Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 24, no. 2 (2007)

Editor’s Note, iii

An Addendum to “Myth and Reality: A Story of Kabuki under American Censorship, 1945–1949”
James R. Brandon, v


Holy Week in the “Heart of the Philippines”: Spirituality, Theatre, and Community in Marinduque’s Moriones Festival
William Peterson, 309

The week-long Moriones Festival on the island of Marinduque, south of Manila, weaves together a complex mix of events including street theatre, processions, religious ceremonies, and a three-night sinakulo that dramatizes the history of salvation with a focus on the Christ story. Present throughout the week’s events are the morions, caped and elaborately costumed local men enacting a vow or panata, whose identities are disguised by large headpieces and full-face carved masks meant to resemble Roman centurions. The leading morion is the Roman centurion Longinus, who according to apocryphal sources, was the lance-wielding soldier present at the crucifixion and whose sight was miraculously restored by Christ’s blood. The ubiquitous morions and the transformation and martyrdom of Longinus provide an active, experiential route into the story of Christ’s sacrifice for many Catholics in Marinduque during Holy Week.

William Peterson is Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coordinator in the Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and has published widely on theatre in Singapore, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Contemporary Wayang in Global Contexts
Matthew Isaac Cohen, 338

Traditional norms and values stood in the way of radical experimentation with the form of wayang until Indonesia’s postcolonial era. The same impediments did not exist for colonial European artists. Edward Gordon Craig formulated his theories of the über-marionette with reference to wayang, while Richard Teschner adapted wayang puppets for his unique Viennese puppet theatre. This initial encounter of Europe with wayang articulated a pattern of colonial exploitation: Asian products were alienated from their producers and transported to Europe stripped of direct connections to the people and conditions from which they arose.

The 1960s ushered in a new era of intercultural communication. A major influx of Indonesian puppetry came to the United States when a generation of budding American puppet artists received direct tuition from Indonesian puppet masters at California summer schools in the early 1970s. Many subsequently went to Java and Bali themselves for lengthy periods of wayang study and apprenticeship. Some of these artists crossed traditional Indonesian puppets forms with other modes of practice to create complex hybrids. Much of the most interesting contemporary wayang work today is taking place along transnational axes. Wayang has been embraced by international artists and companies in order to tell idiosyncratic myths and celebrate the sacred and the ethereal.

Matthew Isaac Cohen is a senior lecturer in drama and theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a researcher of Indonesian performance and world puppetry. He has studied wayang kulit in Java for nearly six years, and has performed as a shadow puppeteer in Europe, North America, Israel, and Indonesia. Among his publications are Demon Abduction: A Wayang Ritual Drama from West Java (1998) and The Komedie Stamboel: Popular Theater in Colonial Indonesia, 1891–1903 (2006).

Ninagawa Yukio’s Intercultural Hamlet: Parsing Japanese Iconography
Jon M. Brokering, 370

The efforts of Ninagawa Yukio to draw upon traditional Japanese theatrical techniques in the staging of Western classics arose from his desire to break from the mimetic, Western style of staging plays and to revitalize aspects of classical Japanese theater that had fallen out of use in modern “new theater” (shingeki) drama. Moreover, he wished to divest Shakespeare of the highbrow status it held in Japan and popularize Shakespeare by incorporating familiar imagery from indigenous culture. Owing to their highly visual approach, Ninagawa’s productions have also enjoyed surprising success in the West, where his interpretations provide striking new perspectives on Shakespeare and other classics. Ninagawa has gained worldwide recognition and in Great Britain his work is often hailed as profoundly illuminating. This paper investigates Ninagawa’s production of Hamlet (1998), which ran for eight performances at the Barbican Centre, London, as part of the Barbican International Theatre Event series. In this revival, the author served as backstage interpreter between the Japanese and the British stage crews.

The paper examines four major aspects of Ninagawa’s approach. First, it focuses on his transposition of the play in time and space: as a framing device Ninagawa sets the play in the dressing rooms of a theater, underscoring the themes of pretense and dissembling. Second, the paper examines Ninagawa’s symbolic use of curtains and stairways. Third, it discusses the allegorical use of the Japanese doll tier (hinadan) as a central motif to highlight the hierarchy of the Danish court and the precariousness of power. Finally, it discusses the stage techniques which Ninagawa borrows from kabuki and to enhance the production’s theatricality. The warm reception this Hamlet enjoyed in both Britain and Japan demonstrates how Ninagawa Yukio’s stage iconography transcends cultural, linguistic, and political borders.

Jon M. Brokering is professor of drama and theater in the Department of English, Hosei University, Tokyo. He has directed over thirty plays, musicals, and operas in Japan, including The Caucasian Chalk Circle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Our Town, Raisin in the Sun, The Crucible, and La Bohème. He has also studied movement and chanting since 1997 at the Yarai Nō Theater, Tokyo. He has written on William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Neil Simon, and Tom Stoppard, as well as intercultural theater. He holds a PhD from the University of London, Royal Holloway, where he wrote his dissertation on Japanese theater directors Suzuki Tadashi and Ninagawa Yukio.

Chinese Theatre, Confucianism, and Nationalism: Amateur Chinese Opera Tradition in Singapore
Lee Tong Soon, 397

In contemporary Singapore a transformation is taking place in the performance of Chinese opera (xiqu) as amateur performers with state support take over roles and repertoire formerly associated with professional companies. The rise of amateur groups can be seen as an outcome of the city-state’s cultural policy and the emphasis on amateur rather than professional presentations is also linked to a long Confucian heritage that emphasizes the scholar-amateur and deemphasizes professionals in artistic performance.

