Life and death are major themes for artists, and for dramatists no less.

In Japan, its traditional all-male kabuki stages have long witnessed fathers killing sons to fulfil a duty to their lord, heroines played by onnagata (male actors who specialize in female roles) giving their lives for truth, honor or justice, and suchlike wrenching events.

Now, in his first venture into kabuki, the modern playwright Ryuta Horai is set to chart a similar-but-different course for April's fifth edition of the Akasaka Grand Kabuki since the late, great actor Kanzaburo Nakamura XVIII founded the event at the ACT Theater in Akasaka in 2008 to extend the performing art's reach beyond its regular, glitzy venues elsewhere in the capital.