Actors Backstage Sugoroku


Actors Backstage Sugoroku is an e-sugoroku (picture board game) that depicts the backstage area of a Kabuki theater (playhouse). Published in 1863, towards the end of the Edo period, it contains pictures by Utagawa Kunisada II (also seen as Utagawa Toyokuni IV, 1823−80). This is a type of sugoroku called tobi-sugoroku (flying sugoroku), in which the squares are not lined up in order and the player moves around the board by jumping from square to square, depending on the roll of the die. From the furi-hajime (start) at the bottom right-hand corner of the picture, the player can proceed to “the playwright’s room,” “the anteroom of the performer in charge of the offstage music,” “the bathroom,” and so on. Other squares include “the dressing room of the troupe’s star actor” and “the props room.” As the player moves back and forth, he or she can see the actors relaxing in their dressing rooms, making their stage costumes, or reading their lines together. The game contains portraits of the actors with their names in the boxes at their sides, so it may also have been used rather like a promotional photograph to satisfy the curiosity of the Edo period public who wanted to know how Kabuki actors spent their time backstage and to see their real faces.

Last updated: December 9, 2014