Traditional Japanese Theater

Noh and Kabuki
A ta l y O n u r a M u tl e r u

Noh Theater

Noh ( 能 ) Drama is a "dance-drama" that was very popular in the rich and powerful (the elite) of medieval Japan. Noh drama became popular with the court in the 14th century. It is still performed today. The actors wear masks and there are musicians and a chorus which narrates the story by chanting.

Noh Theater

By tradition, Noh actors and musicians never rehearse for performances together. Instead, each actor, musician, and choral chanter practices his or her fundamental movements, songs, and dances independently or under the tutelage of a senior member of the school. Thus, the tempo of a given performance is not set by any single performer but established by the interactions of all the performers together.

Above you can see the simple stage, a group of musicians behind the actor, and the chorus (jiutai) of eight people on the right side of the stage.

Origins of Noh
 The

early origins of Noh theater were mostly folk-type forms of rustic entertainment; Sarugaku, which was connected to Shinto rituals, Dengaku, a kind of acrobatics with juggling, which later developed into a type of song-and-dance, Chinese-derived dances, and recited and chanted ballads which formed part of the oral tradition of the people.

Origins of Noh
 By

the middle of the fourteenth century, these various sources seem to have been combined into a form of theater recognizable to modern audiences as Noh, although just what those early plays were like is hard to say.  There are plays believed by scholars to be by Kanami Kiyotsugu (1333-1385), but they seem to have been heavily revised by his son Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), and no surviving play can be securely dated to before their era.

Noh Today

Noh exists today in a form almost unchanged since Zeami's day, and while the repertoire may have shrunk from the over one thousand plays in the Muromachiperiod, there have been several plays written over the years, at least one of which, "Kusu no Tsuyu", written in the late nineteenth century, is often performed. There are approximately 250 plays in the current repertoire, which can be divided according to a variety of schemes. The most common is according to content, but there are several other methods of organization.


Roles

There are four major categories of Noh performers: shite, waki, kyōgen, and hayashi. The shite ( 仕手 , シテ ), literally "doers" are the most common roles in Noh Shite (primary actor):In plays where the shite appears first as a human and then as a ghost, the first role is known as the maeshite and the later as the nochishite Shitezure ( 仕手連れ , シテヅレ ): The shite's companion. Sometimes "shitezure" is abbreviated to "tsure" ( 連れ , ツレ ), although this term refers to both the shitezure and the wakizure . The waki ( 脇 , ワキ ) performs the role that is the counterpart or foil of





Roles

The kyōgen ( 狂言 ) perform the aikyogen ( 相狂言 ) interludes during plays. Kyōgen actors also perform in separate plays between individual noh plays The hayashi ( 囃子 ) or hayashi-kata ( 囃子方 ) are the instrumentalists who play the four instruments used in Noh theater: the transverse flute ( 能管 ), hip drum ( 大鼓 ), the shoulder-drum ( 小鼓 ), and the stick-drum ( 太鼓 ). The jiutai ( 地謡 ) is the chorus, usually comprising six to eight people Kōken ( 後見 ) are stage hands, usually one to three people A typical Noh play will involve four or five categories of actors and usually takes 30-120 minutes. Noh actors were almost exclusively male.



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Meanings of the Masks
 One

of the most striking aspects of the Noh is that the shite, the main actor, may wear a mask, as may his companions, or tsure.  This occurs when the main character is an old man, a youth, a woman, or a supernatural character. Tsure accompany the shite in certain plays, and if they represent one of these groups  They will also be masked, but the shite will not wear a mask if his character is

Masks Cont.

Kokata, or boy actors, never wear masks, nor do waki, the secondary characters who appear first on stage to set the scene, and meet the main actor. Masks are carved from wood, often cedar, which is then gessoed and painted, and include some of the most moving works of sculptural art in Japan, and, since there are so many different types, it takes a certain familiarity with them to recognize specific types. The other ubiquitous prop is the fan, which in a symbolic theater such as Noh, can represent all manner of other objects, such as bottles, swords, pipes, letters walking sticks and so on.



Costumes

The garb worn by actors is typically adorned quite richly and steeped in symbolic meaning for the type of role (e.g. thunder gods will have hexagons on their clothes while serpents have triangles to convey scales). Costumes for the shite in particular are extravagant, shimmering silk brocades, but are progressively less sumptuous for the tsure, the wakizure, and the aikyōgen. For centuries, in accordance with the vision of Zeami, Noh costumes emulated the clothing that the characters would genuinely wear, whether that be the formal robes of a courtier or the street clothing of a peasant or commoner. It was not until the late sixteenth century that stylized Noh costumes following certain symbolic and stylistic conventions became the norm.


Costumes
 The

musicians and chorus typically wear formal montsuki kimono (black and adorned with five family crests) accompanied by either hakama (a skirtlike garment) or kami-shimo, a combination of hakama and a waist-coat with exaggerated shoulders.  Finally, the stage attendants are garbed in virtually unadorned black garments, much in the same way as stagehands in contemporary western theater.

