be the key one.

Works Cited

Performance Texts (chronological)

Satō, Mako­to, Yamamo­to Kiyokazu, Katō Tadashi, and Saitō Ren. “Tsub­asa o moy­a­su ten­shi-tachi no butō.” Dōjidai Enge­ki, vol. 1, no. 3, 1970, pp. 10-57.

Pho­tographs in Myūjikku retâ (Music Let­ter), 1 Dec. 1970, pp. 1-3.

Kichi­gai basha. Cap­tured by Hara Tet­surō and The Cineast­es, 16mm film, 1971. [Par­tial record of the Angels per­for­mance by The­atre Cen­ter 68/70 direct­ed by Satoh Mako­to plus inter­views with Satoh and oth­er con­tex­tu­al material.]

Pho­tographs of the per­for­mance. Dōjidai Enge­ki, vol. 1, no. 4, 1971, pp. 77-82.

Pho­tographs of the per­for­mance. “Mobile The­atre.” The Dra­ma Review, vol. 15, no. 3, 1971, pp. 169-74.

Satō, Mako­to, Yamamo­to Kiyokazu, Katō Tadashi, and Saitō Ren. “The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan. Trans­lat­ed by David G. Good­man, vol. 1, no. 4, 1970-71, pp. 53-118.

—. “Tsub­asa o moy­a­su ten­shi-tachi no butō.” Gendai nihon gikyoku taikei, Vol. 8, San’ichi shobō, 1972, pp. 202-27.

—. “The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.” Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s: The Return of the Gods, edit­ed and trans­lat­ed by David G. Good­man, Sharpe, 1988, pp. 301-45 (cit­ed as Dance of Angels).

Secondary Literature

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Aris­to­tle. “On Inter­pre­ta­tion.” The Phi­los­o­phy of Time, edit­ed by Richard M. Gale, Anchor, 1967, pp. 179-82.

Ben­jamin, Wal­ter. Zur Kri­tik der Gewalt und andere Auf­sätze. Suhrkamp, 1965.

Bran­don, James. “Time and Tra­di­tion in Mod­ern Japan­ese The­atre.” Asian The­atre Jour­nal, vol. 2, no. 1, 1985, pp. 71-82.

Buru­ma, Ian. “How Tra­di­tion­al is the Avant-Garde?” Japan Illus­trat­ed, Spring 1977, pp. 2-13.

Carr, E.H. The Twen­ty Years Cri­sis. Macmil­lan, 1995.

Eck­er­sall, Peter. The­o­riz­ing the Angu­ra Space: Avant-garde Per­for­mance and Pol­i­tics in Japan, 1960-2000. Brill, 2006.

Fuji­mo­to, Kazuko. “Mishi­ma Yukio.” CTJ, vol. 1, no. 4, 1970-71, pp. 128-47.

Gilch­er-Holtey, Ingrid. “France.” 1968 in Europe, edit­ed by Mar­tin Klimke and Joachim Schar­loth, Pal­grave MacMil­lan, 2008, pp. 111-24.

Good­man, David G. “The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings: Com­men­tary.” Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s: The Return of the Gods. Sharpe, 1988, pp. 287-300.

—. “Notes to Encour­age a Pro­duc­tion of Satō Makoto’s My Bea­t­les.” Cana­di­an The­atre Review, no. 20, 1978, pp. 37-45.

—. “The Post-Shinge­ki The­atre Move­ment in Japan.” The­atre Com­pa­nies of the World, edit­ed by C. H. Kull­man and W. C. Young Green­wood P, 1986, pp. 110-25.

—. “Rev­o­lu­tion­ary The­atre: This Is a Dream.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan, vol. 1, no. 4, 1970-71, pp. 119-27 and 148-49.

—. Satoh Mako­to and the Post-Shinge­ki Move­ment in Japan­ese Con­tem­po­rary The­atre. 1982. Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, PhD dissertation.

Gram­sci, Anto­nio. Selec­tion from the Prison Note­books. Edit­ed and trans­lat­ed by Q. Hoare and G. Now­ell-Smith, Inter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers, 1975.

Gra­pard, Allan G. “Fly­ing Moun­tains and Walk­ers of Empti­ness.” His­to­ry of Reli­gions, vol. 20, no. 3, 1982, pp. 195-221.

Gritzn­er, Karo­line, edi­tor. Eroti­cism and Death in The­atre and Per­for­mance. U of Hert­ford­hire Press, 2010.

Hob­s­bawm, Eric. How To Change the World. Aba­cus, 2012.

