The History and Art of Kabuki (March 2012)

Ever wondered what the Japanese theatrical form of Kabuki is all about? Why do the actors paint their faces with red stripes? Why are all female characters played by male actors? And why does this 400 year-old art form remain popular in Japan and around the world today?

Join us at the library@esplanade as we discover and celebrate the history and art of Kabuki! These are the exciting programmes we have lined up for you in the month of March.

Public Lecture: Tradition and Innovation in Kabuki

Date: 4 March 2012 (Sunday)
Time: 1pm – 2.30pm
Venue: Open Stage

Despite its 400 year-old history, the traditional Japanese theatrical form of Kabuki still thrives in the most cosmopolitan and modern cities in contemporary Japan. Comparative theatre specialist Ms Yow Wei Meng will share how Kabuki balances tradition and innovation to remain relevant in the present, while Chinese opera and other traditional performing art forms seem increasingly obscure and obsolete. Ms Yow will also explore how Kabuki’s continuing popularity may show us how we can rediscover Singapore’s own traditional performing arts.

Public Lecture and Artist Demonstration by the Association of Traditional Performing Arts of Japan

Date: 11 March 2012 (Sunday)
Time: 7pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Open Stage

In conjunction with the Association’s first performance of Anma to Dorobō (The Masseur and the Thief) in Singapore on 16 and 17 March, the Association will be making a special appearance at the library. Executive Director Takeshiba Genichi will share with the audience how the Association presents Kabuki in an accessible way to revitalise the art form and engage new audiences in Japan and abroad. Kabuki artistes Kikuzuki Kichiju, Senkawa Kiraku and Hanayagi Sumizo, who will be playing the lead roles in Anma to Dorobō, will also perform iconic scenes from famous Kabuki plays. If you have ever wondered how Kabuki plays are produced and staged in Japan, and what the life of a professional Kabuki actor is like, please do remember to stay on for the Question and Answer session with Mr Takeshiba and the cast!

Film Screening: Mizoguchi’s The 47 Ronin

Date: 18 March 2012 (Sunday)
Time: 2pm – 6pm
Venue: Open Stage

Based on a famous cycle of Kabuki plays, Mizoguchi Kenji’s film The 47 Ronin (Genroku Chūnshingura, 1941-1942) re-interprets the legend of the 47 loyal samurai in the light of Japan’s involvement in the Second World War. In the film, a feudal lord named Asano is goaded on by the insults of a senior ranking official to draw his sword in the shogun’s palace. He is unfairly sentenced to death for the crime while the cowardly and conniving official escapes all punishment. Lord Asano’s samurai vassals decide to act in accordance with bushidō – “the way of the warrior” – and to exact vengeance on the official in defiance of the shogun’s law. Paradoxically emphasising inaction and implications rather than the heroic act of vindication itself, the film refuses to glorify its subject matter in the service of propaganda, and instead presents a highly complex and ambivalent meditation on justice, morality and militarism.

The History and Art of Kabuki is a festival organised by the library@esplanade, in partnership with the Japan Creative Centre, the Association of Traditional Performing Arts of Japan and Vivid Creations.

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