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Kabuki-West
 

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Kabuki-West


  COVER Photo: copyright Juan Rodriguez-Torrent. "Witches 1 & 3." Paul Doniger's production at Pomperaug High School, CT. Witches Angelica Aconfora and Kristen Valera

  What the Critics Say

  MACBETH resounds with Kabuki's passion, fascination. KABUKI MACBETH works. In fact, it works far better than one could have reasonably expected. ...Surprisingly enough, in Sunde's adaptation, the Zen philosophy seems engrained into the story, not imposed on top of it. ..the images prove striking...more and more frightening as Macbeth's lust for power turns into obsession and finally madness." Tom Jacobs L.A.DAILY NEWS

  .

  "The best of two worlds... fascinatingly enjoyable Sunde's writing fluctuates between direct, modern statement and poetic imagery...the play works very well. This is a terrific show." William Glackin SACRAMENTO BEE, OAKLAND TRIBUNE

  .

  ACHILLES "the essence of passion. Sunde's play, which compresses the Homeric epic into manageable proportions, is lucid and direct. ... The play...makes you see and hear with awakened eyes and ears." Clifford A Ridley THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

  .

  "ACHILLES is a stunning production that succeeds on every level... it's moving as an antiwar statement, it's visually dazzling, and it crosses every chronological, national and gender boundary." Toby Zinman "Critic's Pick" PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER

  .

  "...OTHELLO, with a superbly poetic, pared to the bone script by Karen Sunde that magically mixes Elizabethan warmth with haiku-like clarity has converted me. ...hypnotically beautiful, emotionally dizzying... It is a sinuous, flawless twining of dance, sound, and story. ...uses Shakespeare's basic story...adds new levels of complexity to the quintet of characters at its core. Hedy Weiss CHICAGO SUN-TIMES "...spare poetry...tells the story with economy...works very well with Sato's visual imagery." Richard Christiansen CHICAGO TRIBUNE

  .

  "Damn the cliches and full speed ahead. This is professional theater at its best. KABUKI OTHELLO is in almost every way possible a feast for the senses, and rendered so by an exquisitely realized three-sided collaboration of theater artisans. ... the impact...on the eye, the ear and the imagination is, in a word, stunning."

  Nels Nelson PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

  .

  KABUKI LADY MACBETH "Sunde's script is very much about Lady Macbeth's loneliness and suppressed ambition as a woman in her society. ?a dazzling cultural hybrid, set to a beautifully distilled haiku-like script?a visual, physical and aural feast." Hedy Weiss CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. "Kabuki meets Shakespeare for magical Macbeth" Michael Phillips CHICAGO TRIBUNE

  TAGS: Macbeth, Richard III, Achilles, Iliad, Thetis, experimental theatre, Shiva,

  KABUKI-WEST

  Three Plays

  MACBETH + RICHARD III + ACHILLES

  By

  Karen Sunde

  Conceived by Shozo Sato

  Copyright Karen Sunde

  For license to perform these plays apply to

  130 Barrow St Suite 412

  New York 10014

  Tel/fx 212-366-1124

  [email protected]

  www.karensunde.com

  CONTENTS

  INTRODUCTION Kabuki-West

  PRODUCTION - How To Do These Plays

  MACBETH ACT I

  MACBETH ACT II

  RICHARD III, ACT I

  RICHARD III, ACT II

  ACHILLES ACT I

  ACHILLES, ACT II

  What the Critics Say

  SHOZO SATO, BIO

  AUTHOR NOTES

  Other Plays and Screenplays by Karen Sunde

  INTRODUCTION

  You may know these stories, but what's Kabuki? Ka-bu-ki means song-dance-drama. To picture it, let the sparse words trigger your imagination with music, color, dance, action - simple or not - from a flutter of fabric on a bare stage to the sensory feast of Grand Kabuki, any sort of performance can tell these stories. The directions suggest one staging among the many an imaginative reader can conjure.

  .

  Though originally commissioned for professional American actors working in a Japanese tradition, thereafter ordinary college, high school, even grade school students have taken exuberant delight (with their audiences) in creating their own versions of Kabuki plays I've written.

  .

  Danny Fruchter, founder of Peoples Light and Theatre in Malvern Pennsylvania first asked me to collaborate with Shozo Sato, who had been creating Western classic/Kabuki hybrids in Illinois. For our initial production, Kabuki Othello, I introduced a convention from ancient Greek drama - the Chorus - which became a feature of Sato/Sunde works. Five such plays have been commissioned by four different producers. Kabuki Othello and Kabuki Lady Macbeth are published and available from: www.dramaticpublishing.com

  .

  THESE THREE PLAYS

  Kabuki Macbeth and Kabuki Richard III are permeated with Japanese themes filtered through Shakespeare stories, but for Achilles, I drew from Homer's The Iliad and adjacent myths, so its themes are universal, straddling East and West.

  .

