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Asian Theatre Journal 21.2 (2004) 216-219

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Frozen Moments: Writings On Kabuki 1966-2001. By Samuel L. Leiter. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell East Asia Series No. 111, 2002. xx + 360 pp. Illus. $21.00 (paper).

In Frozen Moments, Samuel L.Leiter presents an impressive collection of fifteen essays previously presented at conferences or published in scholarly journals, now newly revised for publication in this volume. To introduce the collection, Leiter asserts his intent to design a book of interest "toWestern readers who might not otherwise have access to the abundant Japanese literature in the field" (p. xi); to that end, he provides a wide range of articles covering various subjects in differing degrees of detail. With this collection, Leiter has presented valuable information about kabuki actors and acting, kabuki scenic techniques, and the early kabuki stage. These "moments" published over a period of forty years have held up well over time. This book is an asset for any Asian theatre course especially, as it presents new information previously not available in English.

Structurally, Leiterdividesthebook intofour main categories,"Actors," "Performance," "Theatre," and "History." The section covering actors includes three articles: four interviews with kabuki actors, an article about the life and work of Ichikawa Danjürō XI, and a comparison of the lives of Sir Henry Irving and Ichikawa Danjürō IX. "Four Interviews with Kabuki Actors" is in fact itself a "frozen moment," a verbal portrait of four kabuki actors at the height of their talent and popularity. Of these actors (Nakamura Tomijürō V [1929-],Bandō Mitsugorō VIII [1906-1975], Onoe Baiko VII[1915-1995], and Nakamura Utaemon VI [1917-2001]), three of the four have passed on, while Nakamura Tomijürō V is now one of the respected elders in the kabuki world. Each actor discussed his view of kata (form in acting), his acting influences, and kimochi (the actor's feelings during a performance). Though the answers varied according to the individual, each actor's reverence for training and Japanese acting traditions was evident. When questioned in the interview, three of the four reported that they had read or been exposed to Stanislavski's theories of acting (Nakamura UtaemonVI had not). One wonders how the succeeding two generations of kabuki actors would answer the Stanislavski question today.

The performance section features eight different essays on varying types of performing, from acting techniques such as mie (frozen moments from which the book takes its title), keren (special effects), kabuki violence, onnagata (female role specialists), and form in kabuki acting, and two essays about Americans learning and performing kabuki. The articles on mie, violence in kabuki, and form in acting provide detailed explanations on performance [End Page 216] technique. For example, in the essay"Frozen Moments" Leiter explores different types of stylized poses and their desired effect when performed by aragoto (bravura) characters, young romantic characters, and female characters. "Beautiful Cruelty" features explanations and examples of torture scenes, head substitution, and an extensive section on stage combat. " Kumagai Jinya: Form and Tradition in Japanese Acting" describes the differences in performance style by the Ichikawa Danjürō IX and Nakamura Shikan IV acting families when acting the leading role of Kumagai. The photographs work well to illustrate the differences in acting style. To treat special effects, Leiter includes " Keren: Spectacle and Trickery in Kabuki Acting,"which provides a short history of keren (stage effects and acrobatics) and includes sections on chünori (flying), honmizu (using real water on stage), and hayagawari (quick change techniques). In the hayagawari section of the essay, Leiter provides detailed examples of Ichikawa Ennosuke III's interpretation of Tadanobu the Fox from Yoshitsune SenbonZakura. He includes a diagram of the stage, several photographs, and a moment-by-moment description of the stage action revealing the acting and technical details of one of the most popular scenes in kabuki. Each of these essays dealing with performance techniques would provide an excellent lesson for an introductory Asian theatre class, especially when coupled with videotape.

The article on keren is immediately followed with another essay on special effects...


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