The Rockstar Theatre of 1603

It is only a few weeks until I will embark upon my trip to Japan. I am excited to see the sakura in all its beauty during the spring but more so for an afternoon of Kabuki. What is Kabuki? If the word is split up by it’s kanji it is the following: sing (歌, or ka), dance (舞, or bu), and skill (伎, or ki.) The word comes from Kabuku meaning to be eccentric or extraordinary (fantastical isn’t it.) I became adamant about seeing this magical, artful theatre when I learned about it in my theatre history class. Sure I always knew about Kabuki, Noh (more elite) and Bunraku (puppet theatre) before my class but when I saw a video of all three types I became enthralled. I do want to see all three performed but Kabuki touched my child-like wonderment.

The wonderment I speak of is the magical keren, a term for the stage special effects. Trap doors spill out characters yielding fantastical entrances and exits; Chuunori or “mid air riding” provides spirits, ghost, and mythical bird creatures above the audiences’ heads; Hayagawari or “quick change” allows the actors to shed clothing in seconds while on stage. Words just can’t describe the joy I had watching these effects on the video I saw. Sure most theatre forms have these types of “secrets” (special effects,) but the ki(伎) in Kabuki made it special. Kabuki had developed from the aristocratic elite Noh theatre, but it sought to amaze the common people. It was a true rockstar theatre of the 1600’s.

My excitement is bubbling over, for I will be treated to three plays while in Japan: Futatsu chouchou kuruwa nikki (ふたつちょうちょうくるわにっき,) Sonezaki Shinjyuu(そねざきしんじゅう,) and Renjishi (れんじし.) It will be magical.

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Filed under bunraku, Japan, kabuki, noh, theatre

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