Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 27, no. 1 (2010)

Sadhu Antanir Gan
From the Editor, iii


Depictions of the Kawara-no-in in Medieval Japanese Drama
Paul S. Atkins, 1

The Kawara-no-in (Riverside Villa) of the courtier Minamoto no Tōru (822–895) figures prominently in tenth-century Japanese literary texts as both a site of elegant play and as a ruined garden redolent of bygone glories. A century after Tōru’s death, the villa assumes a malevolent aspect in popular narratives, and Tōru reappears as an angry ghost who threatens visitors sexually and politically. This paper examines how and why nō playwrights originally incorporated both positive and negative views of the Kawara-no-in in early plays about Tōru and his garden, but eventually suppressed the sinister side, arguably to present a more positive depiction of the politically powerful Minamoto family and of aristocratic culture in general.

Paul S. Atkins is an associate professor of Japanese in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. His field of expertise is premodern Japanese drama, literature, and culture. He is the author of Revealed Identity: The Noh Plays of Komparu Zenchiku (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 2006).

Drama of Disillusionment: Nepal’s Theatre, 1990–2006
Carol C. Davis, 23

Dramas reflecting disillusionment characterize Nepal’s theatre in the postdemocratic period of 1990–2006. The despair portrayed in the plays of this period suggests a shift in sensibility from the previous decade, when hope and optimism were prevailing characteristics. Street theatre had played an important role in the prodemocracy movement of 1980–1990 by raising awareness about issues that needed to be addressed, and emerging theatre artists were also prodemocracy activists. Nepal’s burgeoning contemporary theatre spoke of the hope brought by democracy’s promise. The optimism reflected in the plays of the prodemocracy movement, however, was eventually replaced by disillusionment in postdemocracy dramas, revealing a sense of despair at the corruption and violence. This paper discusses the dynamics of that despair in the work of the two most prominent playwrights of Nepal’s theatre at the time, Asesh Malla and Abhi Subedi.

Carol C. Davis is an associate professor of theater at Franklin and Marshall College. She is also the founding artistic director of the Nepal Health Project, an educational and charitable theatre company that treks to villages throughout Nepal with plays and workshops on health and hygiene, and teaches creative dramatics to children in the orphanages of Kathmandu. Davis has acted and directed in California and Nepal, and her articles have appeared in Asian Theatre Journal, Theatre Symposium, Mime Journal, Journal of South Asia Women Studies, Education About Asia, Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006), and Not For Sale: Bearing Witness, Making Politics (Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2004).

Mimicry and Counter-Discourse on the Palimpsest of Nagori: The Play of Saint Anthony and His Double, Sādhu Āntoni
Syed Jamil Ahmed, 40

Hardly half a kilometer southeast from the Church of Saint Nicholas Tolentino at Nagori, thirty-five kilometers northeast from Daka, Bangladesh, stands the Chapel of Saint Anthony at Panjora. Here, on Friday, 6 February 2009, nearly seventy thousand people gathered to pay homage to the most important saint for the Bangladeshi Catholics: Saint Anthony of Padua, who was born in Portugal in 1195 and is locally known as Sādhu Āntoni. It was his feast day, which is celebrated here on the Friday before Lent, instead of 13 June as in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. During the preceding nine days, novenae 3 were offered in the chapel, and a form of indigenous performance known as Sādhu Āntanir gān (lit. “the lay of Saint Anthony”) was performed in his honor. On the feast day, masses were held, homilies were delivered, and offerings of candles, biscuits, money, silver and gold chains, pigeons, chickens, and goats were made by many devotees in fulfilment of their mānat (a vow made for granting a favor). 4 Most devotees were Christians, but Hindus and Muslims came as well. For the Christians residing in and around Panjora and Nagori, the celebration brought great joy because this is an ever-growing tradition with 220 years of history, which draws devotees from across religious divides.

Performing Change/Changing Performance: An Exploration of the Life of a Street Play by the Jana Natya Manch
Arjun Ghosh, 76

This article takes a close look at the production and performance of a political street play by one of India’s foremost street theatre groups. The play in question was created in the aftermath of the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in February and March 2002. Subsequently, the play continued to be part of the campaign against Hindu fascistic tendencies. The article focuses on the mechanisms through which political arguments are transformed into aesthetically appealing theatre and how work is continually revised to adapt to changing political circumstances.

Arjun Ghosh teaches English Literature at Shivaji College, University of Delhi. He is currently a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.

Speaking of Flowers: Theatre, Public Culture, and Homoerotic Writing in Nineteenth-Century Beijing
Wu Cuncun and Mark Stevenson, 100

This paper examines the nineteenth-century flourishing of a homoerotic theatre literature paralleling the development of jingju (Beijing opera), theorizing its impact on public culture in the Chinese capital. Popular among literati gentlemen, “flower guides” (huapu) extolling the beauty of boy actors (xiao ling) have left a valuable record of the busy social life that centered upon Beijing’s theatres and nearby restaurants and nightclubs. With reference to the writings of Roland Barthes the authors argue that flower guide circulation contributed to the formation of new types of public space and new ways of “performing the self” associated with theatre in early modern China, a space they call “epitheatre.”

Wu Cuncun (senior lecturer in Chinese, University of New England, Australia) is the author of Homoerotic Sensibilities in Late Imperial China (Routledge, 2004). Mark Stevenson (senior lecturer in Asian studies, Victoria University, Australia) and Wu have been collaborating on the study and translation of premodern Chinese erotic and homoerotic literature for ten years. They are currently working on a study of the role of huapu literature in nineteenth-century Beijing social life as well as on a sourcebook of homoerotic writing in Chinese history.


Nōkan ( Flute) and Oral Transmission: Cohesion and Musicality through Mnemonics
Mariko Anno, 130

The nōkan ( flute) is traditionally taught in a mode of oral transmission that involves memorization of shōga (mnemonics). Shōga help bring a play to fruition by keeping the timing and allowing improvisation. This case study discusses the teaching of Issō Yukihiro, an Issō school performer, arguing that nōkan transmission is changing in contemporary practice by certain masters.


An Overview of Research on Classical Chinese Drama in North America (1998–2008)
Guo Yingde, 149

Alexander C. Y. Huang, Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange,
reviewed by Siyuan Liu, 172

Erin B. Mee, Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage,
reviewed by Brahma Prakash, 175

Syed Jamil Ahmed, Reading against the Orientalist Grain: Performance and Politics Entwined with a Buddhist Strain,
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 179

Felicia Hughes-Freeland, Embodied Communities: Dance Traditions and Change in Java,
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 182

Barbara Hatley, Javanese Performances on an Indonesian Stage: Contesting Culture, Embracing Change,
reviewed by Cobina Gillitt, 185

James R. Brandon, Kabuki’s Forgotten War: 1931–1945,
reviewed by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, 187

Hanayagi Chiyo, trans. by Leonard Pronko and Tomono Takao, The Fundamentals of Japanese Dance:
Kabuki Dance

reviewed by Barbara Sellers-Young, 192

Leonie R. Stickland, Gender Gymnastics: Performing and Consuming Japan’s Takarazuka Revue,
reviewed by John D. Swain, 194

Tong Soon Lee, Chinese Street Opera in Singapore,
reviewed by Grant Shen, 198