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Ritual Theatre

early from of theatre; used techniques such as song, dance, and characterization; rooted in religion

What two traits distinguish theatre from ritual?

1. an actor portraying a character
2. a story with conflict

Western Theatre

grew out of Ancient Greece when Thespis stepped put of the chorus around 500 BCE; Greeks-Romans-medieval England

Non-Western Drama

all other forms of drama from ritual theatre in Africa to shadow puppets in the Muslim lands; does not attempt to recreate objective reality

Precolonial African Theatre

grew out of ritual; incorporated acting, music, storytelling, poetry, dance, costumes and masks; did not separate the audience and performers

What are the two most important institutions of precolonial Africa?

religion and community


African storytellers who used theatrical elements like song, mime, and impersonation in their folk tales

Total Theatre

traditional African theatre mixed with Western Theatre; is associated with very political messages

Wole Soyinka

African playwright; wrote Death and the King's Horseman; first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986


an encyclopedic book of dramatic theory and practice written sometime b/w 200 BCE and 200 CE; 37 chapters on every aspect of classical Indian drama, including costume design, theatre layout, playwriting, directing, acting, music, and philosophy

Sanskrit Drama

named for the ancient Indian language is it performed in; based on Indian myths; always end happy; costumes and make-up are elaborate; take up to six hours to perform; not realistic; use of hand gestures


means "story play"; dramatized versions of Hindu epic poems "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata"; highly stylized dance and gestures; elaborate costumes and make-up

Peking Opera

synthesis of music, dance, acting, and acrobatics; piercing style of singing; precise stylized gestures; played types; born into it

Painted-face roles

different colors meant different personality traits; almost all plays had a clown with white make-up

Two types of Peking Opera

Civil Plays (plots about imperial concubines, chivalry, romance)
Military Plays ( often set in the Three Kingdoms period (220-265 CE) when China was divided into three rival kingdoms

Communists vs. Peking Opera

1949 Communists began wiping out Peking Opera saying it preserved superstitions, perpetuated the backwards laws of the feudal society, and encouraged the class system

Two types of Japanese Theatre

Noh and Kabuki

Chinese Theatre

Peking Opera

Indian Theatre

Sanskrit Drama

History of Noh Theatre

developed from the dance-prayers of Buddhist priests; 1374 a shogun named Yoshimitsu invited the performers to his court where he added poetry, acting; singing; and dance all together to create No theatre

What does Noh mean?

Talent or skill

describe Noh theatre

actors (only men) move slowly and gracefully and chant poetic texts that follow the seven-five rhythm used for haiku poems; highly expressive masks and costumes

Describe the Noh stage

bare stage except for a pine tree on the back wall of the stage that symbolizes eternal life; on the left is the Hashigakari, a narrow bridge that the principal actors use to make their entrances

Where did the meaning of the pine tree come from?

possible a Shinto ritual- according to myth, deities descended to earth via the pine tree

Five possible subjects of Noh play

deities, deeds of heroic samurais, women (played by men), insanity, famous legends

Three parts of a Noh play



chance meeting between two characters; introductions are made and question-answer sequence reveals the protagonist's concern


the protagonist performs a dance that expresses his of her concern


the protagonist appears as new self and the cause of torment is resolved

describe an evening of Noh drama

several plays with small farces between them (like the Greek satyr plays although any actual relationship between the two is debated)

How has Noh theatre changed over the year?

Noh theatre has reached its present form in the 1600s and have remained practically unchanged ever since; still popular today; performed in the language of the 14th century shoguns-general audiences must bring translation to understand the text

You're doing great.

You will ace this exam for sure! :)


robust and energetic form of Noh theatre created by a lady named Okuni in the early 1600s

What does Kabuki mean?

"Ka" means song
"Bu" means dance
"Ki" means skill

History of Kabuki

Okuni owned a brothel and began having her girls perform Noh theatre to draw in customers. After the show men lined up to get some from the girls, and ended up fighting over them. The shogun banned to girls from performing so little boys took their place, but the men fought over them too! So in 1659 it was ruled that only adult men could perform Kabuki theatre

Name one modern day thing Kabuki has influenced in America

Power Rangers perform "mie" poses as they get in their animal fighting things. Look it up on Google!