Lee Tong Soon is an associate professor of music at Emory University in Atlanta with an MBA (University of Durham, 2002) and PhD (University of Pittsburgh, 1998). Field research for the article was supported by an Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship (1996), the Singapore Hokien Huay Kuan Arts and Cultural Scholarship (1997), an International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship (1997), a British Academy Committee for Southeast Asian Studies Award (2000), and the Institute for Comparative and International Studies Research and Program Fund, Emory University (2004).

Dying on the Stage in the Nāṭyaśāstra and Kūṭiyāṭṭam: Perspectives from the Sanskrit Theatre Tradition
Bruce M. Sullivan, 422

The Sanskrit theatre tradition of India has often been regarded as avoiding, even prohibiting, depiction of death on the stage. This article argues that death was both threatened and enacted on the stage, and has always been integral to the Sanskrit theatre tradition, as seen to the present day in Kerala’s kūṭiyāṭṭam tradition. The apparent conflict between “rules” from the Nāṭyaśāstra, the normative text for theatre, and actual dramas is examined, and the surprisingly large number of references in the Nāṭyaśāstra to dramatic uses of death are discussed. For the audience member, seeing depictions of or threats of deaths on the stage can be a significant component of the Indic theatrical experience.

Bruce M. Sullivan (PhD, University of Chicago), professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University, is a specialist in Hinduism, Indian drama, and Sanskrit literature. He has published four books, including two on kūṭiyāṭṭam with N. P. Unni: The Sun God’s Daughter and King Saṃvaraṇa (1995), and The Wedding of Arjuna and Subhadrā (2001). Support for this research was provided by the Fulbright Association and Northern Arizona University. Thanks are due the participants at the International Seminar on Kūṭiyāṭṭam and Asian Theatre Traditions, held in January 2006 in Trivandrum, Kerala, and sponsored by UNESCO and the government of India.

Performing the Globalized City: Contemporary Hong Kong Theatre and Global Connectivity
Kay Li, 440

This paper looks at how Hong Kong theatre is expressing the city’s relationship to globalization and its own position within a changing international framework. The performances feature the city responding to challenges of globalization and nationalism by resorting to various means of global connectivity. The impact of globalization on presenting the ultralocal, the national, and the global on stage will be examined. These are responses to internal factors such as Hong Kong theatre history and conventions, as well as reactions to external factors such as the resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong by the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Hong Kong theatre dexterously negotiates the conflicting claims of localism, nationalism, and globalism to create a unique Hong Kong identity as a capitalistic Special Administrative Region within the communist People’s Republic of China. Vignettes of the Chinese diaspora can also be found, with people converging in and diverging from Hong Kong, trying to respond to calls for modernity and globalism without loosing Chinese identity.

Kay Li is President of Asian Heritage Month for the Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. She is also a research associate at the Asian Institute, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto and the York Centre for Asian Research, York University. In addition, she is visiting scholar at the English Department, University of Toronto, and one of the founders of the International Shaw Society. Her book, Bernard Shaw and China: Cross-Cultural Encounters, will be published by the Bernard Shaw Series of the University Press of Florida in 2007. She has published articles on transnational literary and cultural transmission on Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf in relation to China or Hong Kong, and on intersections of arts and technologies in contemporary films.


The Emerging Role of the Director in Chinese Xiqu
Megan Evans, 470

as Sociopolitical Commentary: Staging Chinese Literati in Medieval Theatre
Leo Shingchi Yip, 505

One-tenth of the plays in the current repertoire retell stories of Chinese origin or feature a Chinese character, raising the role of China in theatre. Through a close reading of the two plays, Sanshō (The Three Laughers) and Hakurakuten (Bai Letian), this paper proposes that one major reason for the staging of China is to voice sociopolitical comments. Although both plays feature well-known Chinese literati, they demonstrate contrasting treatment of the foreigners. Such polarity in the portrayals of the Chinese reveals the different presentation of China in response to the changing sociopolitical climates in medieval Japan.

Leo Shingchi Yip is an assistant professor of Japanese Studies at Gettysburg College. He was a Freeman fellow at Wittenberg University (2004–2005) after receiving a PhD in Japanese Language and Literature from Ohio State University in 2004.

June Watanabe’s Translation/Transformation of Japanese in Contemporary Practice
Judy Halebsky, 518

This paper considers a 2004 performance of Nō Project II ‘Can’t’ is ‘Night,’ a collaboration of Japanese American dancer June Watanabe, Japanese master and Intangible Cultural Treasure of Japan Uchida Anshin, composer Pauline Oliveros, and poet Leslie Scalapino. The project, spearheaded by Watanabe, translated for a contemporary San Francisco audience, imbuing it with social and political meaning for California viewers. Watanabe translated ’s internal concentration into a collaborative process she calls “being in the moment.” The performance became a way for collaborators and audience to examine values in art making and sociopolitical practice.

Judy Halebsky is a PhD candidate at the University of California–Davis specializing in the cultural translation of Japanese arts practice.


Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre,
reviewed by Holly A. Blumner, 531

Robin Ruizendaal, Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou,
reviewed by Bradford Clark, 534


Betty Bernhard, Kailash Pandya, and Sasidharan Nair, directors, Shakuntala: A Play by Kalidasa,
reviewed by David Mason, 536