Jame­son, Fredric. The Hegel Vari­a­tions. Ver­so, 2010.

Kosík, Karel. Dialec­tics of the Con­crete. Trans­lat­ed by K. Kovan­da and J. Schmidt. Rei­del, 1976.

Laz­ić, Mladen. U sus­ret zatvorenom društvu. Napri­jed, 1987.

Lum­mis, C. Dou­glas. e-mail to DS of Aug. 30, 2021.

Marot­ti, William. Mon­ey, Trains and Guil­lotines: Art and Rev­o­lu­tion in 1960s Japan. Duke UP, 2013.

Marx, Karl. Cap­i­tal 1. Trans­lat­ed by Samuel Moore and Edward Avel­ing, edit­ed by Fredrick Engels, www​.marx​ists​.org/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​/​m​a​r​x​/​w​o​r​k​s​/​1​8​6​7​-c1. Accessed July 19, 2014.

—. The­ses on Feuer­bach. Trans­lat­ed by W. Lough, www​.marx​ists​.org/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​/​m​a​r​x​/​w​o​r​k​s​/​1​8​4​5​/​t​h​e​s​es/ theses.htm. Accessed July 19, 2018.

Mina­mi, Hiroshi, et al. “The Con­tent Analy­sis of the Post­war Japan­ese Pop­u­lar Songs.” Japan­ese Pop­u­lar Cul­ture, edit­ed and trans­lat­ed by Kato Hidetoshi, Tut­tle, 1960, pp. 109-25.

Petro­vić, Gajo. “Human­ism and Rev­o­lu­tion,” In the Name of Life: Essays in Hon­or of Erich Fromm. Edit­ed by B. Lan­dis and E. S. Tauber, Holt, Rine­hart & Win­ston, 1971, pp. 288-98

—. U potrazi za slo­bodom [Search­ing for Free­dom]. Hrvatsko filo­zof­sko društ­vo, 1990.

Raz, Jacob. Audi­ence and Actors: A Study of their Inter­ac­tion in the Japan­ese Tra­di­tion­al The­atre. Brill, 1983.

Richie, Don­ald. “Japan’s Avant-Garde The­atre.” The Japan Foun­da­tion Newslet­ter, vol. 7, no. 1, 1979, pp. 1-4.

Righter, Anne. Shake­speare and the Idea of the Play. Pen­guin, 1967.

Satoh Mako­to. “Com­ment.” CTJ, vol. 1, no. 3, 1970, pp. 18-23.

—. Inter­view with D. Suvin, Dec. 21 1987 (inter­preter: Yamamo­to Kiyokazu).

Sen­da, Aki­hiko, and Tsuno Kaitarō. “Inter­view.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan, vol. 1, no. 2, 1970, pp. 47-79.

Siegfried, Detlef. “Music and Protest in 1960s Europe.” 1968 in Europe, edit­ed by Mar­tin Klimke and Joachim Schar­loth, Pal­grave MacMil­lan, 2008, pp. 57-70.

Supek, Rudi. Arbeit­erselb­stver­wal­tung und sozial­is­tis­che Demokratie. Trans­lat­ed by E. Prager, SOAK-Ver­lag, 1978.

Suvin, Darko. “Antiu­topia in Coro­ni­sa­tion Times: Cap­i­talocene and Death,” Dis­put­ing the Del­uge: C21 Writ­ings on Utopia, Nar­ra­tion, Hori­zons of Sur­vival. Hugh O’Connell, Edi­tor. Blooms­bury Aca­d­e­m­ic, 2021, pp. 317-46.

—. “Com­mu­nism Can Only Be Rad­i­cal Ple­beian Democ­ra­cy: Remarks on the Expe­ri­ence of S.F.R. Yugoslavia and on Civ­il Soci­ety.” Inter­na­tion­al Crit­i­cal Thought, vol. 6, no. 2, 2016, pp. 165-89.

—. Lessons from the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion and Its Fall­out: An Epis­te­mo­log­i­cal Approach. Rosa Lux­em­burg Foun­da­tion South­east Europe, 2017.

—. “The Per­for­mance Text as Audi­ence-Stage Dia­log Induc­ing a Pos­si­ble World.” Ver­sus, no. 42, 1985, pp. 3-20.

—. “Satoh’s The Dance of Angels as Coun­ter­pro­ject to Weiss’ Marat/Sade: Two Dra­matur­gi­cal Dis­cours­es about the Rev­o­lu­tion in the 1960s.” The Dra­mat­ic Touch of Dif­fer­ence, edit­ed by E. Fis­ch­er-Lichte et al., Narr, 1990, pp. 131-48.

