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Star Designing and Myth Making

Luminary Acts, Flamboyant Tricks, and Stylizing Erotics:Genroku (1688–1703) through Bunka Bunsei (1804–1829)
  • Katherine Mezur

Abstract

Throughout the entire history of kabuki, star onnagata contributed performance innovations that gradually crystallized into conventions. Generation after generation of onnagata learned the innovations of star onnagata and assimilated their outstanding patterns. The star onnagata innovations became part of a “loosely fixed” system of onnagata gender acts that comprise the stylized onnagata performance kata (forms) of contemporary kabuki. Each star performer contributed his own technique(s), concept(s), or image(s). I focus on those innovative moments that were exploited by subsequent generations to eventually become the system of rules and standards for all onnagata gender performance. This review of star onnagata spans the early eighteenth to the early twentieth century, or the Genroku through Meiji periods.

Keywords

Gender Role Dance Role Female Role Role Type Star Image 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Fujita Hiroshi, Onnagata no Keiz 36–37. See his Appendix II for other chronologies and lists of star onnagata of the prewar and postwar periods. Different historians designate their own periods of kabuki development.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Watanabe Tamotsu, Musume Dojoji revised edition (1986; Tokyo:Shinshindo, 1992) 12–15. Watanabe outlines the performance history of Musurne Dojoj by focusing on the reformadons made by star onnagata. In his last chapter, Watanabe analyzes a part of Musume Dojoji which clearly demonstrates how the innovations reflect the star performers’ physical styles. See pp. 453–491.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Jane Gaines, “Costume and Narrative:How Dress Tells the Woman’s Story,” Fabrications:Costume and theFemaleBody ed. Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog (New York:Routledge, 1990) 200.Google Scholar
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    Kawatake Toshio, Kabuki:Sono Bi to Rekish (Tokyo:Nihon Geijutsu Bunka ShinkOkai, 1992) 24.Google Scholar
  5. 31.
    Yoshizawa Ayame I, “The Words of Ayame,” (Ayamegusa), comp. Fukuoka Yagoshiro, The Actos Analects trans. and ed. Charles Dunn and Torigoe Bunzo (1969; Tokyo:University of Tokyo Press; New York:Columbia University Press, 1969) 56–57.Google Scholar
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    Charles Dunn and Torigoe Bunzo, introduction, The Actos Analects 14–15 trans. and ed. Charles Dunn and Torigoe Bunzo (1969; Tokyo:University of Tokyo Press; New York:Columbia University Press, 1969). The editors conjecture that the writings existed from about 1750, but the oldest published collection is from 1776.Google Scholar
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    Yoshizawa Ayame, “Ayamegusa” 291–275, “The Words of Ayame” 49–66.Google Scholar
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    Watanabe Tamotsu, Onnagata no Unme (Tokyo:Chikuma Shobo, 1991) 124.Google Scholar
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    Gunji Masakatsu, interview See Nishikata Setsuko, Nihon Buys no Seka (Tokyo:Kodansha, 1988) 36–38.Google Scholar
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  11. 55.
    James R. Brandon, KuruwaBunsh (Love Letter from the Licensed Quarter), Kabuki,FiveClassicPlays trans. and ed. James R. Brandon (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1975) 217–237. Note Brandon’s precise description of the interplay between performer gestures and lyrics sung by the takemot and tokiwaz ensemble, pp. 233–237.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Katherine Mezur 2005

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  • Katherine Mezur

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