Japanese theatre predates American theatre (even America itself) by more than a whole millennium. The oldest written document in Japan (c. 712) records a performance dedicated to the Sun Goddess "Amaterasu the Great." From Noh to Kabuki, Japan has a set place in theatre history. As do women. Though today in Kabuki, women's roles are often played by men called 'onnagata', Kabuki was originated by a woman named O-Kuni. And that aforementioned performance in the 712 document was given by a woman. Now the all-female company, Otome Bunraku Puppet Theatre, makes their American debut at the Japan Society Sept. 13-16.
As part of the 2000 Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater, Otome Bunraku will perform two classics, Miracle at Tsubosaka, a story about a blind man and his faithful loving wife, and Yoshitsune and the One Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees, about a legendary general, complete with vigorous battle scenes and acrobatics.
Originating from the Japanese traditional bunraku style, Otome Bunraku is a part of Hitomi-za puppet theatre. Otome Bunraku uses a unique one-puppet-per person style in which the characters are manipulated using the leg, hands and head. A demonstration of how the puppet moves and a history of the style can be viewed for free by ticketholders one hour prior to each performance.
Performances at the Japan Society, 333 East 47th St. (Between First and Second Ave.) will be in Japanese with a simultaneous English translation. Tickets to one of the only five performances can be purchased through the box office at (212) 752-3015 or via the website at www.jpnsoc.org.
-- by Ernio Hernandez