New rivals stage a tale of ancient rivalry

Nov 14, 2001

New rivals stage a tale of ancient rivalry

This month, the kabuki masterpiece “Yoshitsune Senbonzakura (Yoshitsune and One Thousand Cherry Trees),” adapted from the 1747 bunraku play written by Takeda Izumo, Mamiki Senryu and Miyoshi Shoraku, is being staged at two theaters in Tokyo: the National Theater of Japan in Hanzomon and ...

Oct 17, 2001

Revenge drama: keeping it in the family

During the 17th and 18th centuries, news of successful acts of revenge (katakiuchi) by samurai circulated fast among ordinary people in Japan. Many of these stories were highly dramatic and became sources of inspiration for kabuki and bunraku dramas. Kichiemon Nakamura (left) tackles the ...

Sep 26, 2001

Rising stars shine in kabuki's heirloom roles

During the month of September, the Kabukiza Theater and the nearby Shinbashi Enbujo Theater are presenting competing kabuki midori (selections). The Kabukiza’s program features such veteran actors as Kichiemon Nakamura, Baigyoku Nakamura and Jakuemon Nakamura, as well as up-and-coming performers in their 30s such ...

Sep 19, 2001

Puppet-actors drum up enthusiasm

Using the unique device of actors performing as bunraku-style puppets, complete with visible, black-clad puppeteers, France’s Theatre du Soleil is in Tokyo to present its 1999 creation, “Tambours sur la Digue (Drummers on the Dike).” Directed by Ariane Mnouchkine, the play’s unusual nature is ...

Sep 5, 2001

A master of many voices

Celebrating the 35th anniversary of its foundation, through Sept. 23 the National Theater of Japan in Tokyo is presenting “Honcho Nijushiko” (The 24 Models of Filial Piety), one of the most grandiose historical bunraku plays (jidaimono), almost in its entirety. A scene from “The ...

Jul 18, 2001

Soaring spectacle crowns classic kabuki triple bill

He’s known as the champion of Super Kabuki, but for his two-part summer program at the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo this month, Ennosuke Ichikawa is staging regular-style productions of a new one-hour play, “Kaka Saiyuki,” and “Shunkan,” adapted from part of Chikamatsu Monzae- mon’s ...

Jun 20, 2001

Weaving a web of destiny wherein ambition's caught

In 1957, Akira Kurosawa made a remarkable movie titled “Kumonosu-jo (Spider’s Web Castle),” adapted from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The film is still admired today for its spectacular shots and the striking performances of Toshiro Mifune as the principal character Washizu Taketoki and Isuzu Yamada ...

May 23, 2001

Dankikusai passes torch to a new generation

For the month of May, the Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo is presenting a special program celebrating the Dankikusai (Danjuro-Kikugoro Festival). The afternoon program features “The Tale of Genji, Part II” in three acts, and the evening program includes two strikingly intense plays, “Gappo’s Abode” ...

May 13, 2001

The makings of an omozukai

Tamao Yoshida is a dominating figure in the bunraku theater of today: A living national treasure, he has a 62-year history as a puppeteer. Onstage, he is elegantly composed, his countenance impassive as he manipulates his puppet with the aid of two assistants covered ...

May 13, 2001

Bunraku: No strings attached

Bunraku is a dramatic performance staged with puppets, each of which is manipulated by a team of three men, with narration and dialogue provided by a separate singer accompanied by a shamisen. Tokubei and Ohatsu in “Sonezki Shinju” The principal puppeteer (omozukai) controls the ...