Breaking the Kabuki Actors' Barriers: 1868-1900
The form of Japanese popular theatre known as kabuki, like Elizabethan drama, mingles hair-raising realism with extreme formalism, and low farce with high seriousness. This chapter points out certain parallels in historical background and some striking similarities in techniques that will suggest to the imaginative director fresh and exciting perspectives on the production of Elizabethan plays. The early Elizabethan actor was more versatile than his modern counterpart. Like the kabuki actor, he was a dancer and an acrobat as well. The kabuki stage gives each man or woman a different way of walking, a distinctive makeup, varying ways of using the voice, and diverse colors and forms of costumes to suggest class, character, and feelings. Like the women of kabuki, the Elizabethan beauty desired nothing so much as a milk-white skin and often destroyed her complexion to achieve it. Similar performing conditions bred other resemblances between kabuki and Elizabethan drama.