On Friday, April 22, the Minwa-za Company of Tokyo enchanted the crowd at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel with the lost art of magic lantern performance, utsushi-e.
This Japanese art form uses lanterns (furo) and slides (taneita) to project brightly colored moving images on a large screen. The images are accompanied by storytelling and the music of the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed instrument.
Magic lantern performance was introduced in Japan around 1800, but began to fall out of favor by the end of the 19th century. The Minwa-za Company rediscovered the art of utsushi-e in the 1970s, and spent years researching and learning the traditional techniques.
During Minwa-za’s weeklong residency at the University of Chicago, they shared the art of utsushi-e in a series of workshops, lectures, and performances for students and community members.
PhD candidate Artemis Willis, organized the company’s visit and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the University of Chicago Arts Council sponsored the residency.