  Considering these three stories together yields the sad conclusion that "killing entertains us". While we may lament that in our contemporary media entertainment killing is commonplace, have we noticed how few of our classics have no killing? Killing for power, in particular, ranks high. Now, it could be that cavemen entertained themselves with stories of killing for survival instead of for power, and it could be the 21st century will eventually embrace more wholesome entertainment, but for now...Macbeth, Richard III, and Achilles all deal with the elation (and consequences) of killing. Macbeth's story is familiar, and Kabuki Macbeth holds to that story, merely simplifying, and viewing it through an Eastern prism.

  .

  Richard's Kabuki story is more "played with," and here's why: If you track the labyrinthine blood-trail that history calls The Wars of the Roses, you may smile at Shakespeare's litany of enemy Queens in his Act IV "until a Richard kill'd him" which seems to say "Figure this out if you want; but I'm telling my story."

  .

  Shakespeare makes Richard III the embodiment of evil because he was the last king killed in those wars, and killed by a Tudor who was Elizabeth I's grandfather. Hah-so! Given that he must be evil personified, Shozo Sato said Richard's essence is like that of Shiva, Hindu god of creation/destruction, which it was my task to write, while limiting the cast as usual, so it seemed to me those bloody Queens, usually chopped, make a fertile field on which to play this play. And so we do. What emerged to a stunning degree was the hidden family drama that was always lurking there. Old Britain could make the Borgias blush.

  .

  With Achilles a drama had to be culled from an epic narrative and surrounding mythology - eg, the adventure of Achilles conception, his half god/half man dilemma. Spectacular Kabuki helped, as did the Chorus, and audiences from west to east seemed pleased. Achilles' premiere was uniquely cross-cultural: in the ancient Greek amphitheater at Kourion in Cyprus an American acting company performed a Greek legend in the style of Japanese Kabuki.

  PRODUCTION HISTORY

  .

  Kabuki Macbeth was commissioned and produced by John Houseman's The Acting Company in New York, and performed on tour across the United States. Later produced at the Krannert Center, University of Illinois, and at Virginia Commonwealth University.

  .

  Kabuki Richard III was commissioned by Actor's Theatre of Louisville, but subsequent budget constraints prevented their planned production.

  .

  Achilles: a Kabuki play was commissioned to emerge from Danny Fruchter's "The Iliad Project" at the People's Light and Theatre Company. This drama with dance, based on The Iliad and related myths, was presented Kabuki-style.
It premiered in the Greek amphitheater at Kourion, Cyprus, played People's Light and Theatre, Wilma Theatre, and the Festival Mythos in Philadelphia, as well as touring Cyprus, Hungary, and Japan.

  .

  Book: A Gathering of Actors: The People's Light and Theatre Company in Cyprus and Hungary, by Peter Carnahan chronicles that first tour, with Achilles' development and rehearsals in the ancient Greek amphitheater at Kourion.

  .

  A company led by Shozo Sato from the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana, went on tour to make a "Kabuki Homecoming" in Japan demonstrating the Americans' embrace of an intricate Japanese art form.

  PRODUCTION - Or How To Do These Plays

  .

  You could calI these plays "the song and dance of" Macbeth, Richard, Achilles; they resemble our musical theater. Performing Kabuki, the actors exaggerate and extend their voice tones, so the words must be simple, like lyrics, to facilitate clarity and foster an easy rapport with the audience.

  .

  In Kabuki performance, black-clad "Koken" are employed to change sets, manipulate props, perform any back-stage task in full view of the audience, scurrying as though invisible. I created my first Chorus by using Koken to perform that vital speaking role, and since then they tend to do double duty, and I call them "story-tellers who facilitate the action."

  .

  One of the Koken becomes the KI-PLAYER - who signals the opening of scenes and key moments by striking the "KI" (key) - wooden blocks - sharply, then in rapid succession, ending with three loud strikes to punctuate places where we might use a drum roll or a cymbal clash to say "ta-dah!" or here we go, or wasn't that something?

  .

  The "Mie" (mee-aye) pose, serves a similar purpose, but employs actors, instead of wooden blocks, It is an instant tableau the actor strikes, like a snapshot that says "got this?" In comedy, you could say we do a little Mie every time we do a comic "take" (reaction) toward the audience.

  .

  SETTINGS

  The action is written to flow on an open stage with minimal settings. A lightweight curtain, hand-drawn by Koken may be employed, or not. A forestage is useful. Moveable set elements - eg: flowing fabric panels that can drop; a screen; a platform for reclining or levels. Whatever is needed, the black-dressed, scurrying Koken arrange it, like invisible elves.

  Lights, costumes, music - the more colorful and dramatic, the better. Kabuki saturates the senses. Let your imagination run riot: Action scenes may expand into production numbers. Mime and dance may be used to embellish description.

  .

  TALKING THE TALK

  Making sense of the words: Whether one character or several (Chorus) speak a sentence, the text is meant to flow like ordinary conversation, and to be as clear and direct - not artsy. Its arrangement on the page will help the actor make it easy. Technically, lines starting with a small letter mean the previous sentence is still going on. Lines starting with a capital letter mean a new sentence begins here. Ends of lines may signal a comma, a period, or none. As in life, the more fun you have with it, the better it works.

 
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