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The following overview of the Characteristics of Asian theatre owes much to the following works: James R. Brandon's introduction to The Cambridge Guide to Asian Theatre and A.C. Scott's The Theatre in Asia.

What is Asian Theatre?

Extent of the Genres of Performance in Asia

  • Vast and not fully known

    • may be over 700 genres of performance in the area

  • Geography of the region

Categories of Traditions

  • Classical Traditions

    • rules and regulations

    • learned techniques

    • usually upper class/rulers audiences

    • also religious

  • wayangkulit_image.jpg
    Wayang kulit puppet
    wayang performance
    shadow puppets in authentic lamplight
    clown characters

Noh stage
woman mask

  • Folk

    • Emerges out of the people
    • Not rule focused
    • Wayang Golek - doll puppet theatre- video from Sunda, West Java
    • Music made up mostly of percussion instruments - gongs, drums, marimbas, metallaphones
    • Performances often put on by families of performers who pass tradition down to their children
    • Two main types of festivities - celebrating circumcisions and weddings
    • Described as "adiluhung"- higher than high - because it represents the philosophies of life
    • The dalang is the producer and head of the group of performers
    • Stories based on Indian epics
    • Drum player is the link between the dalang and the musicians because his rhythms shift based on the cues in the story
    • Each puppet is hand carved without a pattern, resulting in variation of expression
    • The head of the puppet takes 3 days to produce. The entire puppet can take an entire week from start to finish
    • While children are in attendance at productions of wayang golek, the stories are primarily geared towards adults.
    • The dalang must have a strong knowledge of the music because he acts much like a conductor
    • Female singers have only recently been introduced into wayang golek, and they have become more important and have begun to upstage the dalang
    • Alus - refined -- Kasar - crude or rough - characters and human beings fit into these categories
      • greeting people the proper was is alus
      • serving the proper foods is alus
      • certain foods are considered kasar
    • Crossover between dancing and puppetry exists in several genres, including Kabuki
      • The video above is a more Westernized version of wayang golek which features the start of the performance

    • Wayang golek underwent a shift during the New Order regime which lasted from 1966-1998 (Weintraub 2001). The state attempted to impose contests and regulations for the dalangs to use them as an instrument of propaganda. However, there was a clash between what was popular with audiences and the new standards of etiquette (tatakama) and behavior (tatacara). The government was hoping to use wayang golek's use of subtle, interwoven messages to advance their agenda. A contest was also started to encourage commitment and adherence to the standards of performance set out by the government, an attempt to regulate the traditional parameters of the wayang golek (tetekon). Twelve areas of performance were judged, including renggep (maintaining an appropriate level of energy during the performance) and tutug (carefully illustrating all important parts of the story). While the goal of the New Order was to bring dalang performers into a uniform performance mode, tetekon is considered to be the basic parameters that a dalang must master and then go beyond in order to fully embrace the art of wayang golek. For this reason, many of the most popular dalangs in West Java maintained their popularity despite their refusal to adhere to the stricter tetekon of the contest and the government.
    • A link to a wayang golek play text

  • manirimdu.jpg
    Manirimdu of Nepal

  • Commercial

    • Artists perform for money to make a living

Likay of Thailand

  • Modern

    • Theatre that was influenced by Colonialism
    • English theatre is common
  • Exchanges among the categories over time

Religions, ritual, and social practices

  • Animistic beliefs

  • Hinduism

  • Buddhism

  • Confucianism

  • Islam

  • Christianity

  • Miscellaneous other religions

Kinds of practices

  • Storytelling

  • Puppetry

  • Theatre and drama

Multidimensionality of theatre

  • Song

  • Dance: Pantomime and Gesture

  • Musical accompaniment

  • Use of masks, stylized makeup, and costumes

Characteristics of performance

  • Spaces for performance

  • Settings, properties, lighting

  • Reception

Training and Transmission of practice

  • Actor centered

  • Systemized

  • Methods of transmission

  • Dramatic texts

  • Technical bravado

  • Use and influence of martial arts

Aesthetics and Structure

  • Rasa/bhava system in India

  • Yin-Yang system in China

  • Yugen system in Japan

  • Seasonal and celebration of auspicious occasions and special events

Language as a marker of distinctions among social classes and kinds of characters depicted

Gender Issues

  • Courtesan traditions

  • Men playing women

Role of the artists in society

Modern traditions

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