The stage director and playwright Mr. Sato Makoto has created a large number of outstanding theatrical productions which combine a contemporary ambience with traditional aesthetic sensibility. His innovative work has been highly praised both in Japan and abroad. He has also taken a leading role in promoting international exchange with Asian theatrical professionals, and enhancing the construction of regional networks. Furthermore, working as the artistic director of public theaters, he has engaged himself in embodying the concept of 'theater as a meeting point for local people', and thus completely transformed the conventional image of public halls. In recent years, he has been energetically involved in educating the younger generation.
Mr. Sato was born in Tokyo in 1943. After he completed his training at the school of drama associated with the Haiyuza Theater Company in 1966, he founded the Underground Free Stage Theater. In 1968, he joined Theater Center 68 (currently, Black Tent Theater), and along with his contemporaries, Mr. Terayama Shuji and Mr. Kara Juro, he became a leading underground theater playwright and stage director, and produced a series of remarkable works. From 1970 he conducted nationwide tours, putting on performances in a large-scale tent. By 1990, the company had travelled to 120 cities in Japan, and such plays as Nezumi Kozo Jirokichi (which won the Kishida Prize for Drama in 1971) and the Showa Era Trilogy (1975-79), both of which he wrote and directed, established his fame as a stage director and playwright. Besides directing his own plays, he is active in a wide range of genres from opera and Japanese dance to puppet shows.
His participation in an international workshop organized by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) in 1980 deepened his ties with Asia, and he acted as host of the 3rd Asian Theater Forum (1983), and thus began networking with his Asian counterparts. He established a close working cooperation with leading contemporary artistic directors notable for promoting messages about society through theater, such as Mr. Kuo Pao Kun from Singapore, Mr. Krishen Jit from Malaysia, Mr. Rendra from Indonesia and Mr. Danny Yung from Hong Kong (winner of the Art and Culture Prize of the 25th Fukuoka Prize). He has dedicated himself to introducing Asian contemporary drama to Japan as well as staging joint multi-national productions.
At the same time, with his practical understanding of the frontline of theatrical spaces and production sites, Mr. Sato has been involved for many years in building and running public theaters, as the first Theater Director of the Setagaya Public Theater (1997-2002) and also the first Artistic Director of Za-Koenji (2009- ). He has made great efforts in diverse ways to develop outreach initiatives in order to connect the local population to theaters, including setting up drama workshops for them, and has worked hard to embody the concept of 'theaters as meeting points for people'. For this pioneering activity in creating a new role for public theaters, too, Mr. Sato has earned a high reputation.
He taught at Tokyo Gakugei University from 1998 to 2009 and devoted himself to training the next generation. At Za-Koenji, too, he established the 'Theater Creation Academy' for training future directors to run public theaters (2009). Moreover, in 2017, using his own resources, he opened a private art center in Yokohama called 'WAKABACHO WHARF'. The activities of this center as a base for young Asian theatrical professionals to meet and work are currently attracting considerable attention.
Mr. Sato Makoto's high achievement has not been confined to his remarkable work as a stage director and playwright, but through drama he has also rendered pioneering services to international exchange in Asia. Furthermore, as artistic director of public theaters, he has successfully transformed the image of public halls. Meanwhile his dedication to projects for fostering young Asian talents in the dramatic world continues. For these contributions, Mr. Sato is truly worthy for the Art and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.