There is so much about the traditional Japanese performing art Kabuki that we didn’t know before educator Amanda Mattes’s lesson Kabuki: The people’s dramatic art. The lesson launched a fascination with the widely celebrated theater and dance genre, so we asked if there was any additional history that she didn’t get a chance to cover in her TED-Ed Lesson.
What’s your favorite fact about Kabuki that didn’t make it into the TED-Ed Lesson?
With Kabuki’s colorful, dense history, I attempted to touch lightly on as many aspects as I could within my lesson. Although, there were some I wish could have been described in fuller detail. The stage evolution was one of these, as this developed uniquely from a single plank on the ground eventually to a multilevel playing space. From the late 17th- to the mid 19th- centuries, advancements were made in using trap doors, moving scenery, and flying actors (all revolutionary for their time). Competition with other performances, such as Bunraku, challenged these changes, and scenery shifting grew with the use of a wagon and one-dimensional wall to later incorporate an elaborate turntable system known as the Mawari-butai. The turntable not only allowed for the transference of set pieces but also whole buildings and playing spaces within a matter of seconds. Actions were soon able to match the playwright’s visions, and this allowed Kabuki to thrive through the Tokugawa and Meiji eras.
To learn even more about Kabuki, please visit Amanda’s TED-Ed Lesson.