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Posts Tagged ‘ichikawa ennosuke’

The old Kabuki-za, as seen in 2008.

Shôchiku has just announced the programs for the first several months of shows at the rebuilt (renovated) Kabuki-za, scheduled to open in April 2013, including, of course, some rather special performances for the occasion. Sadly, I won’t be able to see the shows in April or May, but I am very much hoping to make it out to Tokyo in June or July. In total, there will be a full year of these kokera otoshi performances, celebrating the opening of the new theatre.

The April program opens, appropriately, with a celebratory Crane dance called Kakuju senzai (鶴寿千歳), performed to welcome the new Kabuki-za, and to mark its opening in an auspicious manner. I had the pleasure, in January 2008, of seeing this dance performed by the late Nakamura Jakuemon, then the oldest kabuki actor still-active; he passed away earlier this year at the age of 91.

The program then continues with Omatsuri (lit. “Festival”), a piece often performed in celebration of the return to the stage of an actor who has been long absent due to illness. This April, however, it will be performed in honor, in memory, of the late, great, Nakamura Kanzaburô, who passed away earlier this month.

Other pieces to be performed in April include, among other pieces:
*Kumagai Jin’ya, featuring Tamasaburô, and Kataoka Nizaemon as Yoshitsune
*Benten Kozô (Hamamatsu-ya through riverside scenes, the most common selections), featuring Kikugorô as Benten Kozô and Danjûrô as Nippon Daemon, a one-two punch I have had the pleasure of seeing before.
*Kanjinchô, with Kôshirô as Benkei, Baigyoku as Yoshitsune, and Kikugorô as Togashi

Of course, the sense of which plays are “big name,” or to put it more truthfully, which plays I have personally heard of, is exceedingly subjective. Nevertheless, for what it is worth, the May performances are almost exclusively those with which I am familiar:
*Tsurukame, an auspicious crane & turtle dance.
*The Terakoya scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami
*Sannin Kichisa, starring Danjûrô, Kikugorô, and Nizaemon as the three Kichisas.
*Meiboku Sendai Hagi, also known as The Ten Roles of the House of Date (Date no jûyaku), a play featuring the sorcerer Nikki Danjô, and a giant rat. I’ve never seen this play, but have seen it referenced countless times in ukiyo-e prints. Featuring Matsumoto Kôshirô as the sorcerer, and Sakata Tôjûrô as Masaoka. This play is famous for featuring a single actor in ten roles, performing numerous quick-changes between characters, though I am unclear as to which actor will be the one to do this.
*Kuruwa Bunshô, feat. Nizaemon and Tamasaburô
*Dôjôji, a most special opportunity to see the great onnagata Tamasaburô in the leading role

Finally (for now), the June performances, which I just might get to see, include:
*Shunkan, a story based on the 1177 Shishigatani Incident, in which the monk Shunkan is exiled to a remote island.
*and, Sukeroku, one of the most popular plays, and one which I’m really glad to have seen, though it would be wonderful if they were showing a big-name show I have not yet seen in person, such as Ise Ondo.

A 1962 performance of Sukeroku, featuring Ichikawa Danjûrô XI as Sukeroku, and Nakamura Utaemon VI as Agemaki.

Meanwhile, the Kanamaru-za in Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku – the oldest still-operating kabuki theatre in the world – hosts performances only in April every year. This year, the shows include shûmei performances for Ichikawa Ennosuke IV, formerly Ichikawa Kamejirô, who took on that name roughly six months ago, as Ichikawa Ennosuke III became Ichikawa En’ô. I don’t know if this will be his first performance, his debut, in the role of the fox Tadanobu in Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, a role for which the former Ennosuke is quite famous, but in any case, debut or not, the afternoon program this coming April at the Kanamaru-za includes scenes from Yoshitsune, with Ennosuke in that role. The evening program includes a formal announcement (kôjô, 口上) of his name-taking (shûmei), along with Kyô ningyô and Ôshû Adachigahara, two pieces with which I am not familiar, though I’m sure they’re great.

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Thanks much as always to Mr. Mark Frey of the JETAANC Kabuki Club for the updates on Kabuki news, which I can then pass on to all of you, faithful readers.

Firstly, the big news this month is that popular film/TV actor Kagawa Teruyuki has joined the ranks of the Ichikawa family of kabuki actors, taking on the name Ichikawa Chûsha IX.

Ichikawa Chûsha (Kagawa Teruyuki, left), with his father, Ichikawa En’ô (formerly Ennosuke, right). Image from Asahi Shimbun.

After his parents divorced when he was young, he had very little contact with his father, the famous kabuki actor Ichikawa Ennosuke III, who has now taken the name Ichikawa En’ô II. En’ô is famous as a master of keren (stage special effects), including chûnori (wirework, flying out over the audience), and as the pioneer of Super Kabuki, which employs such special effects, as well as lighting, makeup, and other elements in a truly over-the-top manner. The 72-year-old En’ô has not been seen onstage in eight years, due to medical problems, and Kagawa has stated that while he had considered simply sending his son to become a kabuki actor in order to continue the lineage, with En’ô ill, he felt it better that he go as well, to do his duty to the family. Duty to the family, and the obligation to perform if born into a kabuki family, seem major elements of the life of a kabuki actor; but the impression I get from news articles is that Kagawa does not feel forced into doing this, so much as that he is choosing to do this, and that it feels right. In one article from the Asahi Shimbun, he speaks of a “sense of mission,” and of feeling right in the makeup, saying that “When my father applied stage makeup on my face for the first time, I thought, ‘Hey, you are 40 years too late,’” and that “it feels as if this were all a grand scheme for fathers and sons to be reunited.” In an article in the Mainichi Shimbun, he says “I think it’s destiny. I’m keeping the promise made when I was born into this family.”

Left: Kagawa Teruyuki, out of kabuki makeup. Photo from wiki.d-addicts.com DramaWiki.
Kagawa has played roles in numerous TV dramas, including Mr. Brain, Kômyô ga Tsuji, and Ryômaden, and many films, from Tales of Earthsea and Sukiyaki Western Django to the 20th Century Boys trilogy and Tokyo Sonata. His son, 8-year-old Kagawa Masaaki, has taken the stage name Ichikawa Danko V, while a cousin has followed in his uncle’s footsteps, becoming the fourth Ennosuke.

A news post on Kabuki-bito.jp (the official website of professional kabuki) has some great pictures from the name-taking ceremony & performances.

Some other news articles covering the topic, though the information overlaps a lot:
*Actor Kagawa debuts in Kabuki, succeeds Ichikawa Chusha (Kyodo News)
*At 46, actor continues in father’s kabuki footsteps (Japan Times)
*Actor Kagawa debuts in Kabuki, succeeds Ichikawa Chusha (Mainichi)
*Kabuki actors get new names while movie star makes debut (Asahi)

I have myself never yet had the fortune of attending a shûmei (襲名, “name succession”) performance, with its accompanying kôjô (口上, “stage announcement”), but it seems a rather special occasion. It goes beyond simply going to see a play, but is an important moment in kabuki history – in the careers of these actors, and of their families and lineages. As the actors appear on stage making the formal announcement of their new names, and congratulating one another, one gets a glimpse into their relationships, and their world. I would love, one day, to attend such an event, and to be able to say afterwards that I was there when so-and-so the fourth became so-and-so the third, or whatever it may be.

Meanwhile, a friend who I know from the University of Hawaii has posted a brief review of his experience in the Kyoto-based Traditional Theatre Training program (TTT).

It is a three-week program offered every summer in which participants are given the opportunity to train intensively in either Noh, Kyôgen, or Nihon Buyô. (I had thought that it was one week per form, but actually it’s a full three weeks in one form of your choice – much nicer.) And, apparently, many of the teachers speak excellent English, so a high level of Japanese language ability is not required. Personally, I’d rather train more explicitly in kabuki, including voice, stage fighting, mie poses, acting, and not just in the dance form kabuki employs / draws upon. But, nevertheless, this seems like an amazing experience. You get to train with Kyoto-based masters, in genuine traditional performing spaces in Kyoto, including the Ôe Nôgakudô (Ôe Noh Theatre) which I got to visit briefly when I was in Kyoto two summers ago, and, you get to be in Kyoto. I’m sure the program is quite intense, but, whatever time you might find in the evenings, weekends, or before or after the program, you’ll be in Kyoto already! Lots to see and do and enjoy, in what is quite possibly my favorite city in the world.

The classes are very small, which means it’s intimate and you get more attention, I’m sure, and, I get the impression that demand (surprisingly) is low enough that it might not be too competitive getting in. (If anyone knows different, let me know.) The program is also surprisingly cheap, this current summer costing only 50,000 yen for students in tuition & fees (or 70,000 if you’re not a student or practicing artist). Airfare, housing, and living expenses are extra, I’m sure, but even so, I don’t think I have ever heard of another program that is so inexpensive in its tuition and fees. The 10-week language program I attended in Kyoto two years ago cost around $4000 for the summer.

So, if you’re interested in Japanese traditional theatre, and especially if you happen to already be in Kyoto (or elsewhere in Japan) and can therefore save on airfare & housing, check out the TTT program. I hope to take part myself sometime in the next few years.

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If you watch Japanese TV dramas or films, you’ve probably seen Kagawa Teruyuki in something. He was the sheriff in “Sukiyaki Western Django,” and played roles in “20th Century Boys,” “The Magic Hour,” “Tokyo Sonata,” several Taiga dramas, and, well, numerous other productions.

Kabuki actors (from left to right) Ichikawa Chûsha (Kagawa Teruyuki), Ichikawa Danko, Ichikawa Ennosuke, Ichikawa Kamejirô, and Ichikawa Danshirô. Photo copyright Mainichi Shimbun.

I certainly was familiar with the name, and the face, recognized him when I saw him. But I did not know that he was the son of a kabuki actor – Ichikawa Ennosuke III, founder and pioneer of the ridiculously over-the-top “Super Kabuki.”

And now, apparently, Kagawa, having reconciled with his father (who divorced Kagawa’s mother when Kagawa was very young), has declared that he will be taking the stage as a kabuki actor himself, succeeding his father. He won’t be taking the Ennosuke name immediately, but will be starting out as Ichikawa Chûsha IX, taking on a name last held by an actor who passed away in 1971, the adopted son of Kagawa’s great-great-grandfather (somehow something seems off about these generational calculations..).

Kagawa was raised by his mother for pretty much his entire life, and had little contact with or influence from the kabuki world. Given that actors normally start their training at an extremely young age (or, if not born into it, sometime around high school or college age), the idea that Kagawa should jump into this at the age of 46 seems a bit odd. But, it’s not as if he’s not an extremely experienced and skilled actor – and comical, physical actor, at that. I think he’ll pick it up quick enough. Meanwhile, his 7-year-old son will also be making his stage debut, as Ichikawa Danko V, a name last held by Ennosuke’s brother, who passed away in 1969.

Well, what a thing that will be, to see Kagawa Teruyuki on the kabuki stage! I look forward to it! 楽しみしてます!

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