Women are allowed to participate in which types of theatre?

Africa (some countries; it varies)
*exception see "Shimpa Plays"


men who play female roles in Japanese theatre; not considered in the peak of acting career until he has been playing women's roles for at least 20 years; feel they know women better than they know themselves

Difference in Kabuki and Noh Theatre

Kabuki has a spectacular scenery with special effects, trap doors, and an exaggerated pine tree on the back wall; audience members are expected to participate; there is no curtain call; some melodramatic scenes; more characters

Similarties in Kabuki and Noh

highly stylized movements; colorfully embroidered kimonos; the pine tree on the back wall; men play women; dialogue is sung/chanted/shouted in a very stylized manner


Japanese puppet theatre; life like puppets about 1/3 size of real life; multiple people to control all moving parts like eyebrows, joints, mouths and eyes

mie pose (look up on Google)

performed at particularly intense or profound moments in the play; sudden, striking pose accompanied by several powerful beats of wooden clappers known as the "Ki"; posture includes crossed eyes, sharp turned chin, big toe pointed to the sky


wooden clapper played during the "mie pose"

Three Kinds of Kabuki Plays

history plays-about major political events of the past
domestic plays-about the loves and lives of merchants and townspeople
dance-dramas-about the world of spirits and animals


history play; first staged in 1840; tells story of a famous Japanese warrior Yoshitsune (1159-1189 CE) who was forced to flee because of unjust accusations of disloyalty by his half-bother, the shogun; one of most popular Kabuki plays in repertoire

Banraku Puppet Masters Hierarchy

Senior Puppet Master-shows face; controls right hand and head
2nd Highest Puppet Master- dresses all black including hood; controls the left hand
Apprentice-dresses all black including hood; controls the feet
*takes at least ten years to become senior puppet master

Chikamatsu Monzaemon

one of most popular Kabuki and Bunraku playwrights; combined poetry and prose in dramatic tales of comedy and tragedy earning him the name "Japanese Shakespeare"; wrote over 100 plays; based on scandalous gossip and actual events

Shimpa or "New School of Movement"

beginning of 1900s; modified Kabuki theatre; toned down traditional Kabuki style and added some Western realism; told stories of everyday people particularly women; women could play women's parts

Why was Shimpa theatre important in Japan?

Women could play women's parts, but ONLY in Shimpa plays.

Japanese Theatre Today

Kabuki is most popular traditional theatre.
Western theatre is also popular.
Modern drama focuses on social issues, suppression of individualism, and technology and humanity.

Two forms of Islamic Theatre

Shadow theatre
Ta'ziyeh religious dramas of Iran

shadow theatre

probably originated in China around 100BCE; candles light a screen from behind puppets make shadows on the screen; narrator tells story

Ta'ziyeh Religious Dramas or Iran

preformed outdoors or occasionally indoors on special stages; uses real horses and camels; compare to the religious dramas in England in the middle ages

What do stories do the Ta'ziyeh plays tell?

Most tell of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet of Islam, who died in battle in 680 CE outside of Baghdad; later plays tell of Moses and the Pharaoh and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Who wrote the first European-style play in Arabic and what play was it based on?

Marun al-Naqqash in 1847; based on Moliere's "The Miser" (1668)

Name one Middle-Eastern country where can participate in the theatre.

Suadi Arabia

Munira al-Mahdiyyah

1915 one of the first women to appear on stage in Egypt; became first female artistic director in the Muslim world when she formed her own theatre company

Fatima Gallaire-Bourega

(b. 1944); Algerian-born French playwright; one of the most well-known Muslim playwrights; plays discuss violence against women, female sexual desire, and religious fanaticism

Peter Brook

English director (b. 1925); staged "The Mahabharata" in 1985; Western retelling of the epic battle between two sets of cousins in an ancient Indian Dynasty; cycle of three plays took 12 hours to stage and featured actors from all over the world

Possible Harry Essay Questions

1. Western Theatre vs. Non-Western Theatre *read "Curtain Call" Ch. 11
2. How has Western theatre influenced Non-Western theatre and vice versa? *read "East Meets West" Ch. 11
3. Differences b/w Noh and Kabuki *Read sections on Japanese Theatre Ch. 11

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