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Intro to Theater: Classical Japanese Theater

by: Leah Notetaker

Intro to Theater: Classical Japanese Theater THEA 125

Marketplace > University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire > THEA 125 > Intro to Theater Classical Japanese Theater
Leah Notetaker

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About this Document

These notes cover the history of classical Japanese theater and the three main types of plays: Noh, Bunraku, and Kabuki.
Intro Theatre-History
Jennifer Chapman
Class Notes
theater, theatre, intro to theater, Japan, noh, bunraku, kabuki
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Leah Notetaker on Monday October 10, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to THEA 125 at University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire taught by Jennifer Chapman in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 39 views.


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Date Created: 10/10/16
CLASSICAL JAPANESE THEATER Noh, Bunraku, and Kabuki Historical Context  Classical Japan spanned from 1192-1868.  The society was a feudalistic one, not entirely unlike that of western Europe.  During the fourteenth century, the emperor seceded to a Shōgun (a military dictator). o The landowners and the ruling class were the Samurai- the warrior class. Noh Theater  Earliest form of Japanese drama.  Its origins are in two forms of Buddhist dance: Sarugaku-no and Dengaku-no.  1338: The Askikaga family, great supporters of the arts, assumed the Shogunate role. o Witnessed a Sarugaku-no performance by Kan’ami; took him and his son, Zeami, under patronage to develop the form even further. o Zeami became one of the most prolific Noh playwrights; half of all existing Noh scripts were written by him.  No new Noh plays are being written today; only plays from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries survive.  Noh is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism; the story is meant to make the audience feel something. o Peace, according to Zen Buddhism, comes through the acceptance that desire must be abandoned and nothing earthly is permanent. o Yugen- no exact English translation, but “grace in the religious sense” is the closest  (ex. When one experiences exquisite beauty while also knowing that it will not last forever.)  Noh is not about making something new; it is about fitting in to an existing category. Types of Noh Plays  Kamumono- praises the gods  Shuramono- about warriors  Kazuramono- about women  Zatsu- miscellaneous; crazy people  Kirimono- devils or demons The Noh Stage  Originally outside  Indoor today, has roof  Both indoor and outdoor are modelled after a Shinto temple  Exact replicas (movements, masks)  Originally, only the warrior class was able to see the plays.  At first, women were allowed to act, but later, in 1629, women were banned from the stage, and only men were allowed to act (still this way). Fears of female actors being involved in prostitution was part of the reason. Noh Dramatic Form/ Acting  Actors train for their whole lives; often specializing in certain roles.  Two main characters/ actors. o Shite- main character (masked) o Waki- secondary actor (unmasked)  The Waki enters the stage first, announces who he is, then orients the audience to the story (song).  Next, the Shite enters, and the story begins.  In classical Japan, the audiences watched a program of all five forms of Noh, and then a more lighthearted play, the Kyōgen. Today, only one or two are watched at a time, followed by the Kyōgen. Classical Japanese Theater  Blends aristocratic and popular affiliations  Descends from social and religious traditions (like ancient Greece)  Coordinates acting, music, dance, and spectacle (combined)  Has plots and characters that are derived from familiar literary and historical narratives and legends  Has performance conventions that are elaborately stylized and refined (connected to ritual)  Has performers that are often trained with a level of formality not found in Western theatre (Western theatre focuses more on innovation and venue) Kabuki  Originally called Onna Kabuki (women’s kabuki) or Y ūgo Kabuki (prostitute’s kabuki)  Originally associated with woman and boys who were prostitutes  Thought to have been created by a woman, Okuni, who was possibly a prostitute looking to get customers; called Okuni’s Kabuki o Some scholars challenge this and think that she was simply her own artist; or perhaps an artist who happened to be a prostitute. o Women were banned from the state in the seventeenth century; only men performed Kabuki then. (government suspicion of prostitution)  Like Noh, lifelong training required; actors specialize in certain roles. o Onnagata  Leading lady character played by a man  Highly regarded  Known for innovative technology; drama for its imagery of nature and animals Bunraku  Also called “puppet theatre” or “doll theatre”.  Dates back to 1596.  Intended for a popular audience (not just the upper classes)  Used stagehand conventions from Noh.  Most popular playwright: Chikamatsu.  Puppets are three or four feet tall; operated by three men. o Senior operator controls the head and the right arm and hand; often unmasked o 1 assistant operates the left arm and hand; hooded o 2 ndassistant operates the legs and feet; hooded


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