Posts Tagged ‘中村梅丸’

Nakamura Umemaru

There is a brief article in the Mainichi today about the ways young men from outside the kabuki hereditary lineages can become adopted into those lineages and become kabuki actors. As Japanese newspapers have an annoying tendency to not keep archives available online, with the protection of journalistic fair use, I’ll reproduce the English version of the article here:

Despite appearances to the contrary, Tokyo’s Kabuki-za, where tickets sell out day after day, is not quite a closed shop, despite its long tradition of acting families. Those wishing to tread the boards in traditional Japanese style might wish to read on, as we look at two ways of breaking into the world of kabuki acting.

The first is the direct method, involving sponsorship by an established performer. One such up-and-comer is Nakamura Umemaru, 13 years old and apprentice to Nakamura Baigyoku, 63, and who is currently performing in “Kyo o Midasu Uwasa no Kagizume” at the National Theater until Oct. 27.

Umemaru’s parents both work in the publishing industry, but it was clear he was destined for other things when he became entranced by the splendor of kabuki at the tender age of three, after a trip to the theater with his mother.

“I realized I wanted to go on stage,” he said.

He first met mentor Baigyoku backstage at a performance at the age of six. “I let him help out backstage. I thought he would get tired of it, but he started to enjoy it more and more,” Baigyoku recalls.

Umemaru first went on stage himself in 2005, and was given his name two years later.

“Acting and rehearsing is more fun than school,” he says, and the problem is balancing the two.

“In Kabuki, I play characters that don’t exist in modern times. It feels like another world.”

Those that take the direct route can also rise to stardom. Matsumoto Kôshirô VII, a renowned performer from the Meiji to the Shôwa periods, was a protege of Ichikawa Danjûrô IX. Modern stars Bandô Tamasaburô V and Kataoka Ainosuke were also groomed for fame from their apprentice days.

The other way is to take specialist training with the Japan Arts Council (JAC). Of the 305 kabuki actors in April 2009, 86 were graduates of the JAC course.

The three-year course is open to boys aged 15-23, and covers the foundations of acting, movement, traditional Japanese dance and other disciplines. Graduates then go on to join the acting division of production company Shôchiku.

Of the 26 to take the entrance exam in the 2007 academic year, which tests recitation, singing and rhythm skills, amongst other areas, just 10 passed. Three have since quit, leaving seven still enrolled.

The trainees are also participating in “Kyo o Midasu Uwasa no Kagizume.” There will be positions available at the institute for the next school year starting in the spring, with applications accepted until Feb. 26.

(Mainichi Japan) November 1, 2009

Thanks to Nagaeyari of the Ancient Japan Blog for the heads up on this article.


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