April 11, 2011
Kabuki Theatre: Japan’s National Treasure
Kabuki Theater has captured the hearts and minds of the Japanese audience from its beginnings over four centuries ago to the present day. In Kabuki wild spectacles of song and dance transpire, different from anything familiar to the Western observer. Its color, drama, and richness of costumes and characters contrast wildly with the simplicity and functionality of which the Japanese people live their lives. Kabuki Theater seen today has been shaped by historical tensions about women, religious influences in Japanese society, and is considered to be the people’s theater filled with unique styles and ideas. In order to understand this wild spectacle and its unique techniques of staging and characters, one must look behind the make-up and understand the drama’s widespread roots deeply intertwined in Japan’s popular culture. The word kabuki, as shown in the history of name, is a type of acting based on the arts of singing and dancing (Miyake 11). However, mixed in this display is a variety of hidden aspects such as make-up, costumes, and special effects that make a Kabuki performance unlike any other. Kabuki is a very complicated, highly refined art involving stylized movement to the sounds of instruments such as the Tsuke that takes many years to master (National Theater of Japan). Unlike Noh Theater it does not use masks, but incorporates a vast variety of styles and effects, from the realistic to the grandiosely extravagant through cosmetics (Leiter 18-22). The colors used have symbolic meanings. For example, blue usually indicates evil and red is used to express strength or virtue. Wigs are utilized to inform the audience about the characters age, occupation, and social status and are worn by all characters in Kabuki (The British Museum). In the theater, each character has a defining moment, called a Mie. The Mie displays the characters personality. The...
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