chapter  1
13 Pages

The Performing Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan: A Prelude to Kabuki

On March 7, 1949, the members of a kabuki company called Zenshin-za with their families-over seventy people in all-joined the Japan Communist Party. The acting world of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japan was organized in families. A few families, such as the Ichikawa, achieved fame and position because of the brilliance of their heads at an early stage of kabuki development. The commercialism of kabuki had two important consequences. First, it became the custom to perform only selected scenes from plays, usually the scenes that showed off the leading actors' talents to best advantage. Second, commercialism reinforced the traditional idea of the theatre as a place for social gathering. Kabuki actors were regarded as belonging to a class so low that it was not included in the official classification. Japanese society from 1615 to 1868 was officially divided into four classes. These were, in descending order of precedence, the samurai, the peasants, the artisans, and, the merchants.