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Ganjirō III and Chikamatsu's "Lost" Kabuki Masterpiece

From: Asian Theatre Journal
Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2000
pp. 51-77 | 10.1353/atj.2000.0004



Nakamura Ganjirō III, one of kabuki's outstanding contemporary actors, has made it one of his life's goals to reintroduce the long-abandoned kabuki plays of Japan's great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Chikamatsu is best known for his puppet plays, many of which later became kabuki classics, but the plays he wrote solely for kabuki are not widely known. Reviving such "lost" plays is fraught with difficulties that assume a particular interest because the revival process is undertaken within a highly conventionalized theatre genre. A classical actor-director like Ganjirō faces the problem not only of how to bring three-hundred-year-old plays back in a semblance of their original form but how to make them viable for modern audiences. Laurence Kominz's essay on Ganjirō's recent revival of Keisei Mibu Dainenbutsu (1702) provides fascinating insights into the process. Kominz was present at rehearsals and was with the production at its first and last performances. He discusses not only the production process but the business and artistic environment in which Ganjirō's noble experiments are trying to take root.

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