The Noh Stage
 The

play will be performed on a stage open on three sides, and with a painted backboard representing a pine tree behind.  A sort of walkway, called the hashigakari leads onto the stage right position from an entrance doorway at right angles to the backboard.  Along the hashigakari are three small pine trees, and these define areas where the actor may pause to deliver lines, before arriving on the main roofed stage, which

The Noh Stage

Ranged along in front of the backboard is a group of musicians whose instruments include a flute, a shoulder drum, a hip drum and sometimes a stick drum. The musicians are responsible for the otherworldly, strange music which accompanies dance and recitation alike. Again at right angles to the backboard, at extreme stage left, there is the chorus of eight to twelve chanters arranged in two rows and it is their job to take over the narration of the story, or the lines of the main character if he is engaged in a dance. These elements all contribute to a cohesive whole which creates a richly textured background against which the play is enacted, and since no scenery, few props and only a small cast appears, the imagination of the audience is left to roam freely.



World's oldest existing Noh stage at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.

Kabuki Theater

It is strangely ironic that Japanese Kabuki, an exclusively male preserve, a theater where women have been in the audience but not on stage for almost four hundred years, was created in large part by a woman and her female troupe. Kabuki theater was started by a woman, a priestess of a temple. But the shogun who ruled Japan stopped women from being entertainers. (He thought that women entertainers would become like prostitutes to the members of the mostly male audiences). So women were not allowed to be actors in Kabuki theater. Men dressed up as women to play the part of a woman, just like they did in ancient Greek theater, and even in Shakespeare's theater of England of the 1600s!


Kabuki Theater

Kabuki ( 歌舞伎 ) is the highly stylized classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers. The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing ( 歌 ), dance ( 舞 ), and skill ( 伎 ). Kabuki is therefore sometimes translated as "the art of singing and dancing." These are, however, ateji, characters that do not reflect actual etymology. The kanji of 'skill', is however generally referred to as a performer in kabuki theatre. The word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary", so kabuki can be interpreted to mean "avant-garde" or "bizarre" theatre. The expression kabukimono ( 歌舞伎者 ) referred originally to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered on a street.





Kabuki Theater

Kabuki is a type of theater that was more popular with the common people than Noh drama which was popular with the ruling class. Kabuki became popular in the 17th 19th centuries as the middle class became more wealthy and had money to spend on entertainment. The merchants, farmers, and samurai enjoyed drama with more action, comedy, and excitement than the slowpaced and serious Noh dramas. Like noh, kabuki also had musicians, and actors in beautiful costumes. But kabuki theater had elaborate stage designs and props. The actors didn't wear masks, but instead many had their faces painted so their expressions and personalities could easily be seen by the audiences. The actors spoke their own lines, and there was no chorus as in Noh drama. There were several musicians that kept the play lively.


Kabuki Today

The immediate post-World War II era was a difficult time for kabuki. Besides the devastation caused to major Japanese cities as a result of the war, the popular trend was to reject the styles and thoughts of the past, kabuki among them. Director Tetsuji Takechi's popular and innovative productions of the kabuki classics at this time are credited with bringing about a rebirth of interest in the kabuki in the Kansai region. Of the many popular young stars who performed with the Takechi Kabuki, Nakamura Ganjiro III (1931) was the leading figure. He was first known as Nakamura Senjaku, and this period in Osaka kabuki became known as the "Age of Senjaku" in his honor. Today, kabuki remains relatively popular—it is the most popular of the traditional styles of Japanese drama—and its star actors often appear in television or film roles. For example, the well-known onnagata Bandō Tamasaburō V has appeared in several (non-kabuki) plays and movies—often in a female role. Kabuki is also referenced in works of




Kabuki Today

Though there are only a handful of major theatres in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, there are many smaller theatres in Osaka, and throughout the countryside. The Ōshika Kabuki troupe, based in Ōshika ( 大鹿 ), Nagano Prefecture ( 長野県 )



Interest in kabuki has also spread in the West. Kabuki troupes regularly tour Europe and America, and there have been several kabukithemed productions of canonical Western plays such as those of Shakespeare. Western playwrights and novelists have also experimented with kabuki themes, an example of which is Gerald Vizenor's Hiroshima Bugi (2004). Writer Yukio Mishima pioneered and popularized the use of kabuki in modern settings, and revived other traditional arts, such as Noh, adapting them to modern contexts.

