Ancient Art -- Bunraku Puppet Theater -- To Perform At U.Va.
21, 1999 -- The celebrated Tonda Puppet Theater of
Japan, touring in the United States for the first time ever, will
give four performances, including one at the University of Virginia.
Japanese Bunraku Puppet Troupe will present its ancient art
at the 595-seat Culbreth Theater on Thursday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
in the late 1600s, the Japanese puppet theater had become the most
popular form of dramatic entertainment by the 18th century - the
age of the Shoguns. Known as bunraku, the theater attracted outstanding
playwrights, including Chikamatsu, who is sometimes called the "Shakespeare
of Japan." Bunraku plays are some of the most important written
dramas in all of Japanese literature.
large repertory of bunraku drama includes plays about mythic warriors
and heroes along with those about ordinary townspeople and portrayals
of real-life events. Bunraku was especially popular among the business
people of Japan and several of the most famous plays concern
love affairs between merchants and courtesans. In the words of the
"Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan," "The bunraku theater presents
dramas both serious and entertaining, as well as beautifullychoreographed
dances, for an audience primarily of adults with cultivated sensibilities."
the Punch-and-Judy marionettes of the European tradition, bunraku
puppets are half-life-sized. Each puppet is manipulated by a puppet
master and two assistants who are clothed in black and in full view
of the audience. The puppets act out the play to the accompaniment
of music andchanting.
troupe will demonstrate puppet techniques as part of the show. Some
of its puppets are more than 170 years old and the costumes include
sumptuous antique silks and brocades. Martin Holman of Berea College,
of Berea, Ky., will narrate the performance in English.
Tonda troupe, in existence for almost 200 years, is from the historic
area of Lake Biwa, near Kyoto. Traditionally, the art of puppetry
was passed down from father to eldest son. In recent years, men
as well as women from outside the puppeteering families have been
welcomed into thetroupe. The Tonda troupe is now officially designated
an "Intangible Cultural Treasure" of Japan.
U.Va. sponsors of the performance are the East
Asia Center, the U.Va. Library, the Division of Asian and Middle
Eastern Languages and Cultures, the Bayly
Museum, and the Drama
its initial stop in Virginia, the only one in the Southeast, the
troupe will travel to Newton, N.J., on Aug. 13; Allendale, Mich.,
on Aug. 15; and Provo, Utah, on Aug. 18 and 19.
admission tickets for the performance cost $5. They are now on sale
at U.Va.'s Newcomb Hall, Room 436; at Mincer's, on the University
Corner; in Alderman Library, Room 522. If seats are still available,
tickets also will be sold at the door.
more information, contact Kendon Stubbs at (804) 924-3026 or (804)
924-7849; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858.