Kabuki Theater Research Paper
Three characters referring to dance, music, and skill represent kabuki in the Japanese language. Kabuki is the traditional Japanese form of theatre. Tradition has it that kabuki was founded in 1603, in the Edo period, by a Shinto priestess named Okuni. Dressed like man, she and her troupe of mainly women performed dances and sketches on a stage set up in the riverbed of the Kamogawa River in Kyoto. Kabuki theatre, in contrast with older Japanese art forms such as Noh, was cultured for the townspeople and not of the upper class. It remains widely popular among the people, and is drawing large audiences even now. Though highly stylized, Kabuki is much like traditional theatrical art. Essential qualities of theatre include the audience, environment, performers, what is being performed, and performance.
One of the most important differences between theatre and other performance arts such as film and television is the audience factor. The first kabuki stages were just raised platforms on dry riverbeds. It was not until 1617, that licenses were issued to allow the construction of permanent kabuki theatres. City officials did not allow the theatres to be roofed until 1724. The traditional kabuki stage is a variation of a platform and thrust stage, with the audience sitting on three sides. One unique invention of the kabuki stage is the hanamichi, a walkway from the back of the theatre through the audience to stage right, enabling the actors to make an entrance. First invented in Japan, the revolving stage makes the rapid change of scenery possible. The relationship between the performers and the audience in a kabuki play is a unique one. Inside a kabuki theatre, one would hear shouts of encouragement or recognition from the audience called kakegoe. These shouts consist of the audience praising the actor on stage by referring to the actor's yago, a predecessor of the same name. There may be moments during a play when an actor comes out of his role to address the audience directly, whether to introduce a new rising star or to welcome another actor to the city. The atmosphere in a kabuki theatre is very spirited. One is likely to see the audience eating and drinking freely at the intermissions or even during the performance. The basic themes of kabuki plays involve conflict between the feudalistic system and the human element.
Kabuki is above all else an actor's...