The Yokohama Theatre Group (YTG) spent the first 83 years of its existance as the Yokohama Amateur Dramatics Club (YADC). It was originally founded by members of earlier transitory groups mostly run my military officers stationed in Yokohama (and some of the merchants they were protecting) during the closing years of the 19th century. Later on, businessman, diplomats, clergy and foreign teachers made up a large part of the membership.
Though the history is contiguous, the YADC bore little resemblance to the current YTG. Like today, the club had a set of by-laws and a central governing Board of Directors (the Committee), but membership required the payment of the fee (a practice that continued until the 1990s). Moreover, only men were allowed to be club members from the founding of the club in 1900 until 1923, when women were finally admitted. Even then, the process of gaining admission was very formal, with rules reminiscent of country clubs: prospective members had to be sponsored by a current member of the group and seconded before being voted on.
The group was extremely active in the forty years leading up to the Pacific War, frequently getting reviews in the local English-language newspapers. Since the membership (and particularly the Committee) were almost exclusively well-heeled expats, the group was very connected to the expatriate community. The YADC were even part owners of the original Gaiety Theatre until it was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. In 1940, however, the chairmanship of the Committee was duly handed over to a Swede (because of Swedish neutrality, it was thought less likely that the Japanese wartime government would confiscate the group's funds), and productions ceased for 12 years.
After productions resumed in 1952, the group shifted from mostly British to mostly American members.
From 1952 up until 2006, the group continued life as a club (pausing briefly to change its name in 1983 to "The Yokohama Theatre Group") and experienced serveral cycles of decline and revival as the interest of the community that made up its members ebbed and flowed over the years. With the coming of the era of ubiquitous home entertainment and inexpensive long-distance communication, the group entered its final decline as a club in the mid 2000s. Shows were eventually reduced to about one a year, and membership atrophied to just a handful of stalwarts.
It was at this time that the new Artistic Director, Andrew Woolner, made the decision that the group could no longer continue as a club if the legacy of the group was to be carried on, things would have to change. The club mentality, which suggests that the shows performed are as much for the benefit of the participants as the audience, was abandoned. The group's new model would be that of a professional non-profit Theatre company, dedicated to bringing world-class Theatre to the people of Yokohama, Japan, and the world.
Persuant to this new mentality, YTG has reorganized as a non-profit and has applied for legal NPO Hojin status in Japan (currently pending) and aims to serve its community through modern, multilingual Theatre and Theatre education. The current ensemble is a semi-professional troupe of actors and designers who aim to become a professional group of Theatre makers. Along with our professional Theatre instructors (the faculty of the Ytheatre School), they are the new Yokohama Theatre.