Nakamura Kankuro V, company director
Japan's famed Nakamura-za, the company led by Nakamura Kankuro V, one of the greatest living Kabuki actors, in a spectacle to take place in an authentic Kabuki tent in Damrosch Park for 15 performances.
The Nakamura family has been one of the great Kabuki dynasties in Japan since the 17th century, passing the 400-year-old performance traditions from father to son through the generations. Forty-eight-year-old Nakamura Kankuro V, the current heir to this great legacy, is one of Japan's leading Kabuki actors. 2004 also marks an important point in the life of Nakamura Kankuro V. It will be the last year he will be known as Kankuro, as he will assume the name Kanzaburo in 2005, for the 18th generation in his family's history.
Over the past decade, Nakamura Kankuro V, who also stars in contemporary plays in Japan, has set out to revitalize the conventions of Kabuki, which was started by Okuni, a shrine maiden from the Izumo Shrine located in the state of Shimane. Her performances in a dry bed of the Kamo River in the ancient capital of Kyoto around the year 1600 caused a sensation. Soon the scale of Kabuki performances grew, and a number of rival Kabuki street theater companies arose. "I wanted to get back to the old way of doing things," Nakamura Kankuro V told an interviewer in 2000. "I wanted people to feel as if they were visiting a fair grounds, coming to a happy place where they could eat a little food, have some drinks, feel a little light and free." Japanese audiences have responded with belly laughs and cheers to the happy-go-lucky, slapstick, slightly risque quality of his performances.
For the Lincoln Center Festival performances the all-male company will perform in a specially designed 500+-seat shibaigoya that will be erected in Damrosch Park (complete with a hanamichi, or a central runway, and sajiki, cushioned seats on the floor). Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami (The Summer Festival: A Mirror of Osaka) is set against a backdrop of 18th-century Osaka's equivalent to Mardi Gras. A wayward young lord, who is something of a samurai playboy, intends to marry a teahouse courtesan. Troubles ensue, but three "street knights" (commoners) rally round him to save him and his geisha.
Performed in Japanese. English synopsis provided on headsets.
Lincoln Center Festival Web Site