Free and open to the public

Closed for reinstallation

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Rakugo Performance

Portait of Sanyūtei Ponta in traditional Japanese dress holding a fan

A Night of Japanese Storytelling with San’yūtei Ponta

Join the Center for the East Asian Studies for an exciting evening of Japanese storytelling, presented in conjunction with Meiji Modern at the Smart Museum of Art. 

Performed by a single storyteller who brings to life multiple characters through gesture and voice, rakugo is a dynamic storytelling tradition with 200+ years of history in Japan. While it is perhaps most known today for its brief and comic stories, it has a long legacy of moving tales of human emotion and frightening ghost stories. For this event, Ponta has specially prepared a thrilling piece by San’yūtei Enchō I (1839–1900), the most influential rakugo storyteller of the Meiji period, whose stories captured the atmosphere and dynamism of Japanese society at the end of the nineteenth century. 

While the essential elements of rakugo are quite basic—one performer, a fan, a tenugui towel, and a story—the skill of rakugo performers have used these simple elements to develop a performance tradition with a staggering variety of narratives and rich expressive gestures which has lost none of its relevance, humor, or entertainment over its hundreds of years of history. 

The performance will be in Japanese with English subtitles and will be followed by a Q&A with the performer. 

FREE, but space is limited. Please register in advance

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Global Voices Program at International House, and the Japan Business Society of Detroit. 

About the performer

Sanyūtei Ponta (三遊亭ぽん太) was born in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture in 1985 and graduated from the Department of Sociology of Hosei University in Tokyo. In 2015 he became the seventh disciple of rakugo artist San’yūtei Kōraku and he was promoted to futatsume, the second-highest rank for rakugo performers, in November of 2018. His stage name, San’yūtei Ponta II, comes from San’yūtei Ponta I [1832-1881], who was a disciple of rakugo master San’yūtei Enchō I [1839-1900], the most famous performer of the late nineteenth century. Ponta revived this stage name for the first time in 100 years and, like his namesake, is an up-and-coming rakugo storyteller, performing not only humorous stories, but also many tales of human emotion and ghost stories written by San’yūtei Enchō I.