Japanese folklore is filled with tales of foxes that change into human form. This play by Takeda Izumo II in 1734 depicts a courtier, center, who falls in love with a fox that transformed into a woman. At left is a footman, also a transformed fox. The scene, a combination of three seperate woodblock prints, is by Utagawa Kunisada, a famous artist of the time.
Pop art of the floating world
Scholars from the academic and cultural worlds of traditional Japanese theater and dance brought their vast knowledge together to present "From Stage to Page: Kabuki through Woodblock Prints," on display at the East-West Center Gallery through Aug. 24.
At East-West Center Gallery
» Today: Opening festivities, 1 p.m.; "Kabuki Acting Techniques," 2 p.m.
» May 28: Kabuki improv by Loose Screws, 2 p.m.
» June 4: "Introduction to Ukiyo-e" lecture, 1 p.m. in Japanese and 2 p.m. in English
» June 11: "Kabuki Costume" lecture,
» June 18: "Kabuki Performance
in Ukiyo-e" lecture, 2 p.m.
» June 25: Kabuki dance demo, 2 p.m.
» July 16: "Kabuki Music" lecture, 2 p.m.
» Aug. 23: "Japanese Popular Culture: Roots and Influences" lecture, 3:30 p.m.
The show, which includes prints from famous artists of Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868), was curated by Julie A. Iezzi, associate professor of theatre and dance at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and Onoe Kikunobu and Onoe Kikunobukazu, of the Kikunobu Dance Company in Honolulu. Kikunobu is founder of the company and a legendary master of traditional Japanese dance.
"From Stage to Page" offers history and cultural lessons as well as aesthetic pleasure. The exhibit sets the historical context of the ties between woodblock printing and kabuki. It explains that the Edo Period was a time when lively pop culture bloomed in the Japanese urban centers of Edo (now Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto. That period is also referred to as "ukiyo," or "floating world."
Kabuki was theater for the masses and prints were commercially mass-produced images of famous stories and actors of the time. Prints cost about as much as a bowl of noodles, making them accessible to all.
Today's counterpart of the wood block prints of the era, or "ukiyo-e," are posters of movies and movie stars.
Also included in the show are kimono, models of kabuki stages, musical instruments and a kabuki performance on video.
The East-West Center Gallery, at 1601 East-West Road, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 944-7177.
A behind-the-scenes work depicts activity backstage at the kabuki theater of the Edo Period. Behind a window, an actor plucks his eyebrows to ready for his performance, while outside the theater, a group of women walk by. Artist Utagawa Toyokuni I included in the group three courtesans, a young merchant daughter and her maid, to illustrate kabuki's universal appeal.
Sawamura Tanosuke III was a famous kabuki actor beloved for his work in female roles. The woodprint depicts Tanosuke as a young courtesan. The work is among the woodblock prints on display in "From Stage to Page: Kabuki Through Woodblock Prints" at the East-West Center Gallery.
Artist Toyoharu Kunichika's work of the character Tatahei, from the famous play "Chikamatsu Monzaemon." The work is among the woodblock prints on display in "From Stage to Page: Kabuki Through Woodblock Prints" at the East-West Center Gallery.