Photos of Sumako Matsui, the Most Famous Japanese Actress of Modern Western Plays in 1910’s
松井須磨子 (November 1, 1886 ― January 5, 1919)
Sumako Matsui was not only loved most by the majority of the Japanese people but also hated or despised most by some of the Japanese ruling class or the social or political establishment.
In 1909, Sumako began her study of the theory and practice of Western plays at Bungei Kyokai (the Peripatetic Literary Association), where she also began her actress career as a role of Nora in Ibsen’s Doll’s House performed in 1911. After the performance a tremendous social and political debate arose for and against the ‘new’ way of life-style of women.
Sumako soon left the association in 1913 due to the romance with Hogetsu Shimamura, who was a professor of Waseda University. Sumako then entered into the Geijutsu-za (the Theatre Group of Arts), organized by Hogetsu. The group produced the performance of a Russian play, based on the original novel of Leo Tolstoy and dramatized by Henry Bataille. Hogetsu translated and adapted the work for the Japanese audience and Sumako acted the role of Kachusha in the performance. The traveling performances of Resurrection all over Japan made her highly popular especially because of the singing of Kachusha's Song in the play. And Sumako acted several leading roles such as Ophelia, Salome, Lady Macbeth and Anna Karenina on the stage of Western and Japanese plays in a variety of cities and towns all over Japan. The following is the list of these plays.
Their last was a tragedy. Hogetsu died of the Spanish flu on November 5, 1918, which induced depressed Sumako to commit suicide by hanging in two months after his death.