Each fortnight I post a question related to puppetry. It’s up to you to figure out the answer, and the first person to guess correctly gets a shout-out on the site. There’s only one rule: you have to post a citation for your answer, and it can’t be Wikipedia (yes, you can use this website instead ). Let’s face it, Wiki just makes it too easy for people… The answer and winner will be revealed on each following Friday (ie. at the end of this week).
This week’s question was:
Why is the Japanese form of puppetry called ‘bunraku’?
No one sent me an answer this week… so I guess it’s up to me to provide it!
If you recall two years ago (yikes, two years already!), I went to UNIMA 2008. The first thing I did was to do Nori Sawa’s workshop on building ningyo joruri heads (aka bunraku). Since then I’ve been on his mailing list, and recently he sent out an email with some pictures of him training some students. It’s a fascinating insight into the 30-year process of learning bunraku manipulation, especially as these kinds of photos don’t usually appear on the net or in books. (Not that I go looking for them, so if they exist, I’ve not seen them) These include many of his students learning to perform with these Japanese puppets, in groups and individually.
This book (written by three prominent theatre practitioners) covers several sections – Bunraku, traditional Japanese puppetry; Kubuki, song/dance/acting is what the word translates as; Noh, a style of performance which incorporates mask work; Kyogen, a type of farce; and contemporary theatre, including musicals, European and American plays, opera, and a blend of traditional and contemporary.
This book is about 550 pages long so it takes one a while to read. It is basically a selection of excerpts (the Japanese write very long plays, some up to several hours, and only excerpts of plays are now performed) of traditional Japanese plays, each with its own introduction, and each type of Japanese theatre gets a short chapter explaining the styles, traditions, costumes and staging.
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.