I finally had a chance to catch the moving posters of many of Tamasaburo’s fine performances at the Japan Foundation. What a treat!
As soon as I walked in, I heard the familiar stylized sounds and speech of a Kabuki performance. I was able to sit down and watch it from beginning to end.
The foundation introduces a new performance each week. The one I saw was titled Onna Shirbaraku. It had morphed from the 18th century version into a contemporary one just one hundred years ago. A narrator described the history and cultural oddities that were occurring on screen so that I wasn’t left to guess. This was an added bonus.
As usual with Kabuki, the story is a war between good and evil. This time the “bad” performers had very exaggerated costuming and movements. They, not the kind innocent villagers, should have had their “heads chopped” off.
Tamasaburo plays a kind of magical powerful figure with a very famous costume. It has square sleeves that reach the ground which prove strength and wisdom.
His onnagata performance of course is breathtaking. He is a male playing a female role. At one point the heroine Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa explains that she may confuse her opponents as she is not very feminine and a bit of a tom boy. This is a parody on the earlier performances played by a male and Tamasaburo himself. She then proceeds to lop off the heads of her many enemies with one very feminine sweep of her sword.
The poster exhibit was astonishing. It showed how Tamasaburo was educated for his roles. It is apparent that he is deeply respected worldwide. There are posters of him working with 21st contemporary western and eastern directors in film and on stage. Look for the exquisite books that Japanese photographers lovingly designed and photographed to honour his performances.
The Kabuki films are changed weekly until the end of the exhibition on June 22.
About The Japan Foundation. The Japanese government sponsors a number of foundations worldwide to help people understand the very complex and intriguing Japanese culture.
We are fortunate to have such an organization in Toronto as it offers many avenues of study of Japanese culture. It also makes announcements about other Japanese cultural events in Toronto. Most important, it is free as long as you have resided in Toronto for two months. To find out about all its activities, do visit its web-site and follow instructions or join in person at its office.
It has a constant stream of lectures, films, art exhibits, lessons, and celebrations in its main exhibit halls. Its library has an enormous stock of academic and popular reading material on all things Japanese. There are scholastic periodicals and textbooks, journals, and newspapers on fashion, food and literature in all art forms.
If that is not enough, there is a large collection of VHS and DVD’s to rent for free. These include wonderful old and contemporary films for children as well as adults. You can sit in a comfortable chair there while you browse, or rent most things in the library for further study at home.
Currently, the Foundation is showing free Japanese contemporary films at Innis College. For that schedule, see: bit.ly/wZ5izC .
The foundation is in the centre of Toronto and easily accessible by TTC. It is at 131 Bloor St W, 2nd floor of the Colonnade. Tel. 416-966-1600×229. Web site: http://www.japanfoundationcanada.org/.
For my previous Kabuki posts, click on http://bit.ly/GE2axh , http://bit.ly/y835D0 , and http://bit.ly/yu6ZRn . – P. Anne Winter.