Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 19, no. 1 (2002)

Editor’s Note
Samuel L. Leiter, p. iii


Tokyo Notes: A Play by Hirata Oriza
translated and introduced by M. Cody Poulton, p. 1

Hirata Oriza’s Tokyo Notes, which has had some forty productions since it won the thirty-ninth Kishida Kunio Award, Japan’s highest prize for new drama, in 1995, toured North America in the fall of 2000. In its focus on the understated and ordinary, the play is an exemplary work of the shizuka na engeki (quiet theatre) movement prevalent in Japan in the past decade. In his introduction, translator M. Cody Poulton argues that while Hirata’s theatre recalls the naturalism of early-twentieth-century shingeki (new theatre), the playwright’s aversion to dramatic convention and overt expressions of emotion or ideological messages, as well as his use of colloquial Japanese, make him a significant voice in contemporary Japanese theatre.

M. Cody Poulton teaches Japanese theatre and literature at the University of Victoria in Canada. He is the author of Spirits of Another Sort: The Plays of Izumi Kyoka (2001) and translator of three kabuki plays for the series Kabuki Plays On Stage edited by James R. Brandon and Samuel L. Leiter, which is being published by the University of Hawai‘i Press.


Contemplating Peonies: A Symposium on Three Productions of Tang Xianzu’s The Peony Pavilion
edited by Susan Pertel Jain, p. 121

Recently a spate of strikingly different productions brought a Chinese classic, The Peony Pavilion, to international attention. Struck by this phenomenon, the editor of ATJ asked its outgoing associate editor, Susan Pertel Jain, a Chinese theatre specialist who had worked on one of the productions, to gather comments on them from various scholars. The result is the following series of brief essays by Judith T. Zeitlin, David Rolston, and Catherine Swatek.

Susan Pertel Jain is a freelance producer of international performing arts and cultural exchange events. She has a doctorate in theatre from the University of Hawai`i, and since 1988 she has worked actively to help immigrant artists from China find opportunities to showcase their art in the United States. In 1988 she introduced master kunqu artist Madam Hua Wenyi to theatre director Peter Sellars. Ten years later, the three worked together on a production of Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion. Dr. Jain is an outgoing associate editor of ATJ.

My Year of Peonies
Judith T. Zeitlin, p. 124

The year 1998 marked the four hundredth anniversary of Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion. By 1999 three major productions of the play had appeared in Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia. Chinese literature scholar Judith T. Zeitlin is one of the few who saw all three of these productions. In this article she examines them in terms of their relationship to Tang’s original text and to the modern kunqu performance tradition.

Judith T. Zeitlin is associate professor of Chinese literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She has published several articles on Peony Pavilion and literati theatre culture of the Ming and Qing. Professor Zeitlin is currently completing a book manuscript on ghosts in the seventeenth-century Chinese literary imagination.

Tradition and Innovation in Cheng Shi-Zheng’s Peony Pavilion
David Rolston, p. 134

“Complete” and “authentic” were terms frequently used to describe the fifty-five-scene production of Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion directed by Chen Shi-Zheng for the Lincoln Center Festival. David Rolston attended one of the New York performances and explores how this production relates to the performance tradition and what influence it might have on future productions.

David Rolston is associate professor of Chinese language and literature in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. His publications include two books on the interaction between traditional Chinese fiction commentary and fiction production and consumption as well as a monograph on the uses of oral performing literature in traditional Chinese fiction. In the early 1980s he was the first foreign-language secretary of the foremost jingju (Beijing opera) academy on Taiwan and participated in amateur performances of jingju and kunqu with fellow students at National Taiwan University. He is now at work on a long-term project investigating the nature of the world conjured up on the jingju stage.

Boundary Crossings: Peter Sellars’s Production of Peony Pavilion
Catherine Swatek, p. 147

Peony Pavilion scholar Catherine Swatek sat in on the New York rehearsals of Peter Sellars’s production, was present at the show’s opening in Vienna, and later attended performances in London and Berkeley. With extensive knowledge of the text, the performance tradition, and Sellars’s production, Professor Swatek discusses the show vis-á-vis the language, imagery, and thematic content of Tang Xianzu’s play.

Catherine Swatek is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests are in premodern vernacular literature, especially drama. Her forthcoming book, Peony Pavilion Onstage, will appear in the spring of 2002.

Glossary: Chinese Characters for Symposium
p. 159


Restoring an Imagined Past: The National Theatre and the Question of Authenticity in Kabuki
Barbara E. Thornbury, p. 161

By the mid-1970s, full productions of (toshi kyogen) productions of kabuki, which were central to the mission of the Kokuritsu Gekijo (National Theatre) when it opened in 1966, had noticeably declined in number. A more eclectic program approach began to dominate the schedule. Lack of money to put into complex toshi kyogen, lack of willing and able theatre personnel, and restive audiences have been suggested as causes. Yet they do not really explain what amounts to a reversal of policy. Rather, toshi kyogen as “authentic” kabuki at the Kokuritsu Gekijo had symbolized the postwar restoration and revival of Japanese culture as a whole. The history of the toshi kyogen project, in fact, can be traced back to the Occupation years–and to influential people such as Faubion Bowers and Onoe Kikugoro VI. Once an adequate degree of success had been achieved in producing toshi kyogen, the number of such productions quite logically diminished. The Kokuritsu Gekijo now faces a pressing task: to revitalize kabuki by incubating and nurturing new works.

Barbara E. Thornbury is associate professor of Japanese at Temple University. She is the author of The Folk Performing Arts: Traditional Culture in Contemporary Japan (1997).

Popular Workers’ Shadow Theatre in Thailand
Paul Dowsey-Magog, p. 184

One of the least-known forms of Southeast Asian shadow puppet theatre, the nang talung of southern Thailand, is part of a long tradition of rural ritual performance, but now incorporates newly invented stories with contemporary music and technique–creating a vibrant, popular appeal among its regional audience, particularly in urban centers and on television. In this article the author offers a brief introduction to the form and explains how changes in contemporary performance are affected by prevailing restraints.

Paul Dowsey-Magog completed his doctorate on Thai theatre at Sydney University and is currently completing a book on Thai shadow theatre titled Demons with Mobile Phones. He has previously published in both Australian and Thai academic journals and now lectures in the Theatre/Media department of Charles Sturt University, Australia.

A Taste of Tibet: The Nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery and the Théâtre du Soleil
Claudia Orenstein, p. 212


Sang Kyong Lee, East Asia and America: Encounters in Drama and Theatre
reviewed by Jonah Salz, p. 231

Susan M. Asai, Nomai Dance Drama: A Surviving Spirit of Medieval Japan
reviewed by Eric C. Rath, p. 233

Don Kenny, A Kyogen Companion
reviewed by Jonah Salz, p. 236

Japan Playwrights Association, ed., Half a Century of Japanese Theater: The 1990s, Part 2
reviewed by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, p. 238

Stanca Scholz-Cionca and Samuel L. Leiter, eds., Japanese Theatre and the International Stage
reviewed by M. Cody Poulton, p. 240

Chi-Mei Wang, The Bride and Her Double
reviewed by John B. Weinstein, p. 244

Hanne M. de Bruin, Kattaikkuttu: The Flexibility of a South Indian Theatre Tradition, and Hanne M. de Bruin, trans., Karna’s Death: A Play By Pukalentirrulavar
reviewed by Phillip B. Zarrilli, p. 245

Edward Sakamoto, Aloha Las Vegas and Other Plays
reviewed by Carol Martin, p. 248


David G. Goodman, Concerned Theatre Japan: The Graphic Art of the Japanese Theatre, 1960-1980 (CD-ROM)
reviewed by Hamilton Armstrong, p. 250

Daniel Schmid, director, The Written Face
reviewed by Samuel L. Leiter, p. 253


Hélène Cixous, Tambours sur la Digue, directed by Ariane Mnouchkine
reviewed by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, p. 255