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Born: 1955
Function: stage director playwright actor
Company: Office 3OO

Watanabe was born in Yamagata Prefecture and graduated from Butai Geijutsu Gakuin (Institute of Theatrical Arts). From 1978 she led the 3OO theater company for twenty years as playwright, director, and actor. Watanabe is acclaimed for her portrayal of a nostalgic world in which reality and fantasy coexist. She won the 1983 Kishida Drama Award for her major work Ge ge ge no ge (Kitaro the Ghostbuster) and the 1987 Kinokuniya Theater Award for Mabuta no haha (A Mother with Eyelids). She won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1996 movie Shall We Dance? In 2001, she founded a new company Uchudo, free of the constraints of an existing theater framework. She has been using it for stage productions since 2003, and in 2007 she changed the name to Office 3OO. Watanabe is also remarkable for her activities in different theatrical genres, most notably her writing and directing for performances by Kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, including the dance drama Ima wa mukashi Momotaro (Momotaro Past and Present) which was his last performance under the name Kankuro, and the Kabuki play Shitakiri suzume (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow) that was a big hit in August 2007. Watanabe has been a visiting professor at Kanto Gakuin University since 2006.

©Office 3OO
Ge ge ge no ge: omagatoki yureru buranko (Kitaro the Ghostbuster)
An old woman lies unconscious on her deathbed. In her mind, she is spinning a story about her twin brother Makio, who died at birth. This is a story of three strange worlds that are interconnected: the elementary school where Makio is a target of bullying; the abode of his hero, Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro; and a forest in northern Japan in which a man and young boy, Senta, are searching for treasure. When Makio and Senta meet, the old woman’s story and Makio’s worlds get mixed up in the memories of the dead, and the borders between them gradually melt away.

First staged: 1982
Acts/scenes: 1 scene
Cast: 18 (9 male, 6 female, 3 others—but the male/female roles are entirely interchangeable)
First staged by: Gekidan 3OO
[Translation] English: Half a Century of Japanese Theater III 1980s Part1, published by Kinokuniya and available from Office 3OO

Photo: Kato Hidehiro
Yume no katachi~Watashi no fune/Midori no yubi (The Shape of Dreams: My Boat/Green Finger)
My Boat: Ignoring the hubbub of a festival, the pupils in a dressmaking school Do-Re-Me Drama Dream Academy keep working the machines to make the dresses of their dreams. A couple of youths who wander into the school, Taoka and Takizawa, meet the strange family of the school’s head: his wife, Kakuko, who is obsessed with a red water-filled balIoon, his daughter Fukuko, who is working the machines for her mother, and his son Shimao, who carries on drawing pictures that he never finishes. Strange phenomena occur as if the people are being toyed with, and eventually it becomes clear that the school is actually a psychiatric hospital… Green Finger was performed the same year as a sequel, depicting what happens to Fukuko.

First staged: 2006
Acts/scenes: 1 scene each
Cast: My Boat 19 (8 male, 10 female); Green Finger 24 (11 male, 13 female)
First staged by: Uchudo