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I'm trying to find the words to differentiate theatre (the physical place) from play (as in stage play). I keep finding the words 劇場{げきじょう} and 演劇{えんげき} in the dictionary but can't figure out which is which. To make matters even more confusing Google Translate even suggested 劇場{げきじょう}の演劇{えんげき}

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In short for a general "theatre":

  • 劇場{げきじょう} means a "theatre" as a place.
  • 演劇{えんげき} means the "art of theatre".
  • you were probably looking for 芝居{しばい} - a stage play.
  • also "theatre" as a troupe would be called 劇団{げきだん}

The differences get blurred when these words are used as adjectives (search for "screenplay" on google: 演劇の台本 = 48,000, 芝居の台本 = 58,000 results).


Now, depending on the genres, specialised vocabulary is used, for example "theatre as a place" might be called:

  • 能楽堂 - a general name for noh and kyogen theatre stages (国立能楽堂, 観世能楽堂)
  • 芝居小屋{しばいごや} - a stage for smaller scale theatrical plays
  • 演芸場{えんげいじょう} - a stage for variety shows, musical performances, vaudeville (国立演芸場, 大須演芸場)
  • 寄席{よせ} - a stage for storytelling performances: rakugo, kōdan, rōkyoku, etc.
  • finally there are borrowed words: シアター ("theatre", both for stage and cinema, but might be used also in a troupe name) and even 演芸ホール (a hall for performing arts in which plays could also be staged).

The following are added to proper names to indicate theatre either in the sense of the place or a troupe.

  • 〜座{ざ} - an ending for proper names of theatres and troupes of all genres: kabuki stages (松竹座, 南座), smaller stages (呉服座), and even non-Japanese theatres (グローブ座)
  • 〜亭{てい} - an ending for proper names of the "寄席{よせ}"-style of stages (天満繁昌亭, 動楽亭)
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    座 is extended to any kind of theater houses or troupes, for instance, Globe Theatre is translated into グローブ座. – broken laptop Sep 13 '15 at 7:01
  • Good point. Also there is a rakugo stage 呉服座 in Ikeda, Osaka-fu, so I will edit my answer. – macraf Sep 13 '15 at 9:10

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