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—. “Weiss’s Marat/Sade and Its Three Main Per­for­mance Ver­sions.” Mod­ern Dra­ma, vol. 31, Oct. 1988, pp. 395-419.

—. “What and How Are Poets For in Our Age of Want: Cog­ni­tion, Eman­ci­pa­tion, Com­mu­nism.” The Min­neso­ta Review, vol. 91, 2018, pp. 111-135.

The­atre Cen­ter 68/70. “Prospec­tus 1970.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan, vol. 1, no. 3, 1970, pp. 8-13.

Tsuno Kaitarō. “Biwa and Bea­t­les.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan Intro­duc­to­ry Issue, Oct. 1969, pp. 6-32.

—. “Of Baths, Broth­els and Hell.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan, vol. 1, no. 1, 1970, pp. 135-43.

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—. “The Tra­di­tion of Mod­ern The­atre in Japan.” Cana­di­an The­atre Review, no. 20, 1978, pp. 8-19.

Tsu­ru­mi, Shun­suke. A Cul­tur­al His­to­ry of Post­war Japan 1945-1980. KPI, 1987.

Watan­abe, Mori­a­ki. “Le Jeu, le corps, le lan­gage.” Esprit, no. 421, 1973, pp. 431-58.

Yamamo­to, Kiyokazu. Inter­view with D. Suvin, 13 Dec. 1987.

—. Let­ter to D. Suvin, undat­ed [March 1988].

—. “The World as Pub­lic Toi­let.” Con­cerned The­atre Japan, vol. 1, no. 2, 1970, pp. 214-19.

Yoshi­da, Hideko. Per­son­al inter­view. Inter­pret­ed by D. Lum­mis. 8 July 1988.

Yoshi­mo­to, Taka’aki. l’Illusion Com­mune. 1968. Trans­lat­ed by H. Naka­ta, E-book, 2016, <www​.kobo​.com/​i​t​/​i​t​/​e​b​o​o​k​/​l​-​i​l​l​u​s​i​o​n​-​c​o​m​m​une>.

Image Notes

Cov­er Image: Kôga Hira­no. The Dance of Angels who Burn Their Wings. Poster (off­set lith­o­graph on paper), 1970. Image avail­able at

Fig­ure 1: Kuro Ten­to (BTT) Stage image from 黒テント. Image avail­able at https://​btt​-tokyo​.ame​baownd​.com/.

Fig­ure 2: Draw­ing of the rela­tions of Satoh’s play (D. Suvin).

Fig­ure 3: The Dance of Angels who burn Their Own Wings: The Black Tent The­atre as it was arranged for the 1970 procuc­tion in Good­man, David G. Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s: The Return of the Gods. Sharpe, 1988, 290.

Fig­ure 4: “The Birds dance before their King.” Pho­to by Mikoshi­ba Shigeru in David G. Good­man. The Return of the Gods: Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s. Cor­nell, 2010. Cov­er image cred­it: Mikoshi­ba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings. Pho­to­graph n.d.

Fig­ure 5: “Scene Six: Red Wind embraces Red Wind 6” Pho­to by Mikoshi­ba Shingeru in David G. Good­man. The Return of the Gods: Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s. Cor­nell, 2010. Cov­er image cred­it: Mikoshi­ba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.

Fig­ure 6: “Scene Sev­en: Angel Red is restrained by the Birds” Pho­to by Mikoshi­ba Shigeru in David G. Good­man. The Return of the Gods: Japan­ese Dra­ma and Cul­ture in the 1960s. Cor­nell, 2010. Cov­er image cred­it: Mikoshi­ba Shigeru, The Dance of Angels Who Burn Their Own Wings.


  1. The play as writ­ten and per­formed is here­after cit­ed as Dance of Angels from the sec­ond trans­la­tion by David G. Good­man in his 1988 book. It was writ­ten by four of the Center’s play­wrights, Satoh Mako­to, Yamamo­to Kiyokazu, Katō Tadashi, and Saitō Ren, but with an over­all plan by the first two and with the lion’s share of writ­ing, final inte­gra­tion, per­for­mance direc­tion, and a large num­ber of rewrit­ings by Satoh. The Kuro Ten­to 68/71 the­atre group is fur­ther referred to as BTT.

