What Is Kabuki Theater?

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Kabuki theater is a traditional type of dance-drama theater from Japan. The performances on the kabuki stage were highly dramatized and strangely bizarre. Lavish costumes were worn by actors, and the storylines that where presented often included fantastical elements. Kabuki theater has been around since the early 1600s, and continues to be practiced to this day.

Hanamichi

  • This is a special type of stage that extends from the main stage out into the audience. Dramatic entrances and exits are performed here, as well as important dramatic scenes.

Types

  • There are three main types of performances played at kabuki theaters. Jidaimono are historical pieces often focusing on samurai, Sewamono are more modern and focus on commoners, and Shosagoto are primarily dance pieces.

Full Day Structure

  • Unlike Western theater traditions, which involve seeing a single play for 2 to 3 hours, kabuki theater is meant to be enjoyed as an all-day event. Some plays go on for a full day, while other times multiple plays are put together to form a full-day repertoire.

Acts

  • Plays performed at kabuki theaters traditionally have five acts. The first is a slow opening, followed by three acts that speed up the action, and ending in a short concluding fifth act.

Chunori

  • This is an element of kabuki that was added in the middle of the nineteenth century. It involves attaching an actor to a wire to create the illusion of flight, which is what was used in Western plays such as "Peter Pan."

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