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Kabuki was enlisted on the UNESCO's Third Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The November 1895 production of Shibaraku at Tokyo Kabukiza. Center on the state is Kamakura Gongorō Kagemasa, played by

The Stage

The kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi ( 花 道 ), a walkway which extends into the audience and via which dramatic entrances and exits are made. Okuni also performed on a hanamichi stage with her entourage. This type of stage is very important in kabuki theatre. The stage is used not only as a walkway or path to get to and from the main stage, but also important scenes are also played on the stage. Kabuki stages and theaters have steadily become more technologically sophisticated, and innovations including revolving stages and trap doors, introduced during the 18th century, added greatly to the staging of kabuki plays. A driving force has been the desire to make manifest one frequent theme of kabuki theater, that of the sudden, dramatic revelation or transformation.



The Stage

A number of stage tricks, including rapid appearances and disappearances of actors, have evolved using these innovations. The term keren ( 外連 ), often translated playing to the gallery, is sometimes used as a catch-all term for these tricks. Hanamichi and several innovations including revolving stage, seri and chunori have all contributed to sophisticating kabuki play, by which hanamichi creates the second dimensionality (depth) and both seri and chunori gains three dimensionality (height).


The Stage

Mawari-butai (revolving stage) developed in the Kyōhō era (1716–1735). Originally accomplished by the on-stage pushing of a round, wheeled platform, this technique evolved into a circle being cut into the stage floor with wheels beneath it facilitating movement. When the stage lights are lowered during this transition it is known as kuraten (darkened revolve). More commonly the lights are left on for akaten (lighted revolve), sometimes with the transitioning scenes being performed simultaneously for dramatic effect. This stage is very useful because it helps the transition without any distractions. Seri refers to the stage traps that have been commonly employed in kabuki since the middle of the eighteenth century. These traps raise and lower actors or sets to the stage. Seridashi or seriage refers to the traps moving upward and serisage or serioroshi when they are being lowered. This technique is often used for dramatic effect of having an entire scene rise up to appear onstage.



The Stage

In kabuki, as in some other Japanese performing arts, scenery changes are sometimes made mid-scene, while the actors remain on stage and the curtain stays open. This is sometimes accomplished by using a Hiki Dōgu, or small wagon stage. This technique originated at the beginning of the 18th century, where scenery or actors are moved on or off stage by means of a wheeled platform. Also common are stage hands rushing onto the stage adding and removing props, backdrops and other scenery; these stage hands, known as kuroko ( 黒子 ), are always dressed entirely in black and are traditionally considered invisible. These stage hands also assist in a variety of quick costume changes known as hayagawari (quick change technique). In plays, when a character's true nature is suddenly revealed, the devices of hikinuki or bukkaeri are often used. Hikinuki or bukkaeri is accomplished by having costumes layered one over another and having a stage assistant pull the outer one off in front of the audience.



Costumes

Many of the costumes in kabuki reflect the contemporary styles of the day and in fact there was reversal of influence when the theatre began to set the trend of dress for fashionable society. Costumes can designate the class, traits, or age of a character by colour, contour and textile. In addition there are several styles which display an element of fantastic invention particularly suitable for the roles of non human manifestations or "super heroes" such as Shibaraku. Two reasons are suggested as to the need for the invention of such exotic and fantastic creations.The need to simulate the lifestyle of the aristocratics who were made the subject of a particular drama, and to satisfy the demands of the chounin.



Costumes

The costumes themselves are full of subtiety, illusion and hidden meaning, and for the more informed kabukigoers help to emphasise a character's role. The short happi coat for example can infer a samurai's armour and may be printed with the moon or crests of the acting company. The multiple layers of an onnagata's costume is achieved by showing just the hem of each new fabric which is attached to the main outer garment, and the flash of a red lining in a kimono suggests the role of a courtesan. Tattoos, which even to this day symbolise criminality, are applied to a body stocking resembling a fleshcoloured set of "long johns".



Roles

The actors who play female roles are known as onnagata or oyama As kabuki gained a level of respectability, the importance of these roles increased. Role types are divided in many categories. The first great onnagata was Yoshizawa Ayame I (1673~1729). Many of the great kabuki actors have built their reputations solely on these roles. The performances are not so much 'acting' in the Western sense as stylized representations of female beauty or virtue. While early onnagata were required to maintain their feminine persona and dress even in their private lives, this practice was abolished in the Meiji Restoration of 1868.



Roles

The actors who play male roles are known as tachiyaku. Like onnagata male roles are also divided into categories depending on age and social status. In general actors are capable of performing any roles by simply adopting certain way of performing technique. In practice, however, an actors physical attributes can lead to his becoming typecast. The two most important male role types are the superheros of the arragato style popular with the commoners of Edo. The refined young lovers performed in the “gentle” wagato style, which was prefered in the Kyoto-Osaka region




Roles

The aragoto or 'rough style' of acting is exemplified by such exaggeration and dramatic make-up and costume. It is associated with the Ichikawa Danjuro line. Diehards in the audience join in the action, calling out the yago (house or family name) of the actors at prescribed moments in the performance.



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Tokyo Kabuki-Za

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Thank you for listening…

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Atalay Onur Mutluer

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