    I do not pro­pose here to enter into a dis­cus­sion of the very fre­quent uses of pri­or texts in writ­ing the play. They range from Lewis Car­roll, Dos­to­evsky, and Mal­doror to mod­ern activist and rebel­lious writ­ings, dra­mat­ic and oth­er (LeRoi Jones’s nov­el Dante’s Hell, Brecht, Trot­sky, etc.), as well as to Sartre­an exis­ten­tial­ism (well known in Japan and to Satoh’s group—cf. Good­man, “Post-Shinge­ki”) and con­tem­po­rary poetry.

    I men­tioned in a pri­or essay (see note 2 below) the excel­lent knowl­edge the Satoh group had of Marat/Sade (cf. the Yamamo­to inter­view). How­ev­er, I believe they much under­rat­ed that play’s com­plex­i­ties and ambi­gu­i­ties, which I dis­cuss at length in Suvin, “Weiss’s.” They men­tioned Weiss’s uncer­tain­ties, but for their own legit­i­mate pur­pos­es they made out of him a straw­man believ­ing in pre­de­ter­mined Hegelian dialec­tics with­in lin­ear his­to­ry and “forc[ing] bour­geois con­scious­ness and pro­le­tar­i­an con­scious­ness off to oppo­site extrem­i­ties of his­to­ry” (see sec­tion 1.1), which Weiss’s ago­nis­ing con­fronta­tion between Marat and Sade in my opin­ion can­not be made to bear. In oth­er words, Satoh and his col­lab­o­ra­tors were polit­i­cal dis­si­dents against the rul­ing cul­ture and pow­er but rather on the youth anar­chist side with­in the spec­trum of sal­va­tion­al pol­i­tics.

  2. It can be found in Suvin, “Satoh’s.” How­ev­er, this essay was edit­ed with­out con­sult­ing me: in par­tic­u­lar, the whole sys­tem of notes and ref­er­ence has been changed, with many mis­takes in names and titles. Out­side of this aspect, that pub­li­ca­tion should now be con­sid­ered super­seded.

  3. Sen­da, in whose school Satoh trained, went between the wars through the Pro­le­tar­i­an The­atre move­ment and its repres­sion; he became a not uncrit­i­cal sup­port­er of BTT. I had the priv­i­lege to meet and dis­cuss with him often those years in Tokyo, cf. Suvin “Brief.”

  4. Cf. Yamamo­to, “Let­ter.” On music in the Euro­pean youth protest move­ment (heav­i­ly influ­enced by US prod­ucts) see Detlef Siegfried in Klimke-Schar­loth eds. 57-70. It was con­sub­stan­tial with inde­pen­dent spend­ing mon­ey of a young gen­er­a­tion with extend­ed edu­ca­tion years, and in a per­ma­nent quandary between ‘authen­tic­i­ty’ and cul­ture-indus­try consumerism.

    Bran­don makes an inter­est­ing claim for the Japan­ese avant-garde theatre’s use of imagery and tech­niques from , kyō­gen, bun­raku, and kabu­ki, but I would say these were strict­ly sub­or­di­nat­ed to their pur­pos­es.

  5. It seems Satoh him­self had not read Ben­jamin until 1971 (Good­man, “Satoh” 355-56), when he recog­nised the kin­ship. How­ev­er, at least two of Satoh’s most inti­mate col­lab­o­ra­tors, Yamamo­to Kiyokazu and Tsuno Kaitarō, had read Ben­jamin by 1969; the authors’ col­lec­tive had used for Dance of Angels Benjamin’s reflec­tions in “On the Cri­tique of Vio­lence” which Yamamo­to had read (“Inter­view”). No doubt, Satoh’s ear­ly expo­sure to Chris­tian­i­ty (Good­man, “Satoh” 92-95) had also thor­ough­ly famil­iarised him with the con­cept of angels, known to the Japan­ese pri­mar­i­ly through the com­mer­cial adop­tion of Christ­mas, and Ben­jamin as source remains some­what hypo­thet­i­cal and of dwin­dling impor­tance in com­par­i­son to the undoubt­ed Satoh-Ben­jamin con­ver­gence in sal­va­tion­al pol­i­tics. How­ev­er, the coin­ci­dence of an Angel/Wind link with­in an ana­log­i­cal, though not iden­ti­cal, pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with his­to­ry and cat­a­stro­phe in Ben­jamin and Satoh seems too strong for chance.

    As to the Hells Angels, in Satoh’s play they had lit­tle in com­mon with the his­tor­i­cal US gang, one of whose favourite occu­pa­tion was to beat up Blacks, except their motor­cy­cles and a rebel­lion against the exist­ing order; the rest is a fan­ta­sy derived from the Mar­lon Bran­do 1953 movie The Wild One and its cul­tur­al fall­out in the ‘out­law bik­er’ fil­i­a­tion of the 1950s-1960s (see “Out­law”).

  6. Every­body writ­ing on Dance of Angels owes a cen­tral debt to David G. Good­man, who not only trans­lat­ed it but pro­vid­ed both per­ma­nent­ly valid elu­ci­da­tions and a sophis­ti­cat­ed inter­pre­tive hypoth­e­sis for it. I owe him a par­tic­u­lar debt for gen­er­ous­ly sup­ply­ing me with mate­ri­als on and Japan­ese con­tacts for the play. In all mat­ters con­cern­ing the BTT and the post-shinge­ki move­ment, Good­man is a sine quo non. Fur­ther, he was qual­i­ta­tive­ly bet­ter informed than I, being both a Japa­nol­o­gist and a mem­ber of the BTT col­lec­tive at that time. I accept most of his inter­pre­ta­tion, but dif­fer from it in a few fun­da­men­tal points, so that I allot a part­ly dif­fer­ent final mean­ing to the play. How­ev­er, it should be clear that a crit­i­cal dia­logue is not a repudiation.

    In that vein, I can­not accept his encom­pass­ing hori­zon of Satoh as a Japan­ese vari­ant of Juda­ic escha­tol­ogy, which under­lies also all of Goodman’s inter­pre­ta­tions of this play (for exam­ple “Satoh” 265-73 and 359-60). I do not ful­ly share the major premise and I ful­ly dis­be­lieve the minor premise of his syl­lo­gism that, since the Birds are kami (deities), there­fore their King is the Judeo-Chris­t­ian God or Jeho­vah (“Notes” 44-45). This inter­pre­ta­tion does not seem to fol­low either log­i­cal­ly or his­tor­i­cal­ly, even were we to agree the Birds are kami: the King of the kami (itself a het­ero­dox notion) could at least as well be the Sun God­dess, or indeed the ten­nō as her incar­na­tion. In fact, if one accepts Benjamin’s sharp oppo­si­tion between God and Myth, in which myth­i­cal pow­er sets laws and bound­aries while divine pow­er destroys them, in which myth­i­cal pow­er func­tions as blood pow­er for its own sake while divine pow­er func­tions as “clean” pow­er for the sake of that which is liv­ing (59-60)—then this play’s uni­verse is a myth­i­cal and not a divine one. What is more, the Birds’ undoubt­ed kami analo­gies (on that tra­di­tion cf. Raz 10-16 and pas­sim) do not seem pri­ma­ry or even eco­nom­i­cal with­in the play: the metaphor of play as shaman­ic rit­u­al has clear lim­its. Goodman’s main argu­ment is itself based on insert­ing this play into Satoh’s com­plete oeu­vre and biog­ra­phy, where how­ev­er the imme­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor and seed of Dance of Angels, Nezu­mi Kozō the Rat would clear­ly speak against it, since the play devel­ops as an oppo­si­tion between the peo­ple (sew­er-rats) below and ten­no­ism hood­wink­ing them to return above ground: the metaphor of play as shaman­ic rit­u­al has clear lim­its. Satoh’s and Tsuno’s notion of a deep “ten­nō time” dom­i­nat­ing Japan­ese mass­es is almost cer­tain­ly based on Yoshi­mo­to Taka’aki’s writ­ing from 1966 about post­war polit­i­cal “illu­sions” (gisei), such as ratio­nal­ism, indi­vid­u­al­ism, or democ­ra­cy, and in par­tic­u­lar that the mass­es’ orig­i­nal form of exis­tence (taishū no gen­zō) was sym­bol­ised by the Emper­or.

  7. Cf. the rather scathing mem­o­ries described by Yoshi­da Hideko (she played Cor­day), who was trau­ma­tised by the direct­ing. I have no way of know­ing what the major­i­ty of BTT mem­bers thought. The self-gov­ern­ment idea was well known to the youth revolt—if not through Marx, then at least through the work of Hani Gorō on ter­ri­to­r­i­al units (see Tsu­ru­mi 151). In fact, if we do not count ‘roof organ­i­sa­tions’ direct­ed from above, such as the Rōen (Work­ers’ The­atre), the Kuro Ten­to tour of this play was the first self-gov­ern­ing the­atre tour in Japan­ese his­to­ry.