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Early Asian Theater

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  1. Early Asian Theater From India, China, and Japan

  2. Indian Theater • Sanskrit Drama • Written in Sanskrit, the language of the noble classes and performed in court circles • The Natyasastra as example of Indian theatre • Set and scenery • Costumes • Dance and movement

  3. Characteristics of Sanskrit Drama • They use stories drawn from the great Indian epics • The Mahabharata • The Ramayana • The stages were elaborately decorated • no representational scenery was used • Movements of every part of the body, vocal delivery, and song were all strictly codified

  4. Chinese Theater • Religion, philosophy had large influence on Chinese theater • Confucianism • Stresses responsibility of individual to others • Taoism • Stresses simplicity, patience and nature’s harmony • Shamanism • Rituals combined costumes, song, dance and gesture

  5. Tang Period (618-906 C.E.) • Court Entertainments • Included skits, pantomimes, juggling, singing and dancing • Pear Garden • Actor’s training institute • Variety plays • Traveling troupes, shadow puppets

  6. Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) • Literary intellectuals wrote essays and poetry; snubbed plays and theater • Mongols took power and literari were unemployed • Began writing plays called zaju • Composed texts to suit rhythms of popular music • Protagonist sang all the music • Had only a few characters • Topics ranged from love and romance to religion and history, and even bandit heroes

  7. Yuan Dynasty • Mixture of high art and popular theatrical traditions • Compared to Elizabethan England and 5th century Greece • The Orphan of Chao • Deals with vengeance, sacrifice and loyalty • First Chinese plays known in the West • The Circle of Chalk • Lawsuit-and-trial genre • Bertolt Brecht saw a version and wrote The Caucasian Chalk Circle

  8. Japanese Theater • Japanese followed Shinto and Buddhism • Three Types of Theater • Noh • Kyōgen is a comedic form of Noh • Bunraku • Puppets • Kabuki • Popular theater

  9. Noh Theater • Developed in 14th century by Kan’ami • Son Zeami Motokiyo took over and improved the form • Noh traditions are passed on from teacher to disciple which continues to this day • Characters based on literary or historical figures familiar to audience

  10. Characteristics of Noh • Major roles are masked • Actors move in a highly stylized fashion • Based on dance and pantomime • Actors alternate between chanting and heightened speech • Poetic, artistic and written to the music

  11. Bunraku • Puppet theater named after a famous puppeteer • Started as a way to illustrate a chanter’s music • Chanted texts called jōruri • Chanters perform all voices in a play, narration and set mood

  12. Puppets • Manipulated by 3 people • Legs • Left arm • Head and right arm • Puppets are 3 feet tall

  13. Kabuki Theater • Combined Noh and Bunraku elements • Movement like puppets • Faces painted like masks • Became more popular than Bunraku • Kabuki and Bunraku less formal than Noh • Noh remained theater of Samurai class

  14. Characteristics of Kabuki • Actors trained from childhood • Vocal dexterity • Dancing • Acting • Physical versatility • Male actors only • Costumes and makeup elegant and gorgeous • Movements larger than life and theatrical • Elaborate scenic effects