An Analysis Of Asian Theartre

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

An Analysis Of Asian Theartre


Attempting to look into the drama and theatre of the Asian world is like saddling one with the task of looking into the deep blue sea to fish out all the species of fishes therein. W. B. Worthen, based on the multifacetedness of the Asian world and it versatile political histories, authoritatively asserts that “the drama and theatre of the Asian world has a history as complex and multifaceted as the histories of the many civilizations, peoples and nations” (99). The Korean Arts Management Service affirms this position in a book, Asian Arts Theater Research on the Actual Condition of Performing Arts in Asia that:

Unlike the Western World, Asia has such a long history and traditions thereby presenting a variety of cultural diversity, which cannot be generalized into a single definition. Together with its own artistic heritages and newly accepted modern performing arts, Asia became the home to a number of new artistic possibilities. Various performing arts forms of Asia have already made a significant impact on the modern performing arts of the Western, gaining growing attention from the rest of the world (5).

Therefore, this paper only attempts to consider the contemporary Japanese theatre, however, it is noteworthy to state that the history of the development of theatres in Asia are somewhat interrelated because of the political and religious dominances of some countries over others. Take for instance the Indian literature of SANSKRIT and KATHAKALI (dance and music drama) which have lasted for more than three thousand years old still have their place of influence and popularity. The conventions of Indian theatre have pervasively influenced the theatre of Southeast Asia; the Sanskrit epic poems Mahabharata and Ramayana offer the characters and settings for the beautiful shadow puppet theatre of Java in Indonesia – WAYANG KULIT – and related forms of performance using dolls or live actors.

In a similar pattern, the masked dance drama of Korea which is called KAMYONGUK is also related both to Chinese and Japanese theatre, and Korea, like other Asian countries, has developed an important contemporary theatre. No one theatre can be said to represent the rich and diverse theatrical traditions, the classical theatre of Japan shares many features common to other Asian theatres: it blend aristocratic and popular affiliations; it descends from social and religious ritual traditions; it coordinates acting, dance, music and spectacle; many of its plots and characters are derived from familiar literary and historical narratives and legends; its performance conventions are elaborately stylized and refined; and it performers are often trained with level of formality not found in western theatre. Since this paper concerns the contemporary Asian theatre and its practice today, it is then canny to avoid its verse history of the theatre.

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