Friday, April 9, 2010

#8: Kabuki Jewki: My Israeli Friend in Japan

It was fair but on the cool side today, Friday, which was fine with me. I lost my Internet connection in the morning, but Kei Hibino figured out how to restore it. We then journeyed by the Tozai line to Waseda University, where we visited the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, which has the best library for Japanese theatre books anywhere. This framed poster explains the museum's history and purpose.

As the picture above shows, a glass case outside the building announces new exhibits. The campus is actually rather shabby, but the Museum, known for short as Enpaku (from Engeki Hakubutsukan, or Theatre Museum), is famous for its facade based on the Fortune Theatre of Shakespeare's time. Although not ideal for theatrical productions or audience seating, it has been used many times for Shakespearean stagings.

Inside I was happy to find all the old issues of Engekikai arranged on open shelves with no need to ask a librarian to fetch them. Kei also introduced me to a database for photographs, which I will be able to order for use in any publication that results from my research. Of course, I'll have to pay a fairly hefty fee for the photos, and another fee for reproduction rights, but the collection is substantial and I should be able to obtain a substantial number of prints.

The library is currently presenting a small exhibition on the life of the great actor of female roles (onnagata), Nakamura Utaemon VI. I interviewed Utaemon in 1964, and the interview appeared in my first published article in 1966, "Four Interviews with Kabuki Actors," later reprinted in my book Frozen Moments: Writings on Kabuki, 1966-2001 (Cornell East Asia, No. 111) (Cornell East Asia Series). Here are some pictures from the exhibit.

When I returned from lunch, I entered the reading room and immediately turned to put my stuff away in a coin locker, not noticing the man sitting at the first table and watching me. I then turned to pass through the electronic turnstyle and saw that the man at the table was my old friend, Zvika Serper, a Japanese theatre and film specialist from Tel Aviv University. Zvika is a very good-looking actor, scholar, and director, who has done some remarkable productions, such as Agamemnon and The Dybbuk at his university. He is in Tokyo briefly to do some film research. I knew he'd be in Japan around this time, but didn't realize that this is how we'd meet. Many people don't know this, but, for some reason, the comparatively limited field of Japanese theatre studies contains a rather surprising number of Jewish scholars and practitioners: David Goodman, Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei, David Jortner, Jonah Salz, Katherine Salzman-Li, Loren Edelson, Lawrence Kominz (half), Holly Blumner, Jacob Raz, Zvika, and myself, to name only those who come immediately to mind. There's no special reason for it, but something about it seems interesting, don't you think?

On my way home I shot this video of the walk through the Sunroad arcade in Kichijoji.

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