Monday, September 28, 2009

Japanese Kabuki

I've learned so much about the artform of Kabuki. Everything about it is intresting from it's origins to it's wild make-up; however, I don't know how ampted I would be to go see one of these performances. The shows themselves seem particularly boring to me. Watching a bunch of guys dressed up like women prancing around in make-up doesn't really sound like my cup of tea. Intresting, but not so much entertaining. Let me give you a quick summary of what I've learned about this art form known as Kabuki.

Kabuki originated from a woman named Okuni who dressed like a man and performed dances in a river bed with prostitutes. The original name given to this performance, kabuki, meant tilted. Prostitutes performed this until they were all banned from it which is when it molded into what it is today, with a larger focus on dance (Felner and Orenstein 129).

The Kabuki theater got it's original design from the Noh theater. It later evolved with some new stage additons; the hanamichi, suppon, and mawari butai. The hanamichi, also referred to as the flower path, is a path for the actors to enter and exit that goes right through the audience. Suppon are hidden lifts that actors would go on to make dramatic transformations. Mawari butai is the revolving part of the kabuki stage (Spencer). The kabuki stage design can be seen in the picture to the right.

Kabuki has a few conventions of it's own. The costumes would ususally display the actor's family crest. The stage hands frequently come on stage dressed in all black to fix or change costumes of the performers, or to bring the actors a refreshment during long scenes (Felner and Orenstein 129-130).

It also has specific character types which are displayed to the audience in different ways. Onnagata (seen above) were the female roles in kabuki. Men played these roles while painted in soft white make-up, dressed in women's kimonos and black wigs. Aragoto is another character, this is a male part (seen to the right). The Aragoto is a hero or god character, spotted by their red or black paint and their colorful and wild costumes (Kabuki).

That's Kabuki in a nutshell. It is definately an intresting form of theater. Kabuki consists of beautiful movements which remind me slightly of ballet. Still like I said before not really something that I would want to sit and watch for three hours, and that time is cut down they used to be much, much longer. There are a few pretty cool scenes out there like this one for example.

I hope this has given you all a clearer image of the world of Japanese Kabuki. Thanks for reading!

Text sources:

  • Felner, Mira, and Claudia Orenstein. The World of Theatre. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2006. Print.
  • "Kabuki." Web. 28 Sept. 2009.
  • Spencer, Michael. "Kabuki Story: Theatre Design." 1999. Web. 28 Sept. 2009. .

Visual sources: