Edward Gordon Craig's idealization of the stage director as "the true artist of the theatre" exerted a formative influence upon the career of Kaoru Osanai (1881-1928). Reading and translating Craig's theoretical writings, and witnessing his and Constantin Stanislavski's famous production of Hamlet at the Moscow Arts Theatre in 1912, Osanai tried to establish himself as a Craigian director, first at the Free Theatre (Jiyu Gekijo, 1909-19) and then at the short-lived but influential Tsukiji Little Theatre (Tsukiji Shogekijo, 1924-29). However, while Craig trained, and excelled, in all aspects of dramatic art, Osanai's artistic aptitude was severely limited and his vision as a director was realized only through collaboration with talented stage designers and skilled carpenters, lighting and sound effect engineers, and perceptive actors.This article traces Osanai's efforts to adapt the Craigian ideals in the context of the shingeki (new theatre) movement in Japan, with special reference to the Shakespearean productions he staged at the Little Theatre (Julius Caesar, 1925, and The Merchant of Venice, 1926). The clash between Osanai's naturalism and the avant-garde aesthetics and politics of his younger colleagues is scrutinized, to show the failure of the Craigian model of a single stage director dominating the theatre.
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