Theater students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) are traveling to Japan in June to stage a rare English-language kabuki production at a classic playhouse in Gifu Prefecture, as a homecoming for a kabuki tradition taken to the Pacific islands by Japanese immigrants in the 19th century.

The show, part of the UHM's kabuki project to produce "The Maiden Benten and the Bandits of the White Waves," better known as "Benten Kozo," comes after performances at the on-campus Kennedy Theater in Honolulu in April to mark the centennial anniversary of the first English-language kabuki performance ever given in Hawaii in 1924. "Benten Kozo" is a popular kabuki play depicting the twists and turns of five thieves following their own code of honor.

The project is led by UHM professor Julie Iezzi, a 61-year-old Asian theater specialist, in collaboration with Ichikawa Monnosuke VIII, 64, the eighth generation of a kabuki family lineage stretching back to 1713, during Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868).