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Compare and Contrast Kabuki Theater With Modern Broadway Theater

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​Kabuki was one of the three most popular dramatic forms of Japan, the other two being Noh drama and puppet theater (bunraku)

Singers and an orchestra of drums, flutes, wooden clappers, and samisen (a stringed instrument similar to the banjo) accompanied the highly stylized dialogue, lively and often violent action, and captivating dances of Kabuki. The plays were all-day entertainments that included lunch and tea.

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Can the American theater learn anything from Kabuki, the popular theater of Japan which has continued in essentially unchanged form since it achieved maturity three centuries ago? And does it signify anything of importance that the Grand Kabuki has returned for the second time in two years after only two previous, historic visits to this country in 1960 and 1969? The Grand Kabuki troupe led by the revered actor, Kanzaburo Nakamura XVII, and which includes his son Kankuro V and the brilliant Tomijuro Nakamura V, is appearing Tuesday through Feb.18 at New York's Beacon Theater. The company's performances this past week at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. coincided with the opening of the Terrace Theater, the Kennedy Center's fourth theater, which was built with funds donated by the Japanese government. Later this month the Grand Kabuki company will conclude its tour with five performances in Los Angeles. Given the rarity of its appearances in this country, the Kabuki is probably better known to the American public through Japanese prints and its extensive influence upon Japanese period films and movie actors, many of whom are from Kabuki theater

But even with this not insignificant preparation, the average American theatergoer enters a dazzlingly different world in‐Kabuki theater.The dance “Renjishi” is based on a Chinese legend about the training of a lion cub by its parent in the rigors of survival. It has become a favorite signature piece for the father‐and‐son team, Kanzaburo and Kankuro. It is a fine example of the virtuosity of Kabuki actors as dancers, and it is astounding that Kanzaburo XVII is performing the dance at the age of 70. It is fitting that he is considered one of Japan's greatest Living National Treasures. But what has the Kabuki to do with American theater? How can such a totally different theatrical world contribute to our theater? I asked some of our leading directors and theater experts what they had learned and what they believed Kabuki could contribute to American theater.

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For the most part, the old provincial stock companies folded and theatres became touring venues rather than producing houses. A breed of managers arose who made money from the possession of the bricks and mortar property rather than by presenting their own productions. In the United States the Theatrical Syndicate established great fortunes from the New York theatres and the almost unlimited touring circuit that the railways opened up

The change in status from enterprise to industry gave rise to the commercial theatre systems of the West End in London and Broadway in New York City. Improvement in travel in general made it possible to increase the links between the two systems early in the 20th century, and the exchange of productions further extended the possibilities of profitable exploitation.

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