UVa Library Press Releases 1999 - 2000
"Living Treasure of Japan"
JAPANESE PUPPET THEATER TO PERFORM AT U.VA.
TONDA TROUPE PLANS FIRST U.S. VISIT
Contact: Deputy University Librarian Kendon Stubbs at (804) 924-0501 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The world-famous Tonda Puppet Theater of Japan, touring in the United States for the first time ever, will offer four performances, including one at the University of Virginia.
The Tonda Traditional Japanese Bunraku Puppet Troupe will present its ancient art at the 595-seat Culbreth Theater on Thursday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Started in the late 1600s, the Japanese puppet theater had become the most popular form of dramatic entertainment by the 18th century - the age of the Shoguns.
Known as "Bunraku," the theater attracted outstanding playwrights, including Chikamatsu, who is sometimes called the "Shakespeare of Japan." Bunraku plays are some of the most important written dramas in all of Japanese literature.
The large repertory of Bunraku drama includes plays about warriors and heroes along with those about ordinary townspeople. Bunraku was especially popular among the business people of Japan, and Bunraku plays sometimes portrayed real-life events. Several of the most famous plays concern ill-fated love affairs of merchants and courtesans.
In the words of the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, "The bunraku theater presents dramas both serious and entertaining, as well as beautifully choreographed dances, for an audience primarily of adults with cultivated sensibilities."
Unlike the Punch-and-Judy marionettes of the European tradition, Bunraku puppets are half-life-sized. Each puppet is manipulated by a puppet master and two assistants who are clothed in black and in full view of the audience. The puppets act out the play to the accompaniment of music and chanting.
The troupe will demonstrate puppet techniques as part of the show. Some of its puppets are more than 170 years old and the costumes include sumptuous antique silks and brocades.
Prof. Martin Holman of Berea College, of Berea, Ky., will narrate the performance in English.
The Tonda troupe, in existence for almost 200 years, is from the historical area of Lake Biwa, near Kyoto. Traditionally, the art of puppetry was passed down from father to eldest son. In recent years, men as well as women from outside the puppeteering families have been welcomed into the troupe. The Tonda troupe is now officially designated an "Intangible Cultural Treasure" of Japan.
The U.Va. sponsors of the performance are the East Asia Center, the U.Va. Library, the Division of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, the Bayly Museum, and the Drama Department.
After its initial stop in Virginia, the troupe will travel to Newton, N.J., on Aug. 13; Allendale, Mich., on Aug. 15; and Provo, Utah, on Aug. 18 and 19.
General admission tickets for the performance cost $5. They can be purchased at U.Va.'s Newcomb Hall, Room 436; at Mincer's, on the University Corner; in Alderman Library, Room 522; and at the door on Aug. 12, if seats are still available.