Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 32, no. 1 (2015)

Lord Takadēra and entourage in Manzai Tichiuchi

From the Editor, iii


Manzai Tichiuchi (Vendetta of Performers of “Myriad-Year” Felicity): A Kumi Odori by Tasato Chōchoku, as Staged by Kin Ryōshō in 1982
Nobuko Miyama Ochner, 1

In addition to a translation of the play Manzai Tichiuchi, or Vendetta of Performers of “Myriad-Year” Felicity, this article gives background on this 1759 work by Tasato Chōchoku, the kumi odori genre in which he wrote, and the practice of the art, and the performance of this particular work in the Okinawan community in Hawai‘i.

Kōji (Three Tangerines): A Kyōgen from the Ōkura School, Introduction and Translation
Kirsty Marie Jenkins, 37

This article is a translation of the kyōgen play Kōji (Three Tangerines) accompanied by a short introduction on its place within the kyōgen repertoire. The aim of this article is to facilitate cross-cultural studies of kyōgen with Western comedy. To this end, it briefly compares the character of Tarō Kaja with that of the Plautine tricky slave of Roman comedy, indicating the similarity of the master-servant/master-slave relationships to be found in the two comedic types.

“Beneath the Surface” of Told by the Wind: An Intercultural Experiment in Performance Dramaturgy and Aesthetics
Phillip Zarrilli, 46

This essay provides an introduction to and reflection on an intercultural production (Told by the Wind) by the Llanarth Group (Wales, UK) that focused on subtle, underlying issues of dramaturgy and aesthetic principles in performance between East Asian—especially Japanese —sources and contemporary psychophysical acting, devising, and writing practices. Included in the essay is a version of the co-created performance score.


An Activist Engaged in the Process of “Guilt to Responsibility”: Revisiting the Remains of Badal Sircar in Bangladesh
Syed Jamil Ahmed, 79

Badal Sircar is a major figure in modern Bengali theatre. His imprint on Bengali theatre of the late twentieth century was strong, his plays also produced in this same era in Bangladesh, which shares language and cultural features with east India. This article investigates Badal Sircar’s theatre of activism of the radical humanist brand, noting the history of productions of his work in Bangladesh and discussing why, even if the embrace of his vision may not fit the current sociocultural situation, he is most alive in generating “floating islands” that repudiate all attempts at eradication.

Three Relations between History and Stage in the Kunju Scene Slaying the Tiger General
Josh Stenberg, 107

The essay examines three relations between history and the stage in a kunju scene. First, the article explores how performance can mold audience experience of history; then how performance illuminates elements of historical processes through the career of the scene as a piece of repertoire; and, third, how performance and historical record might initially generate each other. These three separate relationships between performance and history are examined in the case of a scene known as Slaying the Tiger General (Ci hu), which concerns the assassination of a peasant general by a palace maiden during the Ming-Qing transition of the mid seventeenth century. This piece is chosen because of its overt, specific, nonfantastic, and relatively recent historical context, and because its career as an item of repertoire has been affected by the history of the last century. Thus, the three various relations between history and stage that can be examined for any piece of historical theatre are particularly prominent in this piece. Since all three relations interrogate and destabilize the historicity of any given stage content and reveal it as uncertain and constantly renegotiated, the achievement of historical drama lies instead in its ability to generate audience empathy across great temporal distance regardless of its relationship to historical fact.

Forgiving Thị Mầu, a Girl Who Dared to Defy: Performance Change and Chèo Theatre in Northern Vietnam
Lauren Meeker, 136

This article discusses differences between professionally staged chèo and village chèo. When chèo moved out of the village communal yards and onto professional stages, dramatic changes were made to performance style and to the audience-performer relationship. This article demonstrates how differences between embodied practices of performance in village chèo and in modern staged chèo reflect broader changes to social values, particularly new ideas about female morality, in contemporary northern Vietnam. The article focuses on the example of shifting attitudes toward and stylistic interpretations of the flirtatious character of Thị Mầu in the classical chèo play Quan Âm—Thị Kính (Goddess of Mercy—Thị Kính).

The Impossibility of Being Taiwanese in Chi Wei-jan’s Utopia Ltd.
Wen-ling Lin, 159

Utopia Ltd., written by the important Taiwanese playwright Chi Wei-jan and produced by Creative Society in December 2001, dramatizes the gradual dissolution of a production company named Utopia Ltd. This play explores factors shaping Taiwanese identities and the impossibility of constructing a coherent grand narrative in postmodern, globalized Taiwan. The work stands out among allegories examining post–martial law Taiwan by capturing the complexity of identity formation in Taiwan. The play dramatizes how Taiwan’s colonial past, ethnic tensions, globalization, and relations with China and the United States all work together to shape the national imagination of the island.

The Popular Itinerant Theatre of Maharashtra, 1843–1880
Kedar A. Kulkarni, 190

In this essay, I describe the development of an itinerant theatre tradition in western India between the years 1843 and 1880, recreate a night’s performance, and address various elements of this tradition—the performance, a troupe’s internal dynamics, performance venues, and audience expectations. This was the first popular theatre in western India, relying on a knowing audience who attended the theatre for the familiar plots that unfold through song and representation. Furthermore, as a commercially driven genre, it was not available for appropriation by the rising intelligentsia in India for ideological purposes because such upper-class control would have sacrificed its popularity.

Uses of the Sampur in the Halus (Refined) Style of Yogyakarta Court Dance
Sally M. Gardner, 228

In this essay I discuss how a familiar costume element in Javanese court dance, a long piece of patterned cloth known as the sampur, functions poetically through the ways it is used by the dancer. I elaborate on eight categories of use of the sampur, primarily from the point of view of a Western dancer first encountering the techniques of working with the scarf. I draw on scholars and other commentators to discuss the many dimensions of meaning embodied by these uses. The sampur emerges as a dance element rich in virtuosic potential and nuance, and resonant with numerous dimensions of cultural values.

Pardeh Khani: A Dramatic Form of Storytelling in Iran
Amir Lashkari and Mojde Kalantari, 245

Pardeh khani (literally, “reading off the screen/curtain”) has been one of the most widely practiced forms of storytelling in Iran and is still occasionally performed. This narration of epic stories painted on a screen is one of the most dramatic forms of story narration and singing in Iran, and its history is traced back before the advent of Islam. Pardeh khani was transformed into a national-religious performance with the advent of Islam and has been influential in the development of ta’zieh (religious drama in commemoration of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom). This study investigates primary elements of the art and performance. Pardeh khani also has direct influence on what is known as “coffeehouse painting.”

The Gaps between Us: Multilingualism and Immigration in Alfian Sa’at’s Cook a Pot of Curry
Philip Smith, 279

This essay examines the role of English, multilingualism, translation, and Singapore’s local creole Singlish in Alfian Sa’at’s play Cook a Pot of Curry (2013). The play is set against a backdrop of Singapore’s National Population and Talent Division’s proposed plan to expedite population growth by granting permanent resident status to between fifteen thousand and twenty-five thousand individuals per year. Alfian captures the anxiety felt by many Singaporeans in anticipation of the immigration boom. Using a multilingual rhetoric characteristic of certain forms of Singaporean theatre since the 1980s, he challenges the Anglo-centric model of Singaporean identity that serves as a central theme in much of this modern anti-foreigner sentiment. Multilingualism and Singlish, Alfian proposes, might offer a means toward intercultural understanding and a way in which “the gaps between” Singaporeans and their foreign neighbors might be bridged.

Decoding Kuo Pao Kun: A Close Reading of No Parking on Odd Days and The Coffin Is Too Big for the Hole
Levi Shen, 280

Two short works of Kuo Pao Kun, a noted Singapore playwright, are analyzed in the context of his use of language and reflection of Singapore culture, arguing that slang demarcates alienation, jargon reveals dehumanization, different coding is used when authority and ordinary people are addressed, and expressions sometimes indicate the opposite of their literal meaning.


Chinese Shadow Puppetry’s Changing Apprentice System: Questions of Continuance and a Survey of Remaining Shadow Puppet Practitioners in Mainland China, 2008–2013
Annie Katsura Rollins, 295

Chinese shadow puppetry’s fading master-apprentice system poses urgent questions of how best to ensure the inherited practice is passed to the next generation. With profiles of current Chinese shadow puppet practitioners, this article surveys the spectrum of survival scenarios. Questions of continuance will depend on increased awareness of the form’s tenuous future and increased efficacy of cultural heritage preservation programs, such as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project.


Lift: Love is Flower The. Conception and direction by Jeff Chen in collaboration with Jean Ng, Loo Zihan, Noorlinah Mohamed, Nora Samosir, and Peter Sau. Additional texts by Robin Loon
reviewed by Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco, 319


Larry Reed and Gina Liebrecht, directors & producers, On Wayang: My Life with Shadows
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 324


Siyuan Liu, Performing Hybridity in Colonial-Modern China
reviewed by Xing Fan, 327

Anna Morcom, Illicit Worlds of Indian Dance: Cultures of Exclusion
reviewed by Claire Pamment, 330

Bart Barendregt and Els Bogaerts, eds., Recollecting Resonances: Indonesian-Dutch Musical Encounters
reviewed by Kathy Foley. 333

Yeonok Jang, Korean P’ansori Singing Tradition: Development, Authenticity, and Performance History
Haekyung Um, Korean Musical Drama: P’ansori and the Making of Tradition in Modernity
reviewed by Jan Creutzenberg, 336

Sears A. Eldredge, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers: Music and Theatre as Strategems for Survival on the Thai-Burma Railway 1942–1945
reviewed by Kathy Foley, 339


Books Received, 343


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