AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 56

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Session 56: Theatre and Performance

U-Theatre/Youren Shengu and Jerzy Grotowski: In Search of a New Form of Theatre
Izabella Labedzka, Independent Scholar, Poland

This paper focuses on contemporary Taiwanese U-Theatre/Youren Shengu created in the late 80ies by Liu Jingmin (Liu Ruoyu). Liu Jingmin's search for a new form of theatre was inspired by one of the most influential theatre stage directors of the 20th century, Jerzy Grotowski, and his rigorous physical and vocal actor's training. Grotowski's ideas reminded Taiwanese theatre reformers of the importance of the Far Eastern theatrical tradition and drew their attention to it. From the peculiar encounter of the Eastern tradition and the Western avant-garde a new original form of theatre was born. This theatre is at the same time universal, global and specifically Taiwanese, local. In my paper I try to show how U-Theatre/Youren Shengu's leader and actors make use of different Asian and Western performing arts, meditation, martial arts, theatre of masks and puppets etc. to create their own idea of theatre and understanding of actor's profession.

Performing the Feminine: A Cross-Cultural Study of Female Roles in Western Opera, Chinese Opera, and Chinese Narrative Performance
Francesca Rebollo S. Lawson, Brigham Young University, USA

Performing the Feminine: A Cross-cultural Study of Female Roles in Western Opera, Chinese Opera, and Chinese Narrative Performance Performing feminine roles has sparked intense controversy in Chinese and Western operatic performances over the past several centuries. While women have had the opportunity to represent themselves on the Western operatic stage for a longer period of time than their Chinese counterparts, female singers in Western opera have had to endure particularly negative stereotypes in the roles they perform. Female roles in Chinese opera have been more positive, but they were performed exclusively by men until the twentieth century. As Chinese women took over their own representation, female narrative singers were able to take full advantage of all the positive features associated with Chinese female icons, providing a sharp contrast to female operatic singers in both Western and Chinese opera.

A Dialogue Between the Occidental and the Oriental: Tricksterism in Chuan Tze and Spider Woman Theater
Yi-jou Lo, , Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Trickster, according to Paul Radin “is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself” (xxiii). Such an in-between flexible penchant constructs Trickster a best topic for the dialogue between the East and the West. This paper, as a result, intends to excogitate the similarities and the differences of Tricksterism in the Occidental and Oriental in terms of a study on the Oriental masterpiece, Chuang Tze and Occidental plays made by Spider Woman Theater composed of three North American indigenes, famous for their erratic, crotchety story-telling style. Mutability is almost a well-known idiosyncrasy in Chuang Tzu while Spider Woman Theater manifests such mutability on stage explicitly and substantially. In light of the reading, trans(form)ation of Trickster is contextualized and registered by different aspects in different cultures.

Rebels Without a Cause? Searching for the “Political” in Contemporary Japanese Theatre
Lisa Mundt, Frankfurt University, Germany

According to scholars and critics, theatre in Japan today finds itself in a post-sociocritical state. However, there has been a shift from mere entertainment towards a critical examination of the relation between individual and society in the works of Japanese theatre troupes since the mid-1990s. By creating performances in small scale theatres, they have established a vibrant and sometimes even anarchic “counter space” to consumer-oriented popular culture, enthusiastically followed by a young audience. In this following the 1960s’ avantgarde movement, theatre obivously still appeals to the youth by discussing critical and political topics. Taking the assumption that theatre in Japan has lost its political attitude as a starting point, this paper aims to examine how recent discoursive approaches within contemporary theatre can be understood as a challenge to conventional definitions and understandings of “political”, “political theatre”, or “political involvement”. Are there underlying norms of protest? Does theatre need a political agenda to be considered “political”? Methodically, this paper is based on an interdisciplinary approach, combining japanese/cultural studies and dramatics/performance studies. The focus is on Tokyo-based independent theatre troupes and their young aspiring playwrights who are considered to be the driving force behind recent trends in contemporary theatre. Furthermore, this paper aims to explore different conceptions of the “political” in contemporary Japanese theatre by examining the use of public and private space, the emergence of a young theatrical community, and by listening to the critical voices uttered on stage.

The Influence of Place on the Performing Arts: Genroku Kabuki Scripts and Shijo-Kawara in Kyoto
Teruaki Yano, University of Tsukuba, Japan

This paper will explore the influences of Shijo-Kawara, riverside slum area in Kyoto on Genroku Kabuki scripts, analyzing the Kabuki plots and the public perception towards Shijo-Kawara where the early Kabuki was performed. The Kabuki plays performed in Shijo-Kawara during the Genroku era(1688-1703) had similar plotlines which centered around a debauched male character that is the son of a feudal lord. The story comically depicts how he manages to return to his previous social status after he is disowned by his father because of his debauchery in a brothel. The story seems to be a vulgarized form of the works of the aristocratic culture during the Heian period(794-1192). However until the Genroku period none of the plays depicted the eroticism of prostitutes. Furthermore, in the prior performing arts such a flawed protagonist usually had a tragic end. I contend that the characteristics of this story were influenced by the atmosphere and history of Shijo-Kawara where outcasts such as performers and prostitutes had lived from the Muromachi period(1333-1573). Later it became a red-light district lined with brothels and show tents. Other entertainment districts such as Doutonbori and Kobikicho in Osaka and Edo respectively were newly constructed by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the plays performed in these areas were mainly serious dramas of heroic samurai. I base my analysis on the Kabuki scripts of Chikamatsu Monzaemon and visual materials such as illustrations of Shijo-Kawara, which I will compare to primarily Heian period literatures and other Kabuki plays performed in Osaka and Edo.

Women in Asian Performance, But Not Female-- A Study of Mei Lanfang and Tamasaburo Bando from the Gender Perspective
Ming Yang, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Women in Asian Performance, But Not Female -- A Study of Mei Lanfang and Tamasaburo Bando from the Gender Perspective Two figures stand out in modern Asian Performance as impersonators of women – Mei Lanfang of Chinese Jingju (also known as “Beijing/Peking Opera”) and Tamasaburo Bando of Japanese Kabuki. Though when Mei passed away in 1961, Tamasaburo was only 11 years old, they both achieved great success in their stage performances. Altogether for about 100 years, they have been the focus of attention to the audiences, both male and female, and of the interest of researchers, from the East and the West. This paper will raise questions including but not limited to the following: How can Mei and Tamasaburo both succeed in their “invasive” entrance into the female space on Chinese and Japanese stage? Why are they acclaimed by both male and female audience? What are the possible reasons that they have been warmly received and highly praised among the international audience and critics? In order to address those questions, the paper will examine the two figures along a historical analysis combined with the approach of comparative study. It will make use of theories of gender studies, the audience reception esthetics especially in terms of performers’ femininity and masculinity, and cultural studies. The paper will also try to review the enduring academic interest in those two figures by understanding it from the gender perspective.