Kaiju Bunraku Screened at Sundance

Puppetry troupe led by Japanese Studies coordinator Martin Holman
Assistant Teaching Professor Martin Holman
Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Departments: 
Japanese Studies

For more than 20 years, MU Assistant Teaching Professor Martin Holman has worked in the traditional Japanese puppet theater commonly known as Bunraku. For the past 12 years, he has directed a theater troupe, Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater, made up largely of his former MU students. The troupe has given hundreds of performances in 34 states, including such venues as the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, the University of Chicago, on prime-time NBC television, and also in Canada and Japan.

A film that Holman's team shot in Miami in August 2015 was selected to screen at the Sundance Film Festival last month.  Kaiju Bunraku was one of only 68 films selected for Sundance from among more than 9,000 entries. The entire film, from beginning to end, is performed by Holman and his Bunraku Bay puppeteers—all of whom are MU alumni and/or have taught in the Japanese Studies program. Holman says one of the puppeteers is Eric Lancaster, one of his first students in the Japanese Studies program when Holman arrived at MU. Lancaster is an instructor of Japanese at MU and is the assistant director of Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater. The vocals and music in the soundtrack also are by members of the troupe.

Holman, the coordinator of the Japanese Studies program, was the first non-Japanese ever to train and perform in the 500-year-old Japanese art form, making his debut in Japan in 1994. Since then he has led hundreds of students on summer study programs to receive puppetry training in Japan and also has trained students in university classes.

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