Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 23, no. 1 (2006)

ATJ 23.1 image

Editor’s Note
Kathy Foley, iii


Myth and Reality: A Story of Kabuki during American Censorship, 1945–1949
James R. Brandon, 1

American censors during the occupation of Japan after World War II unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate feudal themes and foster new democratic plays in kabuki. Contrary to popular myths, kabuki flourished under the Occupation, “banned” plays were rapidly released, the infamous “list of banned plays” was not significant, most American censors were captivated by kabuki, and credit for Occupation assistance to kabuki should not limited to one man, Faubion Bowers. Using archival records, I show that the Shōchiku Company, the major kabuki producer, successfully resisted the democratic aims of the Occupation. Shōchiku’s “classics-only” policy protected Japanese culture from American contamination and inadvertently fashioned the fossilized kabuki we know today.

James R. Brandon, professor emeritus of Asian Theatre at the University of Hawai‘i and visiting professor at Harvard University (2005), is founding editor of ATJ. He has been writing about kabuki for fifty years. His most recent books are Kabuki Plays On Stage, volumes I–IV, and Masterpieces of Kabuki: Eighteen Plays On Stage, co-edited with Samuel L. Leiter.

Mae Naak and Company: The Shifting Duality in Female Representation on the Contemporary Thai Stage
Catherine Diamond, 111

The duality of female characterization in Thai theatre and film is exemplified by the character of Mae Naak. She is a ghost-woman whose love for her husband transcends death, but monastic Buddhism sees her as consumed by worldly attachment. This character, along with other famous traditional stage figures such as White Snake, Kaki, Sita (Sida), and Busba, is experiencing a change of interpretation in contemporary Thailand, especially as women have become prominent dramatists and have chosen to confront the “good-bad” woman dichotomy in Thai court, popular, and folk theatres. In contemporary productions such characters have been presented in a feminist light, which exposes the misogynistic structures leading to their predicaments. Dramatists such as playwright Daraka Wongsiri and actress-producer Patravadi Mejudhon explore the shifting perspective toward women’s roles in modern Thai culture, influenced by both Bhuddist and Western ideals. The conflict within Mae Naak continues to be relevant to her contemporary counterparts, for though the duality may take on modern public-private dimensions, it remains unresolved and theatrically powerful.

Catherine Diamond is a professor at Soochow University whose work on contemporary Southeast Asian theatre has been published in Asian Theatre Journal and numerous other journals. The author acknowledges Dr. Pornrat Damrhung of Chulalongkorn University for her suggestions on the revision of this article and for her own work on women in Thai theatre. Fieldwork for this paper was partially supported by a research grant from the National Science Council of Taiwan.

Tibetan Folk Opera: Lhamo in Contemporary Cultural Politics
Syed Jamil Ahmed, 149

Lhamo, the popular folk opera of Tibet is a genre in which the contested politics of the Tibetan diaspora and the People’s Republic of China are displayed. This essay notes the practice of the art by the Tibetan refugee community in India and beyond, where it evokes nostalgia for a lost existence and the struggle for a return to the Tibetan Buddhist homeland. Meanwhile the art has been redeveloped in the People’s Republic of China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution and used to support Chinese claims to Tibet. Lhamo presents a case study of a particular art and how it can be articulated to different political and economic ends.

Syed Jamil Ahmed is a professor of theatre at the University of Dhaka with extensive experience as a theatre practitioner. He earned his BA from the National School of Drama (India), his MA from the University of Warwick (UK), and his PhD from the University of Dhaka. He has traveled extensively in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America; published in RIDE, TDR, and NTQ; and taught at the Antioch College (1990), King Alfred’s College (2002), and San Francisco City College (Fall 2005). His full-length publications in English are Acinpakhi Infinity: Indigenous Theatre in Bangladesh and In Praise of Niranjan: Islam, Theatre and Bangladesh.


Modern Japanese Drama in English
Kevin J. Wetmore Jr., 179


Haruo Shirane, ed., Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600–1900
reviewed by Julie Iezzi, 207

Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage
reviewed by Holly A. Blumner, 210

Sy Ren Quah, Gao Xingjian and Transcultural Chinese Theater
reviewed by Alexander C. Y. Huang, 213

Gao Xingjian, Snow in August, translated by Gilbert C. F. Fong
reviewed by Alexander C. Y. Huang, 214

Fan Pen Li Chen, Visions for the Masses: Chinese Shadow Plays from Shaanxi and Shanxi
reviewed by Bradford Clark, 215

Krystyn R. Moon, Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850s–1920s
reviewed by Randy Barbara Kaplan, 217

Susan L. Schwartz, Rasa: Performing the Divine in India
reviewed by Mythili